CHELLGREN PATHWAYS TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP SPEAKER SERIES: TROY HITCH

Tuesday, April 4
6–8 p.m.

James C. and Rachel M. Votruba
Student Union Ballroom

No Cost to Attend

This event is open to the NKU and Greater Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati community and there is no charge to attend, but registration is required.

Parking

Parking will be available in the Kenton Garage, near Griffin Hall and the Student Union. See our campus map/directions.

ABOUT PAUL CHELLGREN

Paul Chellgren is the sponsor of the Chellgren Pathways to Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. He’s a partner at Snow Phipps as well as chairman of ArrMaz Custom Chemicals, Inc. and director of various private and public organizations in the region. Chellgren received his bachelor’s in economics and accounting from the University of Kentucky, a master’s in business administration at Harvard University, and a D.D.E. from Oxford University. 

The Chronic Creative

A look inside the mind of Troy Hitch (’94), a world-class digital storyteller and this year’s speaker for NKU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s annual Chellgren Pathways to Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.

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Photo by Timothy D. Sofranko
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“If I’m not making things, it can cause psychological trauma in my life. You’re never not a creative person if you’re not flexing those muscles. I feel starved and empty if I’m not creating something…”

By Jayna Morris and Brent Donaldson
NKU Marketing + Communications

Donnie Hoyle knows that you’re starting to get hot sweats. You’re no good at Photoshop—as the name of his web tutorial states in no uncertain terms. And, Donnie says, you choked on your Nerds Rope the last time he tried to teach you Color Range.

The year is 2007, and for those who aren’t familiar, Donnie Hoyle is a fictional character written and voiced by Northern Kentucky University alumnus Troy Hitch (’94, University’s Theatre & Dance) for the You Suck at Photoshop web series. Hitch’s faux tutorial—an online comedy series masked as Photoshop lessons—lasted for five years over 30 episodes and a spin-off series. The series, co-created by Hitch’s former business partner Matt Bledsoe, has since racked up more than 100 million views and launched the theater-major-turned advertising master to internet fame.

While the series may be Hitch’s best-known creative work, it represents just one facet of Hitch’s unflagging creative output. He’s an accomplished artist across multiple mediums. A published children’s book author. He acts, sings, and dances. He plays guitar in a prog rock band called Blah Blah Nyborgs. You could say that creativity is a chronic condition for the 46-year-old husband and father of two children.

“If I’m not making things, it can cause psychological trauma in my life,” Hitch says. “I’m constantly producing things—whether it’s drawing for two hours before I leave for work, writing music, or keeping my animation chops up. You’re never not a creative person if you’re not flexing those muscles. It affects people in different ways. I feel starved and empty if I’m not creating something.”

Today, Hitch serves as the chief creative officer at Barefoot Proximity, a creative digital marketing agency where he’s led major campaigns for global brands such as Warner Bros., P&G, Visa, ExxonMobil, and Bayer. His work has been recognized nationally by news outlets from NPR to Advertising Age, and he’s been a featured speaker at conferences that include The New York Television Special, Macworld, and ROFLcon.

It’s been a hard-driven journey for the Kentucky native and former NKU theatre major and music minor. But as Hitch will tell you, theater was where he first put his comedy chops to the test. “I wanted to be the next Chevy Chase,” he says. “I wanted to be famous for being a funny guy.”

While at NKU, Hitch became close friends with Ken Jones, director of the School of the Arts. They wrote two full-length musicals together and still keep in touch regularly. Hitch says that coming back to NKU for the Chellgren Pathways to Entrepreneurship Speaker Series is like coming home. “I am still such a huge fan of NKU all the way around,” Hitch says. “I’m proud to be an alumnus and want to continue to be an advocate for the University.”

Paul Chellgren, sponsor of the speaker series, says that Troy Hitch and NKU are a perfect pair for highlighting the successes and opportunities of entrepreneurs across the region. “I created the Chellgren Speaker Series to give NKU students and other stakeholders opportunities to interact with and learn from active, creative individuals who are doing interesting, stimulating value creating things in the private sector,” Chellgren, says. "NKU is ideal for the Series because of its location in a major metropolitan area, its young history, its need for enrichment programs, and its student body."

After graduation, Hitch’s love for theater competed with his passion for other creative outlets. He worked as a medical illustrator before being hired on at an advertising agency called The Creative Department to help them grow their digital advertising. Six years later, Hitch started his new-media studio company, Big Fat Brain, in 2004.

“I wanted to do something that brought all of my passions—drawing, music, animation, theater—together,” Hitch says.

It was during this period that Hitch and new business partner Matt Bledsoe began developing the You Suck at Photoshop series, which quickly went viral after launching on the entertainment website My Damn Channel in 2007. The entire process taught Hitch a lot about content marketing. The first lesson? You can’t force something to go viral.

“There was a period of time when agencies were selling their clients using the phrase ‘viral video,’” Hitch says. “What has occurred since then is a level of sophistication in understanding through data how consumers interact with content. Now, viral is not about trying to get 10 million people to watch. It’s about getting 10,000 to care. We have the tools and the ability to do that right now. We can plan for success far better than we could 10 years ago.”

After running out of gas working 100-hour weeks for his own business, Hitch took over as executive creative director at Barefoot Proximity. He stayed in Cincinnati for a few years before taking his role to the agency’s Chicago office. Upon his return to Cincinnati two years later, he became Barefoot’s chief creative officer.

“My focus is the welfare of the agency being able to have all the right tools and pieces in place to make great work,” Hitch says. At Barefoot, much of his time is spent on strategy—and hitting deadlines, which he says are essential to his creative process.

“There’s nothing like a deadline to come up with an idea,” he says. “Deadlines are purely about time mechanics and creating emotional urgency in how you access your brain. For me, it’s almost like a drug. It’s a stimulant to activate all of those parts of my brain and demand something more—to dig deeper. I also think urgent deadlines in the creative industry are not unlike the artistry of good improv. Sometimes you come up with the best idea when you don’t have a choice.”

Troy Hitch will be on campus April 4, as part of NKU’s Haile/US Bank College of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s annual Chellgren Pathways to Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, which was created in 2001 to bring local, regional, and national entrepreneurs to campus.