The Journal Gazette feature: Huntington U. goes into business

Source: By Julie Crothers, The Journal Gazette, 9/3/13

When he wasn’t busy with classes and homework at Huntington University, Nate Reusser was busy gathering a crew of creative minds and starting his own design business.

Reusser, a 2004 graduate of Huntington University, said he built Reusser Design Inc., the company he now runs with his wife, Julie, from the comfort of his dorm room.

Reusser Design, in Roanoke, specializes in web development, web hosting, graphic design, search engine optimization, Internet marketing and much more, Reusser said.

“I basically ran it out of my dorm room for several years and took what I was learning in class and applied it right there to the real-world experience,” Reusser said.

So when his alma mater came to him about eight months ago asking for help to create a new company that would benefit future Huntington University students, Reusser said he was happy to oblige.

In August, the university announced a partnership with Reusser Design and HU Ventures Inc., the school’s new for-profit company.

Huntington University began developing the for-profit HU Ventures last year as a way to help bring additional income to the university, said Troy Irick, vice president of HU Ventures.

Irick also works as an assistant professor of business for Huntington University.

The new company, Clear Elevation, is similar to Reusser Design in terms of web design and development and social media, photography and design work.
But rather than the long-term, more complex projects that Reusser Design specializes in, Clear Elevation will focus on keeping costs low and quick-turnaround projects for people, Reusser said.

“I’m not starting a competitor for my own company,” Reusser said with a laugh. “This will just fill that gap in between the one-person freelance projects and the sort of projects we do at Reusser Design. It’s cost-effective, smaller and quicker.”

Clear Elevation, located in downtown Roanoke, opened its doors in early August.

Carson Sprunger, a native of Berne, serves as Clear Elevation’s business manager and creative director.

Being nimble

With a challenging economy, any additional income that can be turned around to benefit students is appreciated, Irick said.

HU Ventures is a for-profit subsidiary for Huntington University that serves as a holding company or investment company that connects with smaller companies, Irick said.

Richard Ludwick, president and CEO of the Independent Colleges of Indiana, said HU Ventures is a prime example of how small, private universities are responding to the economic challenges.

“It’s a great example of how Indiana’s independent and private colleges are really connecting with Indiana businesses and are working overtime to make sure that connection is real and beneficial,” Ludwick said.

Ludwick said small universities face special challenges because they rely heavily on donations and endowments.

But, he said, they have the advantage of being nimble and able to adjust to the changing times, including finding new, creative ways to bring in extra cash.

“The overarching goal of HU Ventures over time is to work to reduce the university’s reliance on the three primary forms of income – tuition, gift income and endowment income,” Irick said.

To illustrate, Irick explained the university’s income is like a three-legged stool.

“For years, those primary forms of income have been the three legs of a stool under intense pressure,” he said. “The goal with HU Ventures was to create an entity that would add a fourth leg and, with that, create more stability.”

Although it could take time before the university will reap the benefits or know exactly how much money might be expected, Irick said the additional income will make a difference for future Huntington University students. 

“Obviously, this is our first entity and it’s a little soon to say how much we might bring in annually, we hope to eventually generate a significant source of revenue that can be brought back to the university,” he said.