Don’t believe the naysayers: There are plenty of exciting opportunities in the Southern Tier, from professional sports to festivals, a burgeoning arts scene and more.
“There’s so much optimism and so much progress, and so many people making it happen. Positivity is kind of cool again,” said SUNY Broome alumnus Adam Sabol, founder of Key Branding Labs in downtown Binghamton. “There’s always been good stuff happening. Now there’s a much louder voice than 10 to 15 years ago.”
You could see the optimism and energy on Gorgeous Washington – the heart of downtown Binghamton’s art scene, and of the marketing agency Adam founded – in evidence one sunny July day. Customers swarmed the coffee shop next door, chatting at sidewalk tables with their lattes and bubble tea.
Key Branding Labs is located in a crisp modernist space adorned with photos of rock stars in action. They’re growing, and Adam was able to hire his brother Dave – another Hornet alum – as a social community manager in the middle of May. The two have a history of working together on projects, and striving to bring more life into the community they love.
A SUNY Broome start
Adam graduated from SUNY Broome in 2008 with a degree in Business Administration, and then from Binghamton University three years later with a bachelor’s degree in the same field. Four days after his BU graduation, he started his first business with a quartet of friends: Communikey, a discount membership program that connected college students with local businesses and restaurants – a boon for both students and businesses alike.
“A lot of people we graduated with only knew four bars on State Street and Tully’s,” he said.
The Communikey card developed into a mobile app that incentivized students to check out local businesses. At its height, the program worked with more than 120 local businesses and restaurants, relying on new marketing avenues to spread the word – particularly social media.
As social media use became more widespread, business needs changed. Establishments would approach Communikey, asking for help in developing and executing strategic social media plans. To meet these changing needs, more than four years ago Communikey evolved into Key Branding Labs, a full-service digital marketing and public relations agency.
While at SUNY Broome, Adam never particularly thought about becoming an entrepreneur; like many students, he was unsure about his future path.
“Everyone thinks that successful entrepreneurs must have been working on it since high school. I literally had no designs on it until four days before we started a business,” Adam said. “It was never on the radar.”
Younger brother Dave graduated from SUNY Broome with a business degree in 2014 and then completed his bachelor’s in economics at Binghamton University. While at SUNY Broome, he interned at Communikey and volunteered at events in his hometown, including Endicott Apple Fest, Restaurant Week and holiday tree lightings. In 2015, he teamed up with Adam to organize EndiFest, a celebration highlighting Endicott’s food, music and businesses.
“I realized I wanted to do more,” Dave reflected. “I got the inspiration driving through my hometown. There’s so much going on and people don’t realize it.”
SUNY Broome was a convenient option for Dave and a seamless introduction into higher education. He particularly enjoyed Professor Giovanni Scaringi’s class in economics, which inspired his own path in higher education. “It was one of the most boring subjects, but he was able to make it come alive and see the impact it made on the world,” he said.
After graduating from BU, he joined the banking industry with an underwriting job at NBT, followed by a gig as community development officer at GHS Federal Credit Union. But the prospect of life in a cubicle didn’t appeal long-term. In May 2019 he decided to follow his passion – and join his brother Adam in his growing enterprise. He still volunteers in his spare time, and serves on the board of Little Italy Endicott.
“I was always told, never chase a title, don’t chase a paycheck, chase the work that you want to do,” he said.
Key Branding Labs has presented the Sabols with the opportunity to interact with other SUNY Broome alumni virtually wherever they go. Both are proud Hornets – and equally proud to be a vital part of a rejuvenated Southern Tier.
However you choose to market it, community college remains a cost-effective option, especially for those who are unsure of their future path, they said.
“You can start here and taste a little bit of everything,” Adam said.
“When you consider the first two years of any college, there’s nothing you couldn’t get here,” Dave added.