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Office of Engaged Learning Office of Engaged Learning - Entrepreneurship Student Academic Engagement & Success

Big iDeas Spotlight: Ryder McNeal

The invitation for Ryder McNeal ‘24, to dream big was prompted four years ago by a simple yard sign on Dallas Lawn for the Big iDeas Pitch Competition. This moment clearly made an impression, too, because McNeal, stayed intrigued about Big iDeas throughout his journey at SMU.  However, it wasn’t until the fall of his senior year that McNeal decided to pitch an idea at the intersection of film, marketing, business and entrepreneurship.  And a good idea it was, for his company, PREVO, was the top winner of the Big iDeas Business Plan Competition this past February!   

PREVO, McNeal’s exciting new company, is a streaming platform dedicated to showing a curated catalogue of independent or student-made films, from film-makers across the country. After Big iDeas awarded prize money to McNeal, he dove deeper into his business through the Big iDeas E-Launch.  

E-Launch is a robust training series powered by the Office of Engaged Learning that offers workshops and guest speakers to develop student businesses. This past year it was led by Entrepreneurship Fellow Michael Kelly (Founder, Resolute Future) and the Big iDeas team. McNeal said that E-Launch was “truly the catalyst in helping him flesh out {his} ideas and gain the feedback that was needed in order for PREVO to be successful.”  

Since the pitch competition last fall, PREVO has found collaborations across SMU’s campus. Roseanne Hart, an adjunct professor in both the Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs, and the Division of Journalism’s Fashion Media program, asked McNeal if PREVO could be the focal point a public relations class this Spring. Hart’s PR students are tasked with creating a launch and marketing plan for PREVO and will present their plans to McNeal at the end of the semester. “I’m really excited that PREVO could be used for students in an academic space, but also that I can be encouraged by the launch plans they come up with. Hopefully, it can really help frame how I launch PREVO this summer,” said McNeal. 

PREVO is set to fully launch in mid-July of 2024, on the date of McNeal’s birthday. As McNeal is concluding his final semester on the Hilltop, he has shifted many of his larger efforts towards the marketing for PREVO. He is reaching out to film faculty members and film festivals across the country, hoping to generate excitement within film schools and cities that celebrate independent films regularly. In addition to marketing, McNeal is working on getting a student ambassador for PREVO. 

For a while, independent films were all that McNeal could take on with the resources that he had, but creating PREVO has deepened his appreciation for small-scale films as a whole. 

All of these efforts “were made possible to me through receiving Big iDeas funding. The financial support helped be build out the steps I needed to take to be prepared to launch this summer and I am extremely grateful,” said McNeal. And for the student who may need some encouragement for starting their business or sees a simple yard sign on Dallas Lawn, McNeal says, “get involved with the things you love! Get involved as much as you possibly can because there are so many ways to do a lot with a little, especially while you’re in college.” 

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