Brand Champion

Image: Andrew Ruiz ’11

Do you know of any young alumni who have been making waves since graduating? Nominate them here!

Jacques Spitzer ’08 tells this story all the time: As the final exam for his philosophy course in Marshall College, he and his classmates were tasked to write a five-page paper. The topic? A Snapple cap the professor had just handed each of them.

“People were freaking out. They needed to know the context, the rules,” says Spitzer. “So many times we’re hard-wired with the need to be told what to do and how to do it. Or, you can learn how to think critically and roll with it. That’s how I see my education: It didn’t teach me what to think, it taught me how to think. That’s the power of a theoretical degree.”

It’s telling that Spitzer recalls this story above all else from his time on campus, and it speaks to the spirit that took him from the newsroom to become the owner of Raindrop Marketing, a branding and advertising company he built from scratch.

“It was during the height of the recession. Not exactly the best time to start a business,” Spitzer says. Fresh out of college, he had parlayed his communications degree to become a news and digital reporter for NBC San Diego, yet he found himself drawn more to the station’s marketing operations. “It was 2008, which seems like another world now. I was the new guy, yet here I was setting up the station’s Facebook account. There seemed to be a lot of potential in that space.”

That potential would become Spitzer’s expertise, but in the most roundabout of ways. An executive producer at the station (who would become Spitzer’s wife) introduced him to her personal trainer, who was looking to make more of a name for himself.

Spitzer took on the project as a one-man operation, ultimately increasing the fitness company’s visibility with a small video series, redesigning its website, pitching stories to local news outlets and leveraging social media.

With that first client came a string of referrals, and Spitzer was met with the choice all entrepreneurs have to make. “By that first year I had burned through nearly all of my savings and was turning a profit, but not enough to live on. I loved the work, and really wanted to pour myself into it.”

One thing was clear: With more clients coming on, Spitzer needed help.

He hired a young graphic designer, and then reconnected with fellow Triton, Adam Wagner ’10, who had conversely taken the front door into creative agency work, working for well-known firms straight out of college. “Adam brought the structure and strategy to our business, the mindset that really helped Raindrop to grow swiftly,” Spitzer says. Ultimately the two became business partners, with Spitzer handling the creative side of the house and Wagner overseeing strategy.

The Raindrop team has since built an impressive list of clients, including the San Diego Symphony, Luna Grill and San Diego State University–yet all the while keeping the emphasis on relationships, what Spitzer sees as their true business. “We’re a branding and marketing agency, but we’re also a relationship-building agency. We build relationships with each other and our clients, and help our clients generate relationships with their audiences and partners.”

Today, Raindrop Marketing has more than 25 employees, known as “Raindroppers,” many of whom are from UC San Diego. “When you start a business, it’s about being good at your craft, period.  But as you grow, it’s about being good at your craft and finding and maintaining the right people,” says Spitzer. He’s also quick to note how his fellow alumni show that same kind of fearless thinking and critical skills that can take on any challenging project—be it a major rebrand or an final exam about a Snapple cap.

“Really,” he says, “How much is that exercise like life? No matter what you think you’ve trained for, you’re hardly ever trained for what you’re given. There’s nothing that could have directly prepared me for how I built the business or what I’m doing now. But our UCSD education contributes to who we are, and what we can do together.”

Check out the Raindrop Operation in action here.