for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at Davidson College

Alum Co-Working Startup

Ben Allison & Benco Productions

Last week, I sat down with Ben Allison who graduated from Davidson in 2011 after being recruited by Coach Bob McKillop to play basketball from 2007 – 2011. Allison is originally from the UK and completed one year of University before coming to Davidson. Allison and I talked about how his Davidson education has influenced him today, what he does on a daily basis with his film company Benco Productions, and what it’s like doing his line of work in a space like the Hurt Hub.

What was life like before Benco?

Ben worked in advertising right after his graduation in 2011 with the American City Business Journal’s digital revenue team, helping sales reps around the country sell advertisements against online content. “Advertising in general has a lot of ties to persuasion,” Allison says, which links into his major. Sitting behind a desk wasn’t necessarily right up Allison’s alley, so he left the US and headed to Spain and the UK to play professional basketball for a few years. From there, Allison worked in London with a headhunting firm in the financial services, marketing, and business development teams. So far, Allison has been pretty separate from the world of advertising, until he started to work for a film company in London. With so many different platforms, tools, and creative styles, Allison was closer than ever before to the creative side of advertising and marketing. This lead him to being on sets and shoots, learning what it takes to create the videos, with sound, production, direction, etc. This experience allowed Allison to hone his skills as a producer and fostered a true passion and interest in video advertising.

All About Benco

“Our mission is to inspire and empower people to find a voice for their own creativity. We hold space, valuing all ideas while encouraging our team of creators to produce imaginative, trend-setting work for clients globally.”

Benco Productions is a video production company specializing in video production and advertising. Benco has three main areas of work:

  1. Working with clients on pre-production work, brainstorming, storyboarding, and working on the client’s brand.
  2. Production involves working on the actual filmmaking process, hiring a crew, actors, directors, and more.
  3. Finally, Benco works on the post-production end with editing, sound design, color variation, and anything else a client may need or want.

One of the most significant aspects of Benco is its flexibility in working with clients. From big New York agencies to more local Charlotte businesses, Allison is able to mold and shift Benco’s services based on what his clients need. This means pretty much anything is possible with Benco, as long as the funds are there.

What is Allison’s role in the company?

Right now, Allison’s role acts as a producer – brainstorming ideas, contracting positions, managing ideas, etc. Allison hires contracted positions for shooting days and post-production work to be able to produce the final deliverable, which can be a 30-second video advertisement to 10 spotlight videos.

How did you acquire these skills?

“That’s a tough question because, for some people, it makes sense to go to grad school or pursue higher education after Davidson,” says Allison, “but I’m a learning-by-doing person.” Allison’s six years of experience before Benco allowed him to really observe what worked and didn’t work in the marketing and advertising field. From watching how different teams work together, observing a corporate office, watching time-management skills, and just really seeing how things are done. As for the technical skills: cinematography, operating a camera, setting up lighting, that’s something that can’t be taught in a normal classroom – maybe film school, but according to Allison, these skills are best fostered on the job and jumping straight in.

How does the Hurt Hub factor into your business model?

Benco has been at the Hurt Hub for almost a year now and up until now, Benco has technically been freelance. Allison is looking to bring in a team, full-time and part-time, to have them in-house instead of contracting the same people week in and week out. Being able to host a team in this space and have a central location will be essential to Benco’s function.

“I go to most of the events here and the happy hours. And I hear the word networking and it’s not about networking or forcibly meeting people or doing business, but it really is just hanging out. And that has developed into working relationships with other companies here. Just developing real relationships and connections with these people and then seeing if it makes sense to work together.”

The Hurt Hub serves many functions in Allison’s work life. First, just having a space where he can interact with others or grab a coffee, makes independent work feel more communal. Second, the physical space of the Hurt Hub is “just beautiful,” says Allison. From secluded corners to really get stuff done to bright windows, the variety of workspace is ideal. Finally, using the Hurt Hub as a meeting space for clients that is affordable and communal is huge for client-facing meetings.

We worked with Benco Productions to create our first official video advertisement. Check it out here!

Final Advice

“For anyone’s college experience, the college has a million different things to offer. Whether it’s a different society whether it’s a fraternity. Whatever it is you’re passionate about, do it 100% and really capitalize on what they have to offer. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be academics – if it’s the film society and you see a future in it, do it 100%.”

