Kennetic Productions in Jacksonville is strategizing around the pandemic

Chris Kennelly fell for video production as soon as he arrived at the University of Florida. Internships like working in Los Angeles for a small company that makes movie trailers and commercials only made him more determined to get into the business.

But instead of working for a big company after graduating from college, Kennelly returned to Jacksonville and decided to start his own business.

“I was a cocky student, so I just thought I could do this in Florida. My dad is an entrepreneur, so I guess it was in my blood,” Kennelly, 41, said. “My mother was more cautious because entrepreneurship is difficult and finances are not consistent. But at 22, you don’t know any better.

Kennelly started his business making wedding videos, but as soon as he got his first opportunity to create a training video for a company, he knew he was on the right track.

“That first check was for $1,800. It’s framed because I remember throwing my fist in the air as soon as I pulled into the parking lot after I got that check,” he said. “That’s when that I realized I could do it.”

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Today Kennetic Productions is a downtown Jacksonville video strategy and production company that primarily serves medium to large businesses. Signature clients include Enterprise Florida, TIAA Bank, Landstar, Jacksonville Public Library and JAXUSA. With six full-time employees, the company’s sales are around half a million dollars.

It’s a company that’s had a lot of ups and downs over the past 19 years. For example, eight years after starting the business, Kennelly had two part-time employees. Yet with a new baby and feeling tired from hustling so hard for new business, her risk tolerance has changed dramatically. He sold his business to a much larger company.

But even though the move seemed right at the time, and he had learned some things working at a much bigger company, at one point he missed owning his own business. Four years later, he bought Kennetic.

Kennelly said that while he’s faced all sorts of challenges over the years, including a recession, this pandemic has brought with it an entirely different set of issues. The biggest problem was access to interviews to create a video. This is a huge hurdle for a company trying to show a company’s passion for its products and services through video interviews.

“Our videos focus on real events, like what’s happening on the pitch,” he said. “We help companies connect with their audience, and they do that through authenticity. We interview a lot of people in person. Suddenly we couldn’t do any of that anymore. We were at a standstill. “

It turns out that before the pandemic, the company had just had its most profitable year. Although Kennelly feared the worst, the company was able to maintain a banking relationship. It turned out to be vital. The company was able to secure federally guaranteed loans that were eventually forgiven.

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Financial assistance also allowed the company to hire someone during the pandemic. The financial aid didn’t help them grow, but it did help them stay stable, so that two years later they were able to pick up where they left off during their growth.

“I wish people understood that government programs have been helpful to us and so many other businesses,” he said. “We had no idea the loans would eventually be canceled, but we knew we really needed help to get through this.”

Changes during the pandemic

The company lost around 10% of its sales from 2019 to 2020, but sales fell 25% the following year.

Meanwhile, when business was really slow, employees focused on learning new skills and building new relationships. Now, two years into the pandemic, Kennelly said he doesn’t realize how much time his team is spending working to improve as an organization as a whole.

But that doesn’t mean it was easy to stay motivated. Like so many other business owners who didn’t know how to move forward when COVID-19 first hit, Kennelly suddenly felt bewildered.

“I usually have lofty goals as a leader, but during the pandemic I lost that,” he said. “I could only see the six inches in front of my face. My only goal was to keep moving forward, one step at a time. My biggest goal was to survive this pandemic… At some point, I completely lost the sight.”

New video skills, paid vendor relationships

I reached out to Kennelly because I was curious how video companies fared during the pandemic, given that it’s an industry that focuses on shooting people live. But what do you do when you can’t interview people?

For the first time, business was at a standstill, including newly signed clients who were ready to move forward, but couldn’t.

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The good news is that Kennetic employees have had plenty of time to try new things, including animation and securing the rights to stream past footage from organizations like the NFL and the Department of Defense.

Kennetic had just landed its biggest one-year contract in March 2020 with the Florida Defense Support Task Force when the pandemic first hit. Kennelly said his team looks forward to traveling to 21 military bases to share stories about the military in Florida, as the economic impact of the military industry and state defense recently topped $95 billion. of dollars.

Chris Kennelly is the founder and CEO of Kennetic Productions, a corporate film crew in downtown Jacksonville.

“They were amazing. They could have given up on the contract, but instead they committed to their mission to tell stories on the grassroots and they wanted to support a small business at the same time,” he said . “That contract is one of the reasons we were profitable… They stuck with us.”

The company used animations and images sourced from the Department of Defense and moved from conducting interviews to using scripted voices. It was a first.

They again pivoted with TIAA Bank, their oldest client. The financial institution owns the naming rights to the Jaguars’ stadium, TIAA Bank Field. This means they have the ability to create a lot of marketing for TV, print and social media.

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But instead of interviewing the players as planned, Kennetic had to use an existing video of NFL football players. Then they combined graphics related to the message of developing a plan as a team, whether it’s being strategic with sports or planning finances.

“They sifted through hours and hours of game footage to get the right scenes for a cohesive 30-second commercial,” said Paul Pugh, vice president, head of brand partnerships.

to TIAA, noting that the ad runs at Jaguars games, on and on social media. “We ended up having a fantastic ad that’s enhanced with graphics.”

The future looks bright

Keagan Anfuso, creative director at Kennetic Productions, was hired into the company during the pandemic. She believes there has never been a time when video production skills were more in demand, valued and creatively challenging.

“It has forced many companies and organizations to realize modern video capabilities that were largely underutilized before the pandemic,” she said. “It became necessary to leverage video as a solution, and we were happy to be that solution for so many of our customers during such a difficult time.”

Marcia Pledger is an opinion and engagement writer for the Florida Times-Union. She can be reached at [email protected]

Marjorie N. McClure