Bobby Wagner of South Walton, at just 25, is the owner of a video production company — Land·Air·Sea Productions.
This article is part of an occasional series featuring some of the youngest business owners in Northwest Florida.
DESTIN — At 18 years old, Bobby Wagner of South Walton had his life all planned out — or so he thought.
A trumpet player at Fort Walton Beach High School, Wagner was going to college on scholarship for music education. He dreamed of one day taking over the music program at his old school once he graduated from Troy University.
Wagner never imagined he'd instead be a college dropout one credit shy of graduation. And instead, at just 25 years old, he would be the owner of a local video production company — Land·Air·Sea Productions.
"I'm not a planner, but music was what I always wanted to do," Wagner said. "The only real way to make money in music now is to teach it. I never thought I'd be doing anything else."
Like many students before him, Wagner's life goals took a turn after starting college. Wagner was required to take an extracurricular class, so he chose video production.
"I fell in love with it," Wagner said. "I knew nothing about video and that's basically why I took it.
"I was still able to pursue my music," he continued. "At least 50% of video is music because they have audio. I found myself filming and taking photos while I practiced my trumpet. I practiced trumpet for three hours per day, so I was also practicing my video for three hours per day. It happened kind of on accident."
Wagner went home for the summer and interned as a videographer for a South Walton advertising agency, where he began to learn the tricks of the trade. He switched his major to business in his sophomore year because the university did not offer any related to photography or videography.
Just one hour away from earning his associates degree in business, however, the advertising agency Wagner interned for offered him a full-time job. Wagner decided to drop out of college and begin his career as a videographer.
"I didn't think I could do it, but I said yes," Wagner said. "That was the first big jump in my life. I'm quitting school on a scholarship to go with them full time. I moved back in with my parents and go do this for a year and regroup. I loved everything about it. I went into board meetings and helped with big productions. I was in the middle of it all."
Wagner said his dream was to open a local production company that produced "national quality branding." So, one year into working as a videographer, he did.
Wagner, at just 22, decided to invest $15,000 of his saved tuition money into camera gear. He said he made sure to have 10 to 15% better equipment than his competitors and began marketing himself to the community. He joined BNI Destin Business Builders and the local chambers, which helped him build clientele.
"It was wolf time. I went into shark mode," Wagner said. "Now the business is working with four to seven different companies at a time working under retainer. That way they sub us out as the content creators for our marketing team."
One of Wagner's most recent and successful projects was the Visit South Walton Campaign, which was to help bring tourists back to the area following Hurricane Michael. Wagner also does work for Northwest Florida State College, ResortQuest at the local Tourism Development Council(s).
Wagner, who recently bought his first home, now has a small staff working for him. His new dream is to take a step back from videography and enjoy networking and building business relationship for his company.
"I was a super shy, awkward individual for a long time," Wagner said. "The camera was kind of my reason to talk to people. It was my confidence. It's how I got good at communicating. I'm looking forward to using those skills to grow my company."