January 23, 2017

Sheryl Crow, The Fray, coal-mining businesses, e-commerce and London, Ky. – at first glance, it doesn’t seem like they fit together. But that’s Symbiosis Media Group. It’s a fitting name because the meaning of symbiosis is a mutually beneficial relationship among different people or groups.

Partners Jef Powell, Jason Hoskins and Greg Kitzmiller are a reflection of that. Powell moved to his wife’s hometown of London Kentucky to open a coffee shop. Before that, he was a producer and music engineer for those well-known artists as well as others, such as Usher. Hoskins worked as a project manager for global companies, including HP and Pfizer. Kitzmiller has done web design for nearly 20 years and also is a musician.

They opened the Symbiosis Media Studio to offer Marketing services , Web site design work, and record area musicians.

Then Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program (EKCEP) was looking for a web developer as part of a grant to help coal-related companies diversify. Symbiosis was awarded the contract, and its web business took off. In order to interface more effectively they moved their offices into the Kentucky Innovation Center London office, where Kitzmiller previously had his graphic design business since 2011.

Symbiosis has helped several companies diversify and harness the power of e-commerce to do so.

“We have worked with a group of companies directly related to the coal industry that went from the phones ringing off the hook with business to nothing,” Kitzmiller said. “They had to realign their customer base, which had been 80 percent coal. We’ve helped them showcase their products and services online. A lot have embraced the idea. It was a gamble for them because they didn’t understand at first how to find a new customer base.”

Kitzmiller said a lot of the companies are parts or components suppliers that needed to find other commercial markets for their businesses.

But a large number of artisans such as authors, crafters, painters and photographers also are learning how e-commerce can help their businesses through events such as the Selling to the World Expo in Middlesboro.

“People just need to be pointed in the right direction of how to get started and what the cost and implementation plan look like,” Kitzmiller said.

Symbiosis still has its music studio, but also conducts web-based seminars on e-commerce and provides social media and marketing services as well as video production. Its newest venture will be a three-part e-learning course this spring that focuses on e-commerce, marketing and social media. “Business owners often can’t take off work during business hours, so this seminar series is geared toward being able to complete it whenever it’s convenient for them” Kitzmiller said.