In 1985, Toledoans Greg and Jan Bollin were exhausted and tired of eating warmed-over banquet food and wedding cake.
They had spent nearly every weekend for five years videotaping weddings, anniversaries, and bar mitzvahs to establish their fledgling video business, RGB Productions, Inc.
Making $125 a job, Mr. Bollin said, “we ate a lot of Hamburger Helper and macaroni and cheese.'' What little they earned went right back into new video cameras or VHS tapes, which then cost $15 each. It looked like a slow road to nowhere businesswise.
But about that time, the couple who lived on Toledo's East Side in an apartment over a building they owned caught two big breaks.
Toledo city councilman Peter Ujvagi got a $10,000 grant to make Urban Turf and Ethnic Soul, a video documentary about Toledo's Birmingham neighborhood. Mr. Ujvagi hired Mr. Bollin, who used the money to buy a $10,000 video editing system.
Now owning a top-notch video editing system, Spartan Chemical Corp. offered Mr. Bollin something more steady than wedding videos: a series of 68 training videos.
``That kept me busy every week for three years,'' Mr. Bollin said. It also steered corporate business his way, including the former Seaway Food Town and The Andersons.
Suddenly, what began as a way to earn money on the side had evolved into a full-fledged business.
Today, RGB Productions occupies a building near Maumee's Arrowhead Park, has more than $1 million in sophisticated video production equipment, and expects to do over $1 million in sales in 2001.
The Bollins had to give up video filming weddings and other personal events 10 years ago, but that was OK with them. ``We wanted our lives back,'' explained Jan Bollin.
One thing the couple never gave up: plowing profits back into new equipment and spending late nights and extra hours to get RGB end products as perfect as possible.
The company has an array of equipment that allows it to convert any type of film or recording, including 16mm film or Betamax, onto VHS or other forms of media.
In fact, RGB recently spent several thousands on DVD recording equipment. It can take home movies, videos, photos, or practically anything that has been recorded, and place them on DVD disks that a user can watch on their home television with a DVD player.
Initially the business filmed events, but now provides professional video services that involve production of television commercials or promotional videos, presentations and equipment rental for large gatherings, and conversion or duplication of finished videos, film, and other media.
Its bread and butter, though, is production. For example, RGB produces commercials featuring Toledo that local economic development officials send nationwide to attract businesses. It also produces television commercials for The Andersons.
``Their work is very good,” said Dave Brown, vice president of Don Lea Associates, Inc., one of several area marketing firms that contracts with RGB for video production services. “We do one major project with them every year and it's very high quality and it's always completed on time and within budget.''
Even a competitor, Hart Associates, acknowledges RGB's strengths.
``In video production we do some of the same things and we even rent some stuff from them,'' Hart Associates president Mike Hart said. ``I admire Greg for his commitment. I think he's done a good job in the Toledo market for a long time.''
If Mr. Bollin got lucky with his two big breaks in 1985, a third turning point in 1992 was all his own doing. He had tried to get work from local ad agencies, but they preferred to hire WTOL-TV, which provided video production services as a side business.
So he went to the bank, got a business loan, and hired Russell Grycza and Angela Keiffer - the video producers at Channel 11 whose work local ad agencies sought.
``I got the two best producers that were at Channel 11,'' Mr. Bollin said. ``Our sales went up by $250,000 in a day. I couldn't get any business before that and the next day we had it all.''
RGB produces about 20 percent of the locally made commercials seen on Toledo's airwaves, Mr. Bollin estimated.
``I didn't think anybody imagined how video was going to take off 20 years ago,'' said Jan Bollin. ``I sure didn't. It was hard to envision how you could make a living off of this working for yourself.''
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