Cor Productions, Inc.
Behind every closed door lies a new opportunity. No one knows this better than Helen Hempstead, Steve Schoen, John Leimkuehler and Jorge Riopedre, owners of Cor Productions. After being laid off from their jobs at a production studio, these former co-workers couldn't let their expertise in television and radio production go to waste. "We knew we worked well together, explains Helen, so we decided to make it happen." The only catch was that none of the potential partners had business experience.
With a $100,000 loan and production expertise, the young entrepreneurs, all under the age of 30, formed Cor Productions. Cor, meaning "heart" in Latin, was the mantra of their business. Coming from a social justice, nonprofit background, the team sought to produce the highest quality of value-centered videos, documentaries, public service announcements and commercials.
The team's video production expertise and its openness to business advice allowed Cor Productions to profit quickly. Cor began paying three full-time salaries only two months after the company began. One year later, the company was sustaining four full-time partners and covering health care benefits. Today, Cor Productions is experiencing revenue of a $250,000 annually.
The team spent the first three years of operation building a firm foundation and positioning Cor as the leader in non-profit video production. With a desire to expand the company's services to non-profits and reach out to new clients, a new opportunity surfaced. Cor partner Jorge Riopedre discovered that as a native Spanish speaker and communicator, there was a high demand for his Spanish communication expertise. Cor began marketing to non-profits, commercial businesses and other communication companies such as public relations, marketing and advertising agencies, to fulfill their Spanish communication needs, both domestically and abroad.
The team has shot on location in Europe, Central America, Canada and throughout the United States for clients such as CFCA, Oblate Media, Benziger Publishing, Swank Motion Pictures and Defiance Innovations. They also produced "Body & Soul: Health Care in America," a nationally televised documentary hosted by Hollywood actor Martin Sheen.
This team of young, creative and successful professionals continues to search for new ways to reinvent themselves and increase their marketability. As communication becomes more dependent on technology, Cor has evolved into a total communications-solutions company and is moving full speed into the realm of multi-media. Today, Cor provides a wide range of products in both Spanish and English including foreign-language translation, communication planning, promotional videos, educational videos, product information pieces, public service announcements, commercials, broadcast documentaries, Web site design, Web site translation and CD ROM creation. With an enthusiastic and friendly team offering cutting-edge communications solutions, it's no surprise Cor Productions has experienced such astounding success.
Quality work and the rapid demand for Spanish-language productions have helped Cor Productions carve a profitable niche in the video production market. Hispanic-oriented productions such as videos and radio spots now account for half of the company's business. In 1999, Cor Productions was named the Hispanic Company of the Year by the St. Louis Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "We've also done video projects for local universities, industries, and publishing companies, as well as for international clients," says Helen.
In 1994, Helen and her partner John walked into the St. Louis SCORE office and requested sales and marketing help for their new business idea. They were teamed-up with SCORE mentor Robert Dierkes, a former national sales manager, who offered the production team insightful and unique sales and marketing advice.
Robert visited Helen and her partners at their production studio for regular mentoring sessions over a two-and-a-half year period. Focusing on building Cor's client base, he offered marketing suggestions that Hempstead feels had a tremendous effect on their business. "He advised us to visit potential clients—to drop by marketing materials rather than simply putting it in the mail . . . which, let's face it, would be a lot easier," says Helen.
Helen recently moved to the other side of the camera, participating in a SCORE-produced satellite training program, "Skills for the New Millennium: Making Connections that Count." She's also becoming a frequent visitor to SCORE's web site. "After six years, we've begun thinking about changing our corporate structure," Helen says. "So, we went to www.score.org and downloaded some information about various options. Soon, we'll call our local chapter and speak with a counselor to find the option that is best for us."