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Happy 1st Anniversary Vertical River

Although humor and levity can serve as elixirs for serious times, silly April Fools jokes don’t feel right to me today. This is Vertical River’s official first birthday and that’s no joke.

We really did launch this company a year ago today, and when we did we figured April 1, 2020 would be a great time for a clever joke so we started brainstorming ideas. We came up with some good material, but none of it feels right with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting every aspect of our lives.

This crisis is a unique opportunity for us all to take some time to do things we didn’t plan on doing and probably weren’t thinking about. With that as a reference point, I want to reflect a bit on what we did and learned, how we did it, and most importantly why we’re doing it.

“Start with Why”

My brilliant friend, colleague, and Vertical River co-founder Kendrick Disch introduced me to Simon Sinek’s bestseller “Start with Why” in late 2019 when we were laying the foundation for Vertical River. Sinek really challenged us to start with WHY. This is a dynamic concept that we revisit regularly. We launched Vertical River because we want to amplify the message of ethical brands and organizations that are doing good. We believe in stories that resonate in the hearts and minds of real people, and we believe in commerce and conservation working together.

This has led us to working with some incredible organizations like:

  • The Southface Institute
  • The Kendeda Fund and Georgia Tech University
  • Emory University
  • Piedmont Healthcare
  • Arthur M. Blank Sports + Entertainment
The Kendeda Building
The Kendeda Building

This “WHY” has served as a catalyst to creating visual content to tell the story of the greenest building in the southeast United States, the Kendeda Building for Innovative Sustainable Design; concepting, producing and executing a content strategy featuring real ATLiens to tell the story of The Home Depot Backyard; and working closely with the Southface Institute to tell their story of being a leader in environmental sustainability and regenerative economics for more than four decades.

We love “doing the work” and we did some awesome work in 2019 like: Shooting for five days in the heat of the summer in Atlanta’s “best backyard” – The Home Depot Backyard, shooting aerial photography of Atlanta from a helicopter for use in projects for the Southface Institute and Clean Cities – Georgia, shooting the opening ceremony of the Kendeda Building at Georgia Tech, and spending the better part of a day last fall working with pro football legend Rob Gronkowski – aka GRONK.

Vertical River with Rob Gronkowski
Hanging out with Rob Gronkowski during a video shoot

What We’ve Learned In Year One

We learned a lot, honestly. Mostly to work hard, do the right thing, be creative, trust the process, and work with the best people we can. We learned to always follow the rules you put in place to keep you on track. We’ve learned to expect change and be prepared for it.

We won some business we weren’t expecting to win and lost some pitches we felt pretty good about. We leveraged all the resources and technology we could access to keep growing, and we reinvested in human and tangible resources as we generated revenue.

One of things I’m most happy about is we did all this without incurring any debt, and that’s put us in a good position to work through this pandemic. We learned about the value of having savings for a rainy day.

Another thing I’m really proud of is having donated more than $1,000 to non-profit organizations like the Waterkeeper Alliance, Best Friends Animal Society, the Khan Academy, the Southface Institute, and Clean Cities – Georgia. The charitable support helped us live up to our commitment to give back and make our world a better place, which is a big part of Vertical River’s ethos.

We learned a lot about being business partners and how to communicate with each other. We learned a lot about taxes, business finances, and LLC vs. S-Corporations. We learned about contract law and entertainment law and all sorts of types of insurance.

What we really learned is how to build and grow a service-based business that puts people first. That’s what we’re proud of and what we know will carry us and our clients through the tough times. We’re here for our friends, colleagues, partners and clients so let us know how we can help you now and in the future.


First known photograph of Vertical River strategy session, circa January 2019.