Magic School Bus

Taking apart an old school bus and transforming it, Out There Productions cruised across the U.S. this summer, visiting start-ups and small businesses.

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By: Rashika Jaipuriar + Photos provided by Losa Meru, Erin Miller, and Johnny Rosa | Jerk October 2016 Issue

Taking apart an old school bus and transforming it, Out There Productions cruised across the U.S. this summer, visiting start-ups and small businesses

Passing up suits and subway commutes for a school bus, a trio of Syracuse University graduates is on a mission to travel cross-country and work for their creative agency, Out There Productions—also known as OTPros. After graduating from SU last year, Erin Miller, Johnny Rosa, and Losa Amara Meru decided to take a new ride to work.

The team founded OTPros during their sophomore year at SU, creating ad campaigns and explainer videos for local businesses—including fitness, dust collection, food, pets, and fashion.

“It’s interesting because we don’t have a specific industry that we focus on,” Miller says. “And not being super experts in an industry gives us a storytelling advantage, where we can look at a company and understand it at barebones and tell that barebones story to other people that are on the outside looking in.”

OTPros was propelled to begin its own adventure after being inspired by the Instagram account, @StartUpOnABus, which romanticized the notion of travel. “It’s sort of becoming a trend to follow your wanderlust and that kind of bullshit,” Miller says. “And the school bus is really cool—it’s kind of a food truck for videos.”

In their final days at SU, the team bought and refurbished an old school bus with money raised through an Indiegogo campaign and donated by the Syracuse community.

After completing their crowd-sourced DIY bus transformation, Miller, Meru, and two other friends drove from Syracuse to California in six days, passing through Ohio, Kansas, Colorado, and Nevada, finally, ending in California by way of Los Angeles. Their journey was sprinkled with spontaneous adventures, including a detour to a peach farm in Colorado and an encounter with a woman who had also lived on a bus.

“Everything we did was straight out of a movie,” Meru says. “The people we met along the way were so unexpected but also very kind—[by traveling] you just see how other people live and see how other people experience things.”

OTPros took a hiatus for the summer, but is hitting the road again in October. “We’re traveling counterclockwise across the country, following the seasons, because we’re pretty scarred from Syracuse winter.”

oct_photoessay5Their first stop will be Albuquerque, where they will be volunteering at a hot-air balloon festival and pitching their company at 1 Million Cups, a program designed to connect entrepreneurs over a cup of coffee.

Sean Branagan, the director of Newhouse’s Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, has worked with OTPros for years. Branagan met Miller in freshmen year and says she instantly stood out as “the prototypical crazy entrepreneur.”

“It’s not enough to just have an idea; everybody has ideas,” Branagan says. “The attribute that differentiates true entrepreneurs is action [which OTPros was really good with].”

Branagan says the team was able to commit full-time to their company after graduation because of their hard work, courage, and passion.

“It takes a lot of work and a lot longer than people are willing to work…[students] will say, ‘can I set my own hours when I’m working?’ Yeah you can, any 20 hours a day that you want [to] work.”

Miller says her drive to stick with her company after graduation comes from her team and her clients, who think the trio is “charming as fuck.”

“What inspired me to start OTPros was seeing people really passionate and running with their ideas to make it into a living,” Miller says.

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