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Kevin Romeo

What is your official title?

I honestly don’t have an official title. I am the owner of Rhino Media. We all have roles of who does what in-house, but as far as titles, I don’t know. We all do different things so often, and we wear a lot of hats, so no titles.


What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?

Average day, wake up early around 6:30, 9-minute snooze interval, 3 iterations of snooze, so I really can’t do anything but run out of the house at that point. It’s nice to be the “artsy” business owner, we get the freedom to wear what we want and get to be comfortable, so don’t have to think much about that. But I always make sure to give my wife a hug and a kiss before I run out the door and head downtown from Paw Paw. Sometimes the drive is stressful, traffic, all that stuff, but it also gives me the opportunity to listen to some good podcasts, and let my brain open up slowly for the day. It’s my thinking time, and gets me ready for what’s to come. I’m trying to groom the people at Rhino to do the big stuff; if shouldn’t always be me doing everything, and it’s cool to see my colleagues grow in their skills, so getting some good tips and perspective on my ride in helps!

So I finally get to the office, and Angel Arnold has definitely beaten me there, like always – such a great person – and we kick off our team meeting, half the time is for personal development, so what are we reading, what podcasts are we listening to, and the the second half is for projects, like, what are we working on right at this moment that needs our attention. We usually all get lunch as a team, head over to some place like Irvings, and the rest of the day is filled with meetings and little things here and there to keep it all moving. Some days it’s super crazy and other days it’s more on the quiet side, but it’s never the same.


What kind of projects are you currently working on?

The Michigan Beer Film is in crazy go-mode. The premiere is September 14th at the State Theater. There are a couple more shoots we’re trying to squeeze in, and the editing is almost done. I have to say, though, the real challenge is starting out with a great idea. I guess you could call me an idea guy, but it’s more that it’s coupled with social awareness with what’s going on and matching those pieces together. The Beer Film was a great idea, but how are we going to tell the story, you know, how can we talk about the state of Michigan and it’s awesome beer without it being a promo video. Those are the types of things we thought through after the initial idea popped up.

Just to give some background on the film, it follows Greenbush Brewery through the entire film, so you check in with those guys a lot. Everyone else in the film is helping to build the story of Michigan beer, and we really thought about it and broke it down into chunks. It uncovers people’s opinions of where to go for great beer in a really fun way. There are little cameos here in there, we’ve got Larry Bell in there a few times, and it just gives you a taste of their influence in the beer culture. The MI Beer Film is a huge monster, we are planning the premiere ourselves, and there are just ridiculous amounts of things to do, with that, and then we start talking about what’s next, you know? It’s stupid if we build this platform and then that’s it. We have to talk about a sequel, maybe a monthly web series or a video blog. We want to show the behind the scenes stuff that you wouldn’t typically see, and finding the little stories here and there.

Aside from the Beer Film, there’s some cool things we are doing for Bells, which is just awesome, can’t tell you how awesome that is. I went to Western, got a business degree and then was like, what do I do with this. I didn’t have any prospects, and kind of had this chip on my shoulder about it. There was just this period of time where I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and then when I decided to pair my degree with something I really enjoyed doing, it all just kind of made sense. I got rid of that chip, and realized how cool it was to have a business in a city like Kalamazoo, and how cool it is that I’m now making videos for some of the biggest players across a bunch of different industries. I love working on these new projects with new clients and taking what they want to do, putting it into the Rhino machine, and popping out a clarified concept of where they want to go.


Any upcoming events that you’re particularly excited about?

Ah, I wish I had time to dig my head out of the sand to know more about events in Kalamazoo. I went to Ribfest and Taste of Kalamazoo – I love those festivals down at Arcadia, and love that Kalamazoo has so much to offer in that sense. You really can’t complain that there’s nothing to do here. It’s people like Deb Droppers, who really works her tail off, to make these things happen.


What do you love most about Kalamazoo?

