BY T MICHELE WALKER – Birthdays are a time of celebrating another year on this third rock from the sun, splurging on some birthday cake, and looking forward to new beginnings. For Kyle Rich, his birthday was the day an ad was posted in the Boca Beacon that would change the course of his life.
“I went to college, came back home to Englewood with a baby on the way. I had no idea what I was going to do and how the hell I was going to find something in my field. How many record-producing jobs are there in Englewood?” Kyle laughed. “It was kind of scary. My grandma’s neighbor had a Boca Beacon and there was an ad looking for an AV Specialist at the Boca Grande Community Center. Days later, I looked at it and the ad was posted on June 27 which was my birthday.”
Originally from Long Island, New York, Kyle was born in Queens. “I grew up with most of my family being from New York and I came here when I was 13, so I was in Englewood, Rotonda actually, to live with family. That was kind of a culture shock, coming from New York to Florida,” he recalled.
A professional DJ, audio engineer, and music curator for a wide variety of events, Kyle is passionate about music.
“I produce electronic music and am a super music lover of all kinds. I worked and performed in Orlando’s largest nightclubs through college and until Saylor was born in 2014, before moving back to Englewood.”
Kyle embraced his passion for music and trained at Full Sail University in Orlando, a premier media arts program designed for the world of entertainment, media, arts, and technology.
“I love Orlando; It’s like my second home because I just did so much growing up there,” he said. “It has a great music scene. I’ve always been into music, so that’s what I went to school for, the recording arts. While I was there, I discovered music production which I had always dabbled in but never took seriously. I worked my way backward through doing sound design and engineering and I found dance music. I joined this team as a promoter for this event that they did weekly. All of a sudden, I was DJ-ing. It just came naturally and then I was producing music. We had a pretty good run in Orlando. I did that for about five years.”
It was his experiences at Lemon Bay High School where he started to develop his love of music. He also met his wife, Jessica, in high school, where they participated in the theater program. “Jessica is an artist, visual development, and graphic designer, as well as a Disney fanatic. She helps me with work on the side when there’s overlap, with an event or something requiring artistic design, and does a fair amount of her work as well. Jessica is always creating,” Kyle said with pride.
And speaking of pride, Kyle’s eyes light up when talking about his two sons. “Saylor is six and Elias is three, both boys. Saylor loves to swim; he’s a little swimming man. But the truth of the matter is once we were expecting Saylor, I did need a job. We came back here because her family and my family are here. With a baby on the way, it just didn’t make sense to be in Orlando anymore.”
Then along came Kyle’s birthday and a fortuitous ad in the Boca Beacon, and the rest is history, with a few curves thrown into the mix, namely COVID-19.
“I work at the community center, I’m the show production coordinator with The Friends of Boca Grande. I came on with them going on seven years ago now, and they initially hired me as an independent contractor for a season. I just came in and saw opportunities to do things that weren’t necessarily what they had in mind but jobs like Photoshop and graphic design, or giving the logo a facelift, or letting me do some marketing materials for you, that sort of thing.”
Seeing how Kyle could cover so many roles, The Friends of Boca Grande increased Kyle’s role and offered him more responsibility along with a permanent position. The timing couldn’t have been better, with the arrival of the pandemic and a need for technical expertise in the arts, which is a growing field.
“The Friends of Boca Grande are amazing and we have such a dynamic team,” said Kyle. “Everybody does what their specialty is but also so much more. There are seven of us, so we’re a small team. Under normal circumstances, every year we try to identify the one thing that was the standout this year or that we can do better. The last couple of years leading up to COVID, we asked ourselves, ‘What more can we possibly do?’ We were bursting at the seams. There are no more seats available; we’re selling everything out. How do we grow this?”
Online streaming services have been an item Kyle has been promoting for years. With the COVID restrictions, the time had arrived. “I had been saying for years that we need to do live streaming. We need to do podcasts. We need to offer additional content online with people that either can’t get here or provide content to our community when they’re in Wisconsin or New York or wherever they are the other six months out of the year. This year forced us to have to do that to stay alive.”
In every crisis, there is an opportunity. It is the job of every budding entrepreneur to sniff out the opportunity that can open the door to new future possibilities. “In the last two years, I’ve been able to blossom into my potential in terms of overseeing technology and production. Not just being the sound guy, but from actually overseeing $250,000 projects integrating new systems. It provided me the opportunity to step up and solve these technical issues.”
It’s been a learning experience and Kyle is proud of the accomplishments The Friends of Boca Grande have enjoyed this season.
“When you’re a perfectionist like me, you’re always going to pick at things. We’ve certainly improved tenfold in a short period of time.”
With all of these changes, Kyle started to do brainstorming.
“I’ve been moonlighting for people who know me from the Community Center and we’ve done ‘Tech Tuesdays,’ where people would come in and get help with their mobile devices or solve problems. I am so grateful to get to meet so many people and see so many faces. I get loads of phone calls especially during the season, from fixing a TV cable box or assisting with a new computer set up or answering questions. I also teach how to use Photoshop, iPhoto or teach lessons on how to use your Mac or any computer. I do house calls and help wherever I can.”
It was during one of these house calls where Kyle found his new business. “Maybe there’s some way where I can just kind of keep this going on the side. That’s the path that I’m on and it’s a new business called Bocatech.”
It’s Boca Grande that has provided Kyle and his family with all of these opportunities.
“This island and its community members have provided me with many friendships and opportunities. One funny thing that is charming about the folks here is that they are all wise, successful individuals who are so genuinely grateful to have a young, tech-savvy support, forgetting how their own wealth of knowledge and experience can be equally impressive and valuable. I always enjoy talking with these folks about their careers and experiences.”
One of the exciting projects Kyle has worked on has been helping Pia Lindstrom, daughter of Ingrid Bergman, archive her videos.
“Pia is a true erudite,” Kyle explained. “She would call me to help with the usual iCloud sync issues, email account recovery, password management, but during the pandemic, we worked on this media project. Pia wanted to archive generations of home video and archives of stories she had done as a television journalist with NBC. Archaic physical media formats like two-inch tape reels from the 1920s. This took a team of people, first converting the analog media to digital, video production, and organizing and editing the media. My role in this was to sit in person with Pia and help organize and coordinate this process. I tutored her on multiple new devices she had never used before: iPad Pro, MacBook Pro, and remote login and video conferencing platforms so that she could communicate and work seamlessly with her video editor in NYC. Additionally, we got her up to speed with proper file management, redundant back-ups of her precious data and using PayPal. Now she is practically a wiz on her desktop and mobile devices. And I continue to work with her on the usual little sessions as needed. She calls me her ‘computer tutor.’ The takeaway here is that having patience with each client, identifying their skill level, the threshold for absorbing information in a single session, so I can best suit their learning style and tailor a subject to their goals.”
Kyle plans to continue to grow his new company, Bocatech, and to stay settled in the Englewood area, with hopes to purchase a home of their own in the next couple of years. Kyle’s dream is to provide the Boca Grande community exceptional tech support for years to come.