Ben Wingard is a licensed key grip. That job title, familiar to anyone who stays until the very end of a movie’s closing credits, refers to someone who provides the lighting that makes the good guys look better and the bad guys look really bad.
Wingard got into the business through his step-father, who is also a licensed key grip. It sounds like a cool line of work, but Wingard says it can wear thin.
“It’s fun at first,” he says. “Then you’re doing a shoot at 2 a.m. and it’s raining, and you just want to go home.”
For Wingard, an owner of RedEye, an IT support company, the movies were never a first love anyway. The MCCC graduate’s fascination is not with starlets, but rather with computers. He lost his first computer job, which kept him busy with Y2K fixes, after 9/11, and worked as a key grip while he looked for another spot in the industry.
While he was looking, he was forever networking, troubleshooting, and repairing computers for friends and neighbors. As he solved computer problems gratis, his grateful friends kept telling him “you should start your own business!”
So he did, founding Insight Computer Support, in Franklin Park. “I was sort of pushed into it,” he says.
With business flourishing, Wingard ran into a childhood friend, who said, “Hey Ed Wenzel’s doing what you’re doing.” Wingard got in touch with Wenzel, with whom he had grown up in Lawrence, and discovered that not only did he have an IT support business, but that a third childhood friend, Andrea Ongaro, also had one.
The three talked, and shared a joint observation: “There are so many one and two-person IT shops,” Wingard says, “but you can’t keep up with everything your clients need. We all do good work, but the only way to coordinate it is a team approach.”
So the three old friends, who had not seen or spoken to one another in many years, decided join forces and start an IT support company. At first they worked from their homes, and then from offices in Sea Girt, but they soon found that nearly all of their clients were located in central New Jersey, and some were just north of the state’s mid-section. Leasing office space nearer to clients made sense, and RedEye moved into its new home, on Princeton-Hightstown Road, in the fall.
The company now has six employees, and is growing. Wingard characterizes the operation as “an IT shop for small and mid-sized businesses.” The company’s name, a term most often associated with middle-of-the-night flights from one coast to the other, is an important statement of the company’s mission. “We offer small businesses the same 24/7 service that big companies get,” says Wingard. That is the value proposition he and his partners are selling. The other point they stress to prospective clients is that RedEye stands ready to take on any and all computer-related tasks.
“We’ll fix a printer, install a web server, and write software,” says Wingard. “All contracts include research, engineering, and consulting.”
Right now the company is getting a lot of requests related to mobile computing. “People are more and more mobile,” he and his partners are finding. At the same time, “they want to be as streamlined as possible.” This is keeping RedEye busy not only setting up remote computer systems, but also setting up and programming phones to synch in with office hardware and software.
Another popular service involves making sure that computers are up and running all of the time. “A lot of companies are interested in managed services to watch their website,” Wingard says. “These are people with a 24/7 presence on the web. They want to make sure that their services are always up.” This is especially true for online retailers, but other companies also need to know that anyone who logs onto their site will be able to get through and to find the goods, services, directions, or information that they need.
Many of RedEye’s clients are in professional services businesses. “We have a ton of lawyers,” says Wingard. “We just helped 65 law firms speed up the process of handling information.” The firms were all receiving information from one firm, and they weren’t happy with how cumbersome the it had become. “The coding wasn’t working, it was always breaking down,” he says. “We happened to walk in at a time of disaster, revamped the system, wrote software, and moved the communication online. We took them from 75 percent paper to 10 percent paper.”
Other clients are architects, including Lasley-Brahaney, online marketing firms, and, increasingly, non-profits. Most clients have anywhere from 10 to 250 computers, but some have only a handful. “We don’t turn anyone down,” says Wingard.
RedEye Inc., 379 Princeton-Hightstown Road, East Windsor 08520; 888-475-5711. www.redeye-inc.com.