We made the Washington Post!

I had a feeling that we were going to be in the Monday Paper, as part of a new column called Capital Business. 

So when I woke up this morning about 5 minutes before my alarm, I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple emails waiting with news of the article.  I haven’t ventured out to see the hardcopy version… but will do so shortly… and you should do the same. 

Here is the article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/27/AR2010082704729.html

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Unique 360 hits a sweet spot on virtual tours

By Danielle Douglas
Monday, August 30, 2010

When John Gibbs and his college friend Chris Julio started their firm Unique 360 Tours in 2008, they initially sought out real estate clients interested in having online depictions of properties for sale. But the real estate bust drove them to expand the marketing of their services to restaurants, hospitals and even schools. That detour in strategy is now paying off for the Annapolis-based firm.

 One of Unique 360’s latest clients is the University of Maryland, which last summer was looking for something splashy for its redesigned Web site. At first, Gabe Unterman, the athletic division’s director of multimedia production, said he considered shooting a few narrated videos of the 10 sporting venues. But he changed his mind once he learned about the company’s offerings.

 “I researched their work and saw what they were capable of doing and was impressed,” he said.

 In one of the first completed tours, Unique 360 panned around practically every room of the school’s Comcast Center, from the concourse to the weight room. Visitors to the Web site can drag their cursor up and down and all around the rooms for every possible angle.

 “For potential student athletes that might come here, it gives them a good look of what we have here,” Unterman said.

 After seeing the panoramic tours of the basketball and football stadiums, directors of other athletic programs began clamoring for the services. Unique 360 is now in the process of shooting a tour for the Tennis Center at College Park.

 Projects for colleges and universities make up a growing portion of Unique 360’s business, which has thrived throughout the recession by cultivating a diverse group of clients. Gibbs said more than 100 customers have contracted his services within the past three years. And since he quit his day job as a marketing operations manager to run the company full time in May, Unique 360 has been turning a profit. Gibbs would not divulge exact revenue, but he said sales are strong enough for him to start hiring.

 Gibbs and his college friend, Julio, started the company in summer 2008 as a side business. The pair realized the business potential in virtual tours after Julio, who has a multimedia background, began creating them for his father’s home building company. Gibbs said that many of the providers Julio’s father first came across were either too expensive or had poor-quality videos.

 Virtual tour services can cost as little as $70 or as much as $1,000. Unique 360’s prices rest somewhere in the middle, with projects starting at $279. Many virtual tours are a collection of still images, but Gibbs said his company can customize its projects to include just about everything from music to interactive floor plans. “We’ve been called virtual tours on steroids,” he joked.

 Early on, Gibbs’s and Julio’s connections in the commercial real estate world, which readily employs virtual tours as a sales tool, helped garner the company steady business. As the recession drew on and the real estate market contracted, Gibbs began reaching out to a wider variety of businesses, such as restaurants and hospitals. The effort paid off and Unique 360 landed a few high-profile clients, including Duff Goldman from the Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes.”

 After the University of Maryland project, more colleges, such as Towson University, and high schools, such as St. Mary’s in Annapolis, signed on to showcase their sporting facilities.

 Still, Unique 360 continues to get roughly 50 percent of its business from the commercial real estate industry, where every new property for sale presents an opportunity. “Business has definitely picked up,” said Gibbs. “And we are growing into a full-scale digital media agency.”

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