Firm bridges tech abyss

Firm bridges tech abyss

February 24th, 2011 by Brittany Cofer in Business Around the Region

Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press Kyle Cashen works on converting film to digital information at Southtree Digital Media company. In addition to film, the company also converts VHS and slides to a digital format to put on to DVDs.

Standing in a small room surrounded by more than 100 electronic devices, Adam Boeselager gestures toward a TV set playing a video of a pajama-clad child unwrapping what appears to be a Christmas present.

"We're doing at least 100 tapes a day," said the 24-year-old co-founder of Southtree Digital Media. "The footage is all played back in here."

Moving into the main room of the company's 3001 Broad St. office, Boeselager heads toward a 1970s-era movie reel that is transferring its contents onto a nearby computer.

"Most people stopped using these by the mid-'80s," he said. "They're all locked up in peoples' closets now."

While attending college at Lee University, Boeselager and his then-roommate Nick Macco started AMB Media Services, which changed its name to Southtree Digital Media in 2009.

The company digitizes what Boeselager refers to as "home memories," which can be found on film, photo prints, negatives and videotape.

Boeselager said about 97 percent of the company's business comes from outside Tennessee.

"This is an e-commerce driven company," he said. "The way our customers get to know us is through our online presence."

In the three years the pair have run the company, a lot has changed.

Starting out in their dorm room with a rack half full of devices, they now have loads of high-tech equipment in their offices and process about 3,000 movies each month.

Macco, who focuses on marketing and sales, said there isn't much competition in the home movie digitization market, something that has allowed quick growth for the company.

"Most of the competition is really boutique shops that approach it from a very technical perspective," he said. "And we've found that customers don't want technical jargon, they're really just concerned with preserving their home movies and photos and moments they actually care to hold on to. I think, for us, there's only really one big national competitor that does a decent job with it."

Customers send their media to the Southtree offices, where it typically will take several weeks to process and is then sent back along with either a DVD or digital file of the materials.

Boeselager said the company has seen double-digit sales growth each year since it started, and he hopes to double 2010 sales this year.

The pair plans to start marketing their company this year as one that not only caters to consumers with old home movies or photos they want to digitize, but also to companies with professional tapes that need to be transferred into a different format.

"I can see in five to 10 years down the road, the market is only going to expand," Boeselager said.

Contact staff writer Brittany Cofer at bcofer@times freepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/brittanycofer.