BY GLENN PUIT
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Jay Gorter opened Visitors Media company two years ago in some unique office space: His basement.
“World headquarters,” Gorter said.
The media company has come a long way since then. The business, now located at 805 W. Front St., provides media content displayed on flat screens at area businesses, and a business off-shoot called Explore TC focuses on hotel properties. Explore TC landed 20 new clients in just four months this year, Gorter said, indicating media companies can survive in small-market Traverse City, and that the Grand Traverse region’s tourism industry offers entrepreneurs niche opportunities beyond traditional hospitality.
“We created a nice product and the phone started ringing,” Gorter said. “Word started getting around.”
Gorter’s business is two-fold. It started with Visitors Media, which uses flat screens to display promotions and informational pieces at businesses. Gorter used that experience to start Explore TC, which produces video and media programming on televisions broadcast in Traverse City-area hotel rooms. The content targets tourists, and promotes businesses and highlights tourist attractions like the Traverse City Film Festival and museums.
“I feel confident in saying it has made a difference for us,” said Amy Diment, regional marketing director for Pirates Cove adventure park.
Diment said Pirates Cove hired Explore TC in June to market the recreational facility’s miniature golf, zip lines, rope course and bumper boats. Explore TC, in turn, hired Petersen Productions to film a short video on Pirates Cove. That video spot runs daily on television screens in more than a dozen hotel properties.
“In between the spots for advertising, there’s programming on great places to go to breakfast or places to experience adventure in northern Michigan,” Diment said. “It was very well done.”
Gorter said a key to Explore TC’s success was leveraging the company’s membership in the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. He’s attended dozens of functions and met with tourism leaders about the service he offers.
“He’s accessed all our networks, attends our events and he advertises within the chamber communications,” said Laura Oblinger, chief operating officer at the chamber. “Any platform that the chamber can offer him to get his business known ... he has used. I’ve watched it grow. It’s really great stuff.”
Gorter said his success demonstrates the value of tourism for northern Michigan. He also believes there’s room to grow for the media company.
“Tourism is important here,” Gorter said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for tourism.
“We are also proof you can still start a company in your basement and make it work if you leverage your resources,” Gorter said.