I really like the name Kalamazoo. If our town was called like, Middlbury, or something like that, it wouldn’t be as awesome. Back when I was in college, Governor Granholm did this thing with “cool cities”, like why are these cities cool, what’s cool about them, the businesses, the people, etc. I think Kalamazoo is a good spot where things are just becoming better. Kalamazoo is picking up on the “local” movement, which is so great. You could say it’s a movement, and everyone’s doing it, but there’s something special about it here. The farmer’s market is just craziness in the mornings on the weekend. I just really like that. It sounds cliché, but it’s things like that that make it so great here.


What can be done to improve our beloved Kalamazoo?

I have this rule – I don’t like to post a complaint if I don’t have a suggestion for a solution, so this is a tough one for me. I guess for me, it’s partly the infrastructure. I’d like to see more done with the mall, like I want to do more to expand people’s views of what there is there. You drive into Kalamazoo, and you drive right out. What if there weren’t so many one-way streets. Would it change the amount of time we are in the downtown area? It’d be nice if it weren’t so easy to get out of the city once you were in.


What has been one of your biggest learning moments?

Learning moments are really important to Rhino, and to me. I have a philosophy that you can learn from every situation you’re in. What I’ve realized is, as a business owner, if you have a spirit of humility in your life, your an get through a lot. If you act like you know what you’re doing all the time and you make a mistake that you’re not willing to admit to or correct, then there’s a big problem. I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve grown as a company and continue to bring on new clients, it’s because we there’s a problem we own up to it quickly, and we solve it quickly. We don’t play the blame game and I’ll think long and hard about it, you know, how did we get off track here, and what are our options to make this right? Conflict resolution is what makes Rhino so good. Without fail, if you go through a trial and you handle that problem well and you can find a mutually agreeable solution, it just gives you miles and miles of confidence. So what I’ve learned: you eat that slice of humble pie, and you fix it.


What have you been jammin’ to recently? What’s on the iPod?

Best band on the planet – Avett Brothers. It’s weird, but most of the bands I like are from the Carolinas. Maybe it’s an ideology about life, I don’t know, but I feel like there is just a really true value of people with these bands. I love the Black Keys. We have a record player at Rhino, so we jam a lot. I like Grand Rapids bands, like Soil in the Sun and Crane Wives – they have a bluegrass folk sound and a female lead singer who rocks. I like electronic music to some degree. Daft Punk’s vinyl is awesome, and love Vampire Weekend’s new album. Needtobreathe, oh man, I’ve seen them three times live, and yes, they are from South Carolina! I’d say I’m also a huge fan of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson’s music.


What is next up on your reading list?

I really like to read, and I try to read books, like actually read them, not skim them, but I do skim a bit, it happens. I like books about leadership and personal growth, like Linchpin and Purple Cow. I read enough of these books to get super inspired and get your mind really opened up. Simon Sinek – Start With Why – so good. There’s a book by a guy named John Miller, and it’s a book we read at Rhino, called QBQ – really short chapters, super easy read. It’s great because it hits me in every spot it needs to. It’s kind of like, you can complain what you don’t have, or work with what you do and get out there and do something. It’s outstanding.


How do you take your coffee?…or do you?

Usually if it’s good coffee I like it black. If not, it’s a little cream, a little sugar, but NO SPLENDA.


What is your favorite app to use?

Mail, Instagram, apps with photo editing filters, VSCO is a good one. I like to listen to podcasts on my phone. Oh, and Tetris. You can get 2-3 solid games in, when you’re not really doing anything, like sitting at the DMV.


Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?

Black Owl – their coffee is the best! The interior is ridiculous, it’s amazing it looks like you were transported into an old city in 1895. It’s small, but it’s great in there and the product is awesome. The owner, Darren – I don’t throw the word genius around a lot, but he’s a genius. I also absolutely love Food Dance.


Are there any places in the ‘Zoo that you haven’t been to and are dying to go?

This probably sounds cheesy, but I’m really excited to go to the new breweries that are opening soon.


What is the best reaction you’ve gotten to the name “Kalamazoo”?

I think I almost always get a reaction. “Oh there really is a Kalamazoo” I’ve had people say to me…I guess that’s kind of cutesy, but it’s totally true.


Kevin, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Keep up with Kevin on twitter and be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.