Fordham, however, was “unique in how excited they were by the possibility,” she said. “Fordham was like, ‘If you want to do this, let’s make it happen.’ I think that made me feel very supported coming here.”
Coming to the University was the first step on her path to co-founding a theater production company with three other Fordham Theatre students seeking to launch arts-related careers. Another critical stop on that path? The Fordham Foundry—an arm of the University that helps students of any major start viable, sustainable companies that often meet social needs as well.
“The Foundry has been an amazing resource that came into our lives,” said Winger, a rising senior in Fordham College at Lincoln Center who is double majoring in economics and theatre design and production. Learning about the Foundry’s existence, she said, “was really, really exciting.”
‘Our Little Adventure’
Last fall marked the 10th anniversary of the Foundry, the Fordham entrepreneurship hub that has helped many a business get off the ground, including some with revenue in the millions. Students as well as alumni bring their business ideas and get guidance from a network that includes faculty as well as New York businesspeople.
Participants also find support of the intangible variety. “They might think that they’re out there all by themselves, but there’s a community of people at Fordham that are also interested in launching startup ideas,” said Al Bartosic, GABELLI ’84, the Foundry’s executive director.
The Foundry is in the midst of an endowment campaign to support programming that is drawing more and more interest from across the University. The Foundry helps aspiring entrepreneurs from all fields of study—business students, English majors, graduate students in law and social work, and others. They learn from one another at Foundry events like the coaching sessions leading up to its annual Pitch Challenge competition, which offers prize money for the winning startups.
That’s where Winger and three other students started the process for founding their film and theater production company—now titled Our Little Adventure Productions LLC—during the 2021–2022 academic year. The idea of founding a business grew out of their efforts to fund the production of films written by three of the students—Cason Doyle, Victoria Fanning, and Pedro Gonzalez, all of whom graduated from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 2022.
Learning the Language of Business
Through the Pitch Challenge, they learned how to analyze their competition, draw up a business plan, and refine their pitch to investors. Most important, perhaps, the sessions prompted them to reflect on their goals.
“We realized that we were all really passionate about bringing [forth]other people’s work, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to share that with anyone,” Gonzalez said.
They decided that with the money their company earns from supporting plays and films, they would not only produce their own works but also support productions that help young directors, producers, and actors get that first career foothold.
They’ve served nearly a dozen clients so far, many of them off-Broadway theater productions that needed video recording services so the plays could be viewed remotely, a growing practice that took root during the pandemic, Winger said.
Helping Artists Tell New Stories
The company is still a few years away from providing the four of them with a full-time income, Winger said. But in the meantime, it’s providing adventures—like a paying job that took them to New York’s Fire Island last June, where they assisted with filming a documentary about drag queen performances and the “drag repair” crews that kept the drag artists looking their best.
“I never thought I would film a documentary about drag queens, but I was so excited about it,” Fanning said. “We have all these exciting memories now within the company that we probably wouldn’t have been able to have, or people we wouldn’t have been able to meet or stories we wouldn’t have been able to tell.”
For the students, the Foundry builds on the sense of welcome and support they received when they first visited Fordham. “It was the place where I felt most encouraged … by the faculty and the people that were working there,” Gonzalez said. “So it was a really easy choice for me.”
He’s grateful for the opportunity to help others entering the theater profession and also for the possibility of making a living in a field he loves, one that “can make people more aware of others around us and perhaps inspire us to be a little more accepting and kind.”
“I think this career encourages empathy,” he said. “And I think empathy’s something that becomes more and more necessary, especially now.”