Going digital during the pandemic? This Fort Wayne entrepreneur can help

On a Tuesday afternoon in October, Virginia Richardson is hopping on a phone call as she drives from one client’s office to the next.

She started her meetings in the early morning and keeps her afternoons flexible so she can meet needs as they arise because, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs for businesses like hers are many. 

In the rapid transition to digital events, video calls, e-learning courses, and new technologies, Richardson’s company Tilde Multimedia Firm is one many are calling upon when they need to revamp their digital strategies—or troubleshoot challenges along the way.

And in smaller, Midwestern markets, like Fort Wayne, Richardson has found that the tech learning curve is quite steep.

“When I worked for Viacom in Washington, D.C., we were doing video conference calls and producing video-based award shows back in 2006,” Richardson says. “But Fort Wayne really wasn’t like that before the pandemic. The culture here was about 10 years behind on technology, and now, with COVID, everybody’s suddenly wanting to do Zoom calls and virtual events.”

Richardson

It’s this rush to adopt technology and digital media during the pandemic that is keeping Richardson busy from morning to night, helping schools and other organizations set up e-learning courses and produce virtual events.

“My business has grown tremendously to the point where I’m working seven days a week,” Richardson says.

Virginia Richardson of Tilde Multimedia is an Audio Engineer and House Manager at Purdue Fort Wayne.

Tilde Multimedia (derived from the squiggly tilde symbol of perfection on your keyboard) offers technology and digital solutions, ranging from creative digital marketing to advertising, design, and media production. Richardson says her work with each client is different, based on their needs, and each relationship begins with an assessment called a digital analysis.

“I do a digital analysis to see where each client stands compared to their competitors, and I interview them to find out what their goals and challenges are,” Richardson says. “Then we come up with solutions and goals and work from there.”

As such, her job requires a balance of technical science and creative ingenuity. When she started the company, it began as a way to help organizations host events, like concerts, coordinating the technical side of the production with audio and video. It was also an avenue to bring the technical expertise she gained at Fortune 500 companies on the coast, like BET and VH1, back to her hometown.

While earning her degree in Digital Media at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Richardson landed an internship with Viacom’s BET Jazz Channel in Washington, D.C., and began her career in digital media there.

“I finished school remotely from D.C., getting a dual degree in Computer Science and New Media, and I ended up staying at BET and managing a department,” Richardson says.

Tilde Multimedia Firm helps companies revamp their digital strategies—or troubleshoot challenges along the way.

But she didn’t start out in the tech industry.

After graduating from Snider High School in Fort Wayne in 1994, Richardson initially moved to Indianapolis and worked for Marion County Courts for a while as a home detention officer and sheriff. It was during this time in her late-20s that she contracted a lung disease that nearly killed her. In the throes of her illness, she vowed to follow her dreams to work in technology, music, and event production.

“I always wanted to be a singer, but my illness had robbed me of my ability to sing,” Richardson says. “So one day, I was like, “Ok, God, if I make it through this, I’m going to do everything I always wanted to do and produce music and videos. Then, when I got better, I had to keep my promise to God. That’s what inspired me to go to school, and I went from working as an intern to managing an entire department of a Fortune 500 company.”

When Richardson was laid off at Viacom due to budget cuts in 2011-12, she moved back to Fort Wayne and began working for WPTA-TV as a sales promotion manager. She ended up moving to Indianapolis and picking up work for a company out of New York there, managing an ESPN2 initiative called “Ball Up.” After moving again to Myrtle Beach to manage digital initiatives and promotions for McClatchy Company, she decided to move back to Fort Wayne in 2017 and launch her own company.

“I realized what I was doing for other businesses, I could be doing for myself,” Richardson says.

Virginia Richardson of Tilde Multimedia is an Audio Engineer and House Manager at Purdue Fort Wayne.

Since launching Tilde Multimedia, she hasn’t done much advertising for her business. Instead, clients have often found her by witnessing her events or by word-of-mouth. Large organizations, like Purdue Fort Wayne, are among her first clients in the region.

“After someone from Purdue Fort Wayne attended the first concert I produced, they reached out and contracted me to be an engineer there when they have concerts,” Richardson says. “I recently started doing house management for them, too. It makes me feel so valuable that the university would support my work.”

As she’s grown her business, she’s received mentorship and assistance from local entrepreneur support organizations, too. In 2019, Richardson enrolled in SEED Fort Wayne’s Build Institute course for entrepreneurs, which provided her with strong community connections and a solid foundation to take her business to the next level.

“I developed relationships with two of the course leaders, Leslie Hill and Michelle Chambers, who have been helpful to me growing my business to this day,” Richardson says. “When I was a student there, they even had me teach a portion of the class about digital media and social media.”

When Richardson gave her Build Institute graduation presentation at the conclusion of the six-week course, SEED Fort Wayne became one of her clients, hiring her to manage its digital footprint. It also hired her to offer digital setups and coaching for its grant award-winning business owners within the Build Institute and Summit City Match programs.

“Basically, I help entrepreneurs and businesses set up their social media platforms and also develop a digital footprint online for their businesses,” Richardson says.

While Tilde Multimedia works with businesses of many sizes and types, Richardson considers her specialty to be “White Glove” companies, like large corporations, organizations, and schools, that need highly individualized digital strategies in Fort Wayne and beyond.

“I’ve had experience working with big, global companies, like Pepsi and Ford,” Richardson says. “As a result, many of the solutions I offer, like digital advertising and geofencing, are designed for those types of companies.”

When the pandemic gave rise to a slew of digital needs for companies of all kinds, one organization that turned to Tilde Multimedia for support was the Timothy L. Johnson Leadership Academy. It’s a K-8 charter school in Fort Wayne that focuses on educational equity for students of different learning needs, including those with language barriers.

“They needed someone to help with their technology infrastructure and to make sure everything was teacher-friendly, and scholars had the right apps for their classroom needs,” Richardson says. “When you’re dealing with kids, there’s an increased level of security you need on digital tools, too.”

Working with this client and others, like the Windrose Urban Farm, led Richardson to a concept for the next phase of her business: Launching the Tilde Institute for students.

“This is something totally different,” Richardson says. “My goal is to put together this technology institute for people with disabilities and students who want to learn about tech and media, so I can teach them the fundamentals of skills like coding and building a website.”

Purdue Fort Wayne was one of Virginia Richardson's first clients for her business, Tilde Multimedia.


Richardson is working closely with others in the community, like her former Build instructors, to get her 501c3 nonprofit certification so she can launch the program. As minimum wage employers struggle to fill jobs and as workers across the U.S. rethink their careers during the pandemic, she hopes to develop a program that can help adults and youth in Fort Wayne lay the foundation for profitable, value-adding careers in the tech industry.

“For many people with disabilities, like autism, all their life they’ve been told they can only work jobs as cashiers or in the fast-food industry cleaning tables,” Richardson says. “There’s nothing wrong with those jobs, but I want people to be able to dream bigger, to reach their goals, and to achieve careers that can help them make money and feel a deeper sense of purpose.”

“Who knows?” she says. “Maybe someday they’ll start their own businesses, too.”

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This story is part of an Entrepreneurship series made possible by funding from SEED Fort Wayne. To learn more about SEED, visit its website at fwuea.org.
 

Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.