Self-diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and sipping on a Red Bull, Ryan Welch is doing what he loves: telling stories. Six years ago, the 31-year-old Eugene native moved back home with a dream and little money. Today he sits atop a growing media business with little signs of slowing down.
Welch owns a conglomerate of small media operations under the headings of AO Creative, Vivid Wedding Films, and One Click Sports Now with his brother-in-law Jay Jones. He is part of a new generation of cinematographers that is putting focus on online video, but through his accomplishments, he has found ways to stay grounded through his faith and through his community.
After graduating from Linfield College in McMinnville, OR, Welch got married to his long time girlfriend Susan and moved directly to Seattle, WA, where he took a job as a staff member for Young Life, a national Christian youth ministry.
“I did a year of that (direct ministry) and realized my passion was for design and for video,” says Welch. It was is boss who gave him the opportunity to become the creative director for Greater Seattle Area Young Life. That position gave Welch the chance to gain experience and build his media portfolio.
After three years of living in “Husky territory,” the Oregon native was ready to get back to his Duck roots and break out on his own. In 2004, he moved back to his hometown of Eugene and immediately started his own business.
The business name AO Creative is a testament to the faith that Welch has: The AO stands for Audience of One. “God is the one,” Welch says. “Seeing as how God kind of orchestrated that whole process of going up (to Seattle) and enabled me to build my client base,” says Welch, “that my intent was to honor him with what I do and have him be the only focus.”
He credits much of who he is today not just to his Christian faith but also to his father, Bob Welch. Welch comes from a long line of storytellers. His great-grandfather was a pen artist, his grandfather was a photographer and a filmmaker (when they still cut film with scissors), and his father is a columnist for the Register Guard. “I know who my dad is; he is really grounded around us,” Welch says. “He’s Bob Welch the dad, not Bob Welch the columnist to me.”
With the start of his business in 2004, Ryan Welch took on website design, print design, and video. Weddings were always a big part of the latter, and after competition with another local videographer turned into a partnership, the Vivid Wedding Films business was born as a specialized wing of AO Creative. Along with the weddings came success.
“Growing up I always thought video was a hobby. I never thought I could make money doing it,” said Welch, who received no formal training in film but has always felt that the art aspect came naturally. “It seemed like itwas something I like too much. Most people get a job doing something they don’t like to do. Never thought I could have a job doing what I love.”
But video is not the only love of Welch. Along with his brother-in-law Jay Jones, he has also began another business; One Click Sports Now. One Click Sports Now is an online news aggregation service that collects news from around the web about PAC-10 teams and puts it all into a single web page for fans to enjoy. Starting out with a single site devoted to just the Ducks, they built a fan base and a format that they used recently to build similar sites for the rest of the Pac-10 Athletic Programs.
Welch doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. He envisions AO Creative as a firm that serves all sorts of creative needs for clients of all budgets, but he is willing to see where all of his ventures take him and says he is being patient as he moves forward. Unless Welch is dreaming about his future camera lens purchases (he keeps a list on his whiteboard next to his desk), he is mostly focused on what is happening in the here and now.
“If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be managing an online sports network and a creative agency, I would not have believed you.”