Munq video shoot at the Highlander School in Providence, RI. Photo by Kevin Paul Saleeba
By Kevin Saleeba
PROVIDENCE, RI – In the back corner of the Highlander Charter School cafeteria, Tashal Brown sat fidgeting under a boom mic and warm camera lights. She is an assistant professor for urban education at the University of Rhode Island. She waited patiently with her hands clasped on her lap as videographer George Capalbo adjusted his cameras to make sure Brown was perfectly framed in the shot.
Capalbo was contracted by StartUp Worcester alum and creative media company, Munq, to help produce a series of promotional video about a joint program between the Highlander School and URI to engage students of color to become educators. This particular shoot involved interviews with students, teachers, and program administrators like Brown.
Munq is a creative agency that provides three core services: brand strategy and identity, videography, and web development. Munq co-founders Timothy Hally and Justin Matsen have been making professional branding videos, photographs, and graphic designs for people and businesses from the Worcester area and throughout New England for the last three years. Hally said telling impactful stories about something that matters is the goal of every production.
“Here, we’re trying to create this story about how teaching is not only a desirable career, but also a transferable skill,” he said. “This school is launching a program to help convince Gen-Zers to become teachers. The whole angle is ‘why is teaching so important for the next generation?’ With us telling these stories, hopefully we can reach younger people so they can become teachers … I think it’s a great angle and we can potentially change lives … We want to pull on their heart strings. Some kids, when they are young, look up to a certain teacher. For some people, a teacher was the biggest role model in their life and we’re trying to capture that story … The true magic is the storytelling and pulling those big ideas out of people. That’s really the crux of what we do.”
Hally and Matsen take a compassionate approach to telling stories about people and organizations. Retelling these tales through an empathetic lens is Munq’s mission and it comes from personal experience.
“We talk about empathy,” Hally said. “The things I’ve been through personally has been the foundation of who I am and what Munq is today.”
When Hally was 16, his mother was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. She was severely paralyzed, placed on a feeding tube, and could hardly speak. “Within three days, the inflammation should have killed her,” Hally said with a sense of determination in his voice. “But my family fought through hell to get her to come home … She had to point to letters on a board to communicate … For the last 10 years we fought for her health care … we fought for her to finally get home and she is the foundation to why I do everything.”
Hally said his mother is a “living miracle” and used her struggle to survive as motivation when starting Munq. “I was told I can’t start a business or I can’t run a successful business, but when I see my mother, I tell them they’re crazy … running a business is easy. Fighting for your life and doing what she did, that’s hard. Those are the real-life challenges, so I have a really good example set by my family. Without that, I don’t think any of Munq would be possible.”
Munq’s website states “we’re the human agency. The bridges we build go beyond the bottom line.” Hally said by building stories that connect with people they are able to fulfill all branding and marketing needs for their clients. “These core principles are rooted in our backstories,” Hally said. “And the pandemic made it ever clearer that we needed a new voice and a new angle that the world can’t afford to do the things the way they’ve been done before. And that’s why Munq is here. Not to just be another agency, but to be an alternative perspective and an example of an alternative lifestyle, hence reflective in the name. Doctors said my mother had probably three to five years max and it’s been ten and she’s still around and that’s a beautiful thing. I’m very grateful to be able to build this business and build it while she’s still here.”
Hally and Matsen’s partnership has roots in the sixth grade within the Shrewsbury school system. That is when they became childhood friends. After high school, they drifted apart as Hally went on to earn a business degree at Clark University. However, Matsen struggled after high school. He dropped out of Quinnipiac after one month. He bounced around to various retail jobs and even attempted to publish his novel with no success. “At that time, it was clearly not going right for me,” Matsen said.
Unbeknownst to Matsen, his old friend needed help.
“I had this massive calling,” Hally said. “I didn’t know what it was but I felt like I needed to use what I have to serve other people. Not just make money, but change the world in a small or big way. I just had to apply myself in the service of others.
I knew I couldn’t do that by myself. I had a certain set of skills and I couldn’t take this vision to where it needed to be.”
Hally, who is self-taught in video production, was looking for a creative thinker who would complement his entrepreneurial skills and his vision to make a positive mark on people. Then toward the end of 2018, “for whatever reason,” he said, “I just kept running into Justin everywhere. I saw him at the bowling alley. I saw him at the Seven Eleven. I saw him on my social media feed. We kept running into each other and I thought, okay, we should probably hang out.”
