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A Residential Advisor: Mike’s Nontraditional Path into Marketing

By Fresh Produce

At Fresh Produce, our idea cooperative is filled with individuals who’ve had a clear path to the world of marketing and individuals who were called to advertising through human development, music, and gardening.

For co-founder and account executive, Mike Hart, being a residential advisor is what inspired him to move away from the pre-med program at South Dakota State University and graduate with a master’s in human development and family studies, all while dabbling in audio creative.

I loved the idea of helping people, but as I moved through college, the thing that probably precipitated the change was that I became a residential advisor. I started learning about student development and the fact that you can get a job helping kids grow and learn and become adults, and I was fascinated by it. I thought ‘I can still help people. I can just do it in a different setting,’ so I changed my major to human development and family studies.

When you connect the dots backward, it’s pretty funny, because when I was done being a residential advisor, I was walking across campus one day and on a total whim, I went into the Union thinking I was going to check out the campus radio station. I went down and met with this guy named Dan, who was the program director at the time. And he’s like, ‘Well, have you ever done this before?’ I was like, ‘No, but I really want to try it.’ And he tells me he literally had a guy quit just a few minutes ago, so I went to one training session and started doing a Wednesday show. Fast forward, now it’s like April or May and Sorenson Broadcasting is looking for people to be on the air. I got a call from them out of the blue and I went down to the station, had an interview, and got hired.
“I first met Ted in graduate school. I mean, I knew who he was, but it was then when we became friends through Capers. I introduced him to [Sorenson Broadcasting] and he became the intern there. When I became the program director, Ted pitched me Rock Garden Tour, which at the time was called Two Hours of Flower. It was the only show hip enough to combine gardening and rock ‘n’ roll, so I let him do it on the air.”
Eventually, I left in August of 2002 and Ted left in October of 2002, and we both ended up down here in Sioux Falls. Eventually, I interviewed for a position at Ten Cate Advertising, but they had just hired someone and were looking for a writer, so I introduced them to Ted and he was hired as a corporate copywriter.

“So, I had the interview, but Ted got the job.”

During that time we kept talking about ‘hey, what if we did this radio deal?’ and you know, without the connections Ted made at that job, it would have been really hard to start Fresh Produce the way it started—just doing audio creative. It would have been really hard to expand on the idea cooperative and become a full-service shop had we not known the people Ted met.

Marketing is very much for me a people-centered thing. We talk about being Energy Positive at Fresh Produce, and what gives me a wealth of energy is really getting to know people and really understanding who a person is and what motivates them.

While I certainly can’t say that every non-traditional path to marketing would work…I feel mine maybe set me up in a really, really good way because when it comes to resolving conflict or dealing with the really challenging parts of our business, I feel pretty equipped for that.