Try It Fund

Sabria Jackson & Belle Mckissick Staley – Try-it Fund Winners

The Try It Fund is a grant competition that awards Davidson students with up to $1,000 to pursue a creative or innovative idea. We fund for-profit ventures, so your project must make money by selling a product, idea, or service. We realize you are going to make mistakes when attempting something you’ve never done before. Failure is part of the creative process, and we want you to take risks, try new ideas, learn how to quickly recognize what doesn’t work and pivot onto something that does.

Sabria Jackson — The Kundalini Crystal Shop

Sabria Jackson is a senior a double psychology and africana studies major. As a recipient of a Try-It fund grant, Sabria is funding her crystal shop that sells hand-crafted copper wire-wrapped crystal jewelry pieces. Crystals are known for their healing powers, but can sometimes feel inaccessible to those who don’t know a lot about crystal practices. Sabria’s shop is for those well-versed in crystals and those interested in learning more, and the pieces are “only made with love, but are also saturated with good intentions,” says Jackson.

Jackson took time during quarantine to learn about crystals and jewelry making. She experimented with creating her own pieces, which are mostly inspired my natural colors and qualities. Her wire-wrapping techniques have transformed as she becomes more experienced in jewelry making.

If you’re interested in purchasing crystals or connecting with Sabria, check out her Etsy and her Instagram.

Belle Mckissick Staley — Jeffery and Belle Bread Co.

Belle Mckissick Staley is a first year at Davidson and while her majors might be a little hazy, her entrepreneurial spirit is clear. Mckissick Staley is interested in double majoring in Chemistry and Studio, which she describes as a “perfect leeway combo into pastry school.” Which is where her entrepreneurial passions lie.

Mckissick Staley has an innovative idea – bread on wheels! As a sourdough bread maker, Mckissick Staley wants to have a portable method for selling bread, birthday cakes, and seasonal baked goods. Currently, Mckissick Staley has a sourdough starter she has named ‘Jeffrey.’ The starter has “enabled me to understand so many ideas, beliefs, and people around me.”

The Try-It fund is helping Mckissick Staley expand and practice her craft. As a first-year living on campus, finding an oven can be tricky, but Mckissick Staley has contacted a local restaurant that has agreed to let her use their bread oven. She hopes to start a weekly bread subscription and begin to document her and Jeffrey’s journey. Interested in following along? Follow Jeffery and Belle Bread Co. on Instagram.

Alum Article Student

Marquia Humphries ’22 & the Ada Jenkins Murals

With funding from Steph Curry’s non-profit “Eat. Learn. Play.” in combination with Summit Foundation and Under Armour, the Ada Jenkins Families and Careers Development Center renovated the Ada Jenkins gym. The space was overdue for restoration, and along with new floors, baskets, and equipment, funding included a stipend for a new wall mural: Unbounded

Having volunteered at Ada Jenkins her Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years at Davidson, Humphries’ personal connection to the Center makes these murals especially significant. Instead of a conventional wall mural where the art is painted directly on the wall, the murals were painted on three movable canvases to represent that while the Ada Jenkins building is significant, it’s their services of teaching and community building that are their most significant contributions to our Davidson community. The paintings go off the edges of the canvas and the three fragmented sections “create the sense that there is more than what can be seen on the canvases,” says Humphries. The mural was a month-long process of “whirlwind emails, paint, and caffeine,” and the product creates a bright and vibrant space for children and families at Ada Jenkins. 

“I believe art can create a glimpse into the lives and stories of a community in ways verbal expressions cannot. It brings people together and can speak to individual and collective experiences in vibrant and powerful ways.” 

Humphries recently held the first staff and faculty art exhibit at the Hurt Hub, through a partnership with Davidson College Van Every and Smith Galleries. A variety of artwork from College employees across multiple disciplines will have work displayed at the Hurt Hub from January 27, 2023 until February 28, 2023. Humphries will be presenting a commissioned artwork at the Davidson Men’s Basketball game hosted at home at 2:30 pm on Saturday, February 11th – keep a lookout!  

Humphries is focusing on “the business side” of being an artist: working on her LLC, attending tax workshops, learning how to keep accurate records, and how to budget. Humphries is also intentionally dedicating her time to connect with local artists, who are major inspirations for her work.

The beautiful photos were taken by News of Davidson.

The Hurt Hub logo

Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Davidson College


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