Hally also noticed many graphic designs Matsen posted online. “I was so enamored by the cool stuff he was doing, we got to link up.”
“When Tim reached out to me, the timing was perfect,” Matsen said. “I knew I wanted to do something creative. I knew I wanted to do something on my own, but I was at a loss at what that could be or should looked like … It really meant a lot to me to have someone like Tim reach out to me. I can remember I was in a target and I got this message from Tim Hally saying, ‘hey, I been trying to connect with more creative people lately to pick their brains and yours came to mind. And that meant a lot to me, because sure, I was a creative person, but what have I really done. It meant a lot that someone recognized that in me.”
Their first collaboration came during Halley’s senior year at Clark producing a blog for the school’s lacrosse team. “That’s when we discovered how fulfilling it was to co-create and put our heads together to make something. To discover the power in that and say whatever this is, we need to do more of this and chase this down.”
The duo started freelancing together. They said the creative work “felt right.
We found that our creations, our stories, could impact other people. We realized we could create a real, lasting change.”
They were pushed by the pandemic to chase their dream harder. During a dark time in American history, they wanted to use their newly founded company to be a beacon of light. This led to the creation of their Munq logo, which featured and orange ball with five fingerlike flames. The image was a mix of sunlight and a handprint.
“We were in my apartment trying to find a logo, but nothing was working,” Hally said. Tired, they both decided to take a break in the living room, but when Hally was about to sit, “my [butt] barely grazed the couch when I shot up,” he shouted. “Wait, I got!” as he ran back to his room. He drew a crude design of the logo on his whiteboard. “Justin then looked at the rough drawing and told me, ‘Yes, I see that. I can do that.’ And just like that, the logo was finished,” said Hally.
“We were so thrilled and ecstatic. That Munq logo is what will become Munq in the future,” he said. “It’s about friendship and co-creation. It’s about the beautiful things in life and the mountains you can move when you come together. Creating that logo together set off an entire series of events.”
Their next break came when they were selected as a StartUp Worcester Cohort in 2021. The StartUp Worcester program encourages and nurtures new businesses in the Worcester area. “The friends we made at StartUp Worcester are not only our friends today, but are absolutely critical to our business,” Hally said.
Hally credits several friends and business mentors who helped them achieve their dream of a successful and creative business, including David Sullivan, director of economic development and business recruitment for the Worcester Chamber of Commerce, Zachary Dutton, executive director of The Venture Forum, and fellow 2021 StartUp Worcester cohorts Nazr El-Scari, founder and CEO of Solecit (formerly Snakehead’s Paradise), and Dawn LaFontaine, owner of Cat in the Box, LLC.
“We got lucky that some people took a chance on us to help develop our process,” Matsen said.
Hally said, “you can’t put a price on relationships and that’s what StartUp Worcester is all about.”
Along with networking, StartUp Worcester gave Munq a firm foundation within Worcester. “It gave us a little bit of credibility,” Hally said. “It gave us something to stand on. When we first started out, we were faceless and nameless. We’re trying to build a name for ourselves, but StartUp Worcester elevated us and gave us a ton of exposure so people were able to see us for who we are.”
They have completed work with companies like Incentivio, Reliant Foundation, Legendary Legacies, South Worcester County Startup Support Coalition, RE/MAX Professional Associates, Meredith Jacobson, and Pillar Prep.
Despite their early success, Matsen said that Munq has no plan to rest on their laurels. “We’re still a young business and we’re always focused on what we can do better,” he said. “In our minds, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be growing, learning, and getting better every single day.”
Back to the pre-interview with Brown, Hally noticed she was nervous. He smiled at Brown and struck up a small conversation to help calm the nerves of his respondent. Seeing that she was ready, Hally announced, “we’re about ready to get started here.” Hally then signaled to Capalbo. The videographer glanced through the viewfinder of one of two cameras aimed at Brown. “Okay,” he signaled back to Hally as he clicked the “on” switch for camera one and two and declared, “Rolling and … rolling!”
“Fantastic!” Hally said as the official interview was underway.
For more information about Munq, visit their website at www.munqcreative.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.