Why entrepreneur Xander Karris is earning his MBA

Xander Karris’ business, Hestia Media, is the culmination of many failed business ideas, lightbulb moments, and brainstorm pivots. Find out why this 2020 UMaine graduate decided to continue his educational journey with the Graduate School of Business, and why you should earn your MBA.

Why did you decide to earn your MBA?

Earning my MBA will give me valuable knowledge in finance, management, marketing, and law–all of which will undoubtedly be of value to me as an entrepreneur and as a leader. 

I hold tremendous value in the relationships I’ve built with professors at UMaine in my undergraduate years. As a psychology major with minors in business administration and innovation engineering, and as a member of the Honors College for three years, I got to know many professors from different departments. Staying local for my MBA allowed me to maintain these relationships and foster new ones.

What is your MaineMBA concentration?

I will likely be one of the first students to earn an Innovation Engineering concentration from the MaineMBA and the Foster Center for Student Innovation partnership. The kinks are still being worked out, but it appears as though I may be on track to begin courses in that concentration by next year.

What prompted you to start your own business?

Hestia Media was born from my time as an Innovate for Maine Fellow. I’ve always loved photography but had never invested in any real equipment besides my phone and an action camera. I worked with Wilcox Wellness and Fitness during my fellowship, and developed marketing strategies focused on content creation. This experience gave me confidence in creating digital content, and I began thinking of ways to offer new media services on my own.

I recall going for a walk one day and marveling to myself about the wonders of Google Street View and how cool it was to visit nearly anywhere in the world and have it feel so life-like. That led to my idea of using the same technology but inside of buildings. After doing some research, I learned that my pseudo-discovery had already been created. Obviously, I was a little bummed, but it made building my company much easier than starting from scratch.

What does Hestia Media do?

On the surface, Hestia Media uses 3D Tours, photography, and videography to showcase organizations’ assets with robust infrastructure. But what we do is deeper. We spark emotion–excitement, awe, longing. It’s about falling in love with a space before you physically experience it in person. Whether it’s real estate, a university campus, or a ski resort, we help organizations create meaningful virtual experiences for their clients.

What technology do you use to accomplish your 3D renderings?

We use a complex infrared camera that maps the space in 360 degrees and creates a deep learning neural network. Next, I upload this data to a cloud-based server for processing. Once finished, client-specific content is embedded within the tour to create a more personal experience.

Why is it essential to create these 3D experiences?

Especially in these times of COVID, physically visiting a place of interest can be impossible for some people–whether it’s finances, health concerns, or any other obstacle. In this era of incredible technological development, everyone should be able to leave their homes and travel to new places, even if it’s virtual. 

What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur?

Since Hestia Media is a start-up, there are many challenges I face daily. From worrying about my future with the company and motivation to work through setbacks, to putting my health at risk while on shoots, it’s a nonstop grind.

What tools does the MaineMBA give you to succeed?

The MaineMBA has given me invaluable creation, communication, and commercialization skills through the Innovation Engineering system.

How are you using what you’re learning in the classroom in the real world?

In my course, Innovation Engineering 405, I used my company as my project. The course helped me clarify what my business offers, how to stand out from the competition, and improve my ability to pivot when encountering problems.

What would you say to other people who are considering earning their MaineMBA?

No matter how busy your life is, the program’s flexibility can work for you. The outstanding faculty and staff will always be there to help you earn your MBA and reach your goals.

Xander Karris
Hometown: Hampden, Maine
University of Maine Class of 2020