2011 graduates of the SOJC Strategic Communication master’s program take their partnership from class to the business world.

What do a former Willamette Week reporter, Gordon Smith’s former press secretary, and a former higher education interactive marketer have in common? They are founding partners of Bridge Nine Interactive, a Portland interactive marketing firm. Daniel Green (the reporter), Jeremy McPherson (the interactive marketer), and Luke Kintigh (the press secretary), who completed the master’s program at the George S. Turnbull Center in March of 2011, founded Bridge Nine in April and are proving that even in this economy, success in starting a new business is possible.

“We offer interactive marketing development, strategy, management, and consulting to companies,” explains McPherson. “Our goal is to help our clients better understand and engage with their customers through meaningful, online conversations whether that is through social media, video, advertising, or website development.”

“Given our start-up status and client portfolio, I think it’s safe to conclude we are rapidly growing and the future is bright!” shares Luke Kintigh of the company’s success in its first five months of existence.

Portland-based Bridge Nine has already landed clients in industries including banking, non-profits, construction and tourism. “Our biggest win to date has been Ken Wright Cellars,” says Green. “Together we’re working on some pretty innovative things, and the next few months will be exciting.”

Green is more cautious about the future than Kintigh, however. “I really dislike saying we’ve been successful. I stay motivated by telling myself we can always do more. So, in terms of revenue and client base, yes, we’ve been successful so far. But, in terms of where I see this company going, no. We’re not there yet. And, to be honest, I don’t know if I’ll ever truly think of myself as ‘successful.’ There’s always more that I, and we, can do.”

While working together on class projects, the trio quickly realized that their skill sets and experience were diverse but complementary, which has been a strength in the building of their company and their friendships. McPherson’s background is in advertising, marketing and research, while Green has a bachelor’s in history and anthropology from Washington State. Kintigh, a former Northwestern University track star, worked as a Digital Media Strategist at New Media Northwest in Salem in addition to his work in politics.

Professor Kim Sheehan, Director of the Master’s Program in Strategic Communication, had the trio in her J610 Social Media Strategy Course in the summer of 2010. She was also the advisor for each of their final projects, and they each cited her as a big influence during their tenure at the SOJC. The four have submitted a panel to South by Southwest, the annual music, film and interactive festival held in Austin, TX. Sheehan hopes their presentation will “showcase the company to a broader audience.” The next SXSW festival is scheduled for March 2012.

“The three introduced me to the company and the website before they went ‘live,’” says Sheehan. “Each brings a strong understanding of marketing communication and social media as well as a specific area of expertise that sets the company up to be very successful. I look forward to learning from them and seeing them grow.”

“Clearly, they brought a level of professional and theoretical knowledge to the class that I really appreciated, and could take the information that they used in previous classes and relate it to issues of strategic social media,” she adds. “The three are also risk takers in investigating new media platforms and they can all quickly assess how companies should (and should not) use new platforms for success.”

“All of us recognize we owe a debt of gratitude to the SOJC,” says Green. “We couldn’t have built Bridge Nine if it weren’t for the skills we developed or the people we met through the SOJC. That’s why we want to give back. The programs in the Turnbull Center are elite programs with national credibility. And, who better to develop the digital marketing campaigns for the Turnbull Center than three friends who met, learned, and graduated together from the very same house and very same program?”

In addition to freelancers, the three founders currently are Bridge Nine’s only employees. But the trio of alums hope to add to their staff next year, and they say they’ll start their search at the SOJC.