New Grad Recalls Choosing Bradley and What He's Learned

November 3, 2010

When Derek Oddo was making his college decision, he didn’t use comparison spreadsheets or pro and con lists. After touring a large, in-state university, a friend encouraged him to visit Bradley. After viewing the campus, the ideas of professor-student mentoring and “being able to roll out of bed 15 minutes before class,” sold Oddo on Bradley. He followed his intuition, which has now led him to a career as a marketing entrepreneur.

A 2009 graduate, Oddo is co-founder and owner of a marketing firm that recently celebrated its first year of business. Oddo and Matt Lakics, also a Foster College of Business Administration alum, pooled their graduation gifts in order to open Gainlight Studios. Since its inception, Gainlight Studios has completed identity work for Peoria-area non-profit organizations, and branding and marketing work for other local start-up businesses.

Oddo has also continued his professional relationship with Bradley Athletics, a partnership he started while an undergraduate. “Graphic design was something I did on the side. It was not until I entered a t-shirt design contest sponsored by Athletics that I took this talent seriously.” Oddo’s design won, and he says seeing his design on thousands of shirts validated his belief that he could make a career out of his passion. “Something about seeing your advertising creation appearing in an ESPN SportsCenter replay, and your marketing creation appearing on billboards, gets you to believe you can make a career out of it.”

Oddo’s positive undergraduate experiences have encouraged him to give back to current students. He and Lakics have hired three BU interns who specialize in peer-to-peer merchandising design sales. They have also hired BU alums to fulfill work in graphic design, web development and outside sales for Gainlight. “We haven’t internally said we will only hire from BU, but after browsing through applicants, BU students, current and former, seem to find their way to the top of the pile. This is a testament to the education Bradley provides.”

Defying any uncertainty his unorthodox career path has caused, Oddo says he enjoys the different opportunities Gainlight offers. “Being a small business at just over a year old, there is a little bit of everything that goes into our typical work-week. We have a mutual understanding that anyone working for us at this stage will wear many hats. For instance, today I may act and operate as the CEO, but later tonight I may be the janitor. Tomorrow I could be doing sales calls and also wind up behind the computer in Photoshop for a few hours. I may get a phone call on my drive home today where I need to act as a mentor to one of my interns. It is impossible to predict what any given day will bring. This is why owning a business is so much fun. The next call could be the call that changes our lives.”