Things were good for Anderson Schoenrock when he took a lucrative position with Lehman Brothers after graduating from Dartmouth in 2001. They got better when he partnered with colleagues in 2004 to start a boutique investment firm for commercial real estate; better still when the market boomed from 2004 through 2006; and better once again when Jones Lang LaSalle acquired the company in 2006, leaving Schoenrock with a lucrative package and continuing opportunities for profit.
But Schoenrock, now 32 and CEO of photo scanning company ScanDigital, walked away from all of it in 2007, banking his future on an entrepreneurial idea he'd had since college: to create an easy and versatile method of scanning and converting photos and videos into digital assets that would never deteriorate.
The idea stemmed from a conversation with his college friend--and now co-founder of ScanDigital--Michael Mothner, who was describing his mother's reaction to getting a digital camera. "This is great," she told Mothner, "but how do I take all those photo albums in the garage from the last 20 years and put them on the computer so I have all of my digital photos and old photos together?"
Schoenrock and Mothner researched the market and realized there were millions of people who were sitting on old photos and memories but didn't know how to properly or cost-effectively protect them. Home scanners worked to a degree, but required a lot of time and ultimately didn't produce high-quality results.
"So we set out to create a very easy-to-use, user-friendly service that didn't compromise quality and ensured we were delivering something that would really stand the test of time and preserve these things for generations to come," Schoenrock says.
That was in 2007. ScanDigital has since digitized more than 9 million photos and videos converted from nearly every form of personal media--from slides, negatives and VHS tapes to 8mm and Super 8 reels.
The company helps customers to not only preserve their memories, but also to enjoy, share, edit and interact with them across multiple platforms by offering conversions to online galleries, CDs, DVDs or hard drives.
With 2011 revenues projected at $5 million, one wonders why Schoenrock didn't jump into the entrepreneurial ring right after graduation. College gave him skills and knowledge, but his stint at Lehman taught him endurance.
"One of the real advantages of having worked at an investment bank was that I was consistently working 15- to 16-hour days, which gave me a tremendous work ethic," he says. "By the time I founded ScanDigital, long hours and hard work didn't faze me at all."
Would he recommend his career path to others? "Ultimately, I think you have to do what you think is right in your gut," he says, "and if you have any inclination to start a business, you need to go for it."
Joel Holland, 25, is the founder and CEO of Footage Firm in Reston, Va.