Ball State grad condenses videos for families adopting from overseas

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Oct. 10, 2006 


MUNCIE -- With today's technology, it's easier than ever to capture a memory with a digital camera or video recorder.

What you do with those recorded memories is the hard part.

Do you shelve photos in a box somewhere to be organized in the future? Do you fast-forward through video footage to show your family and friends "the good parts?"

Ball State University graduate Helen Kibby has the answer: Let her take care of the work for you.

Kibby is the entrepreneur behind Higher Sites, LLC, a video production company she founded less than a year ago. Higher Sites specializes in custom-made videos created by Kibby, who edits footage and still images into three- to five-minute montages set to music.

Kibby says she will customize work for anyone at a cost of $150 to $500, be it parents who wish to capture their child's birth or corporate clients who want to promote their company. Lately, however, she's specialized in condensing memories for a unique group of clientele: parents of internationally adopted children.

As Kibby explains it, there can be hours upon hours of video that parents shoot when visiting a distant land to meet their child.

"If you were to try and show two hours of that tape to your family, they'd quickly become bored," she said. "But when you can condense those segments into a five-minute highlight of the trip, that's when you re-create the emotion they felt during the journey."

Kibby's sales pitch worked for the Connor family.

John Connor and his wife Jennifer adopted two girls from China, both within the past five years. The couple amassed hours of footage and dozens upon dozens of photos of their daughters, Katelyn and Grace, in their homeland.

When they heard about Kibby and her business, they realized they could use her help. In the time since they've come to know her, they've employed Kibby on four different occasions.

"Our daughters love to watch the movies she made," said Connor, an attorney with Ball State's Student Legal Services. "They both know they were adopted from China, and they are both very proud of that. I think watching the tapes is a great reminder for them of how they became a part of our family."

Kibby estimates she's made about a half-dozen such videos or more for families with adopted children. Before offering services to this particular clientele, she had little knowledge about the adoption process. Now she has great respect for the families she's worked with, many of whom spend $20,000 to $30,000 to welcome a child born outside of the country into their home.

"You work on these videos, and you can tell how much these families love their children," she said. "It's great."

Kibby, 23, is a newcomer to entrepreneurship but has always kept the idea of owning a business in mind.

A native of New Zealand, she came to the United States on a soccer scholarship. She spent her undergraduate career studying broadcast media and playing collegiate athletics for McNeese State University in Louisiana.

Kibby then came to Ball State to run cross country. Once there, she decided to study digital storytelling, a new master's degree offered by the university, which Kibby thought would allow her to explore her love of video.

Last fall, she and roommate Elizabeth (Thompson) Jones entered "The Next Big Thing," a Ball State business competition for budding entrepreneurs. Their idea for Higher Sites won, and together they received $5,000 to apply toward startup costs for the company.

After graduating in May, Kibby took on primary responsibilities for Higher Sites. She is now using office space inside the Innovation Connector, the business incubator created in partnership with Ball State, Cardinal Health System and Muncie city officials. One of her supervisors, Suzanne Plesha, calls working with Kibby a "great experience."

"What you notice about entrepreneurs is a real propensity to be innovative and creative and to have that extra energy it takes to devote to it all," she said. "Helen definitely fits that profile. We were very excited to find her."

Plesha hopes Kibby's success story as a young entrepreneur inspires others to turn their dreams of a business into reality. And with Ball State's resources -- its entrepreneurship center, the CMD and the Innovation Connector -- there's never been a better time to try, she notes.

"We're not trying to turn students or adults who come to us for help into overnight MBAs," Plesha said. "But what we hope to do is give them tools they will be able to take with them in the next step toward fostering a business."


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