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Innovation & Job News

20-somethings consider Chicago for new digital design company but choose Grand Rapids instead

Sharon Hanks

John Scianna, 22, and Matt DeLong, 23, are perfect examples of the young, high-tech entrepreneurs West Michigan is trying so desperately to retain and attract.

The roommates recently launched Deka Creative, a digital advertising and design group from their Northeast Grand Rapids apartment near Diamond Avenue and Michigan Street, but not before seriously considering a move to Chicago to set up shop.

They concluded Grand Rapids was a much more appealing location for their fledging firm because it offered a lower cost of living, quicker drives to clients and other destinations, a vibrant community and a lot less competition in the 20-something crowd.

"There's definitely a huge design crowd in Grand Rapids, but they're a bit older than us -- 30s and 40s," says Scianna, a Jenison native and 2010 graduate of Kendall College of Art & Design. "We're young, fresh and understand how to connect with a younger audience," he says, adding the pair can offer clients a "rare mix" of strong design talent and a deep knowledge of Internet culture.

"Social media tools present a relatively low-cost, powerful and effective advertising opportunity," he says, but they are frequently untapped by businesses. By creating an intelligent online advertising strategy using Facebook, Google, Foursquare, Twitter, and Yelp, a brand can be reinforced and put into the forefront of the audience's mind, Scianna says.

The duo is dead serious about the business. DeLong was living in New Brunswick, Canada, when he learned nearly two years ago online at www.youngentrepreneur.com that Scianna was looking for a business partner. A series of e-mails, phone calls and collaborations with freelance design work ensued before the pair realized their potential as a team.

The budding entrepreneurs met for the first time in Chicago a few months ago. DeLong, a former student at the University of New Brunswick, moved in with Scianna at their apartment in early July.

"He picked up his whole life really, put it into his car, and drove 22 hours to Grand Rapids," says Scianna.

Last month they launched their website, announcing "We're the guys who connect your business with a world that changes every minute." They also joined the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and began filling out application papers to become a limited liability corporation.

"As we grow, we'd like to add more designers and a person dedicated to sales," he says. "With the next five years, we hope to have 15 to 25 people in an office downtown." At that point, Chicago could be in their business plans, but only for a second office.

Source: John Scianna, Deka Creative, Grand Rapids

Sharon Hanks is innovations and jobs news editor at Rapid Growth Media. Please send story ideas and comments for the column to Sharon at sharon@rapidgrowthmedia.com. She also is owner of The Write Words in Grand Rapids.


Deka Creative Logo

John Scianna left; Matt DeLong right -Courtesy Photo

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