Luke Didion ’23 wrote his first business plan when he was just 10 years old, for an online videogame platform he’d dreamed up. A few years later, when he was in high school, he started an apparel company, Clothes and Soles, reselling garments that were already on the market. Didion has always looked to the future, but it’s safe to say that today he’s set his sights higher than ever before – literally and figuratively. The finance major is the founder of Altavation, a media production company that specializes in capturing stunning aerial images of homes to be used in marketing them.
Didion started simply, buying his first drone with money he saved washing dishes. Now the company is set to take off. During his time at Le Moyne, Didion has worked tirelessly to build Altavation, collaborating with the College’s Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Creativity on everything from branding to financing so that Altavation can grow from “mom and pop” to “nationally recognized.” His advice to other students? “Find something you are passionate about, learn everything you can about it, and stick with it.”
What does it take for a company to earn the loyalty of its customers? An outstanding product? Certainly. Great service? Absolutely. A willingness to respond to feedback? Without a doubt. But at the dawn of the 2020s, attracting more customers may hinge on something even more important: whether or not it is seen as a good societal and environmental steward. And behemoth organizations like Apple, Amazon and Budweiser are using their ads to persuade the masses they are just that.
Kelli Tierney ’21 has been investigating this phenomenon as part of her thesis for the Integral Honors Program. A communications major, Tierney is interested in how companies are using their advertising dollars to both shine a light on critical issues of the day, including environmental crises, political divisions, racial tensions and economic disparities, while also highlighting the work they are doing to tackle these challenges. The field of advertising is sometimes derided as “misleading, manipulative and exploitative,” but Tierney was intrigued by the idea that it could also be altruistic.
“(Customer opinions) matter, so companies have listened to this new wave of enlightened consumers who want to support businesses that reflect their values,” she says. “People want companies with ethical labor practices and (fair) treatment of employees, and are more likely to purchase from a company that is known to donate a portion of its profits to a good cause.”
Yana Pryakhina ’21 was fascinated by the idea that when a person learns another language, his or her personality changes. The biology major, who speaks English, Russian and Ukrainian, spent approximately 18 months studying this perception of the link between language and cognition, blending her love of humanities with her expertise in science.
She discovered, for example, that speakers of different languages can consciously perceive certain colors differently or have altered memories of some of the same events due to semantics. They have varying abilities to orient themselves in relation to cardinal directions.
The aspiring pediatrician also gained an even greater appreciation for the ways in which the physical sciences and the humanities complement one another and play a fundamental role in everyday life.
“I think that studying how our brains function and what might affect how we perceive the world around us is something that will always be important,” she says. “The more we know about how our individual worlds are shaped, the better we will be able to understand not just ourselves, but others as well.”