SYRACUSE — The president of Runningboards Marketing, a Watertown–based mobile digital-billboard company, sees Syracuse as the “hub of Central New York” and wanted to have an office here.
The company opened the office in early September at 224 Harrison St. as part of the new ShareCuse coworking space, according to Calvin McNeely, III, the firm’s president.
“It’s the closest metro area to Watertown where we all live and where my home is. It was the next logical step. Our goal will be to advance to Rochester and Buffalo through the sale of franchises in those cities,” McNeely told reporters during a Sept. 17 press conference at the firm’s new space.
The Runningboards Marketing home office is located at 19138 U.S. Route 11 in Watertown. McNeely and his business partner, Zachariah Yelle, launched the firm in 2018.
“Our focus is on helping successful businesses grow, whether it’s growing their business, growing their brand, rebranding. That’s really what we’re about,” McNeely explained. “We started in Syracuse earlier this year, and now we’re excited to have an office in Syracuse.”
The firm uses a digital advertising vehicle, or DAV — which is pronounced “dave.”
DAV has three independent screens, which can display “anything you can do on a computer, a television,” said McNeely. That could include video, audio, or streaming from a drone.
“Pretty much endless possibilities,” he noted.
The firm’s local employees include John DeSantis, digital marketing sales representative. DeSantis is also known locally as founder of the nonprofit Believe in Syracuse. The organization works to “promote positive perceptions and improve the quality of life in the greater Syracuse area,” per its website. Its effort also includes promoting local businesses, according to DeSantis.
Runningboards Marketing has also hired some drivers and wants to deploy two or three vehicles in the downtown area.
“I definitely expect we’ll increase our numbers this fall here in Syracuse and by next year, we should have six to 10 employees working out of the Syracuse office, with two or three digital advertising vehicles,” said McNeely.
Runningboards Marketing has worked with more than 50 clients in the Syracuse area, DeSantis told CNYBJ in an email. Those clients include Orangetheory Fitness, Evergreen Landscaping, The Gem Diner, and the Preserve at 405, he added.
McNeely retired in September 2016 from Hi-Lite Airfield Services, LLC in Adams Center, a company he had founded.
In an interview with CNYBJ in July, McNeely explained that more than a year later, he was surfing the internet in November 2017, working to promote another business in which he was an investor. And he noticed a truck that really caught his eye.
“I had never seen one of these trucks before, and I knew right then and there I had to do it,” he told CNYBJ.
That truck was similar to the type that Runningboards Marketing now uses.
McNeely, who is 58, also knew that he wanted Zachariah (Zach) Yelle, who is 23, to serve as his partner in the business venture and be the firm’s VP.
McNeely knew Yelle from church where the young man was responsible for sound and lights. Yelle had also handled some video work for McNeely along the St. Lawrence River.
He described Yelle as a “whiz” at technology who has a background in marketing, social media, videography, and graphic design.
“He’s got the skill set I lacked to make this a perfect business,” McNeely noted.
In early 2018, as the pair decided to move forward with their business idea, they had a company in the Midwest custom build a truck for Runningboards Marketing.