Alumni-owned marketing agency sets the bar at least 6,582 feet high
Ben Sorensen (Marketing, '13) stepped away from his corner office and position as the director of sales for Ballantine Communications Industry to start his own business, Ascent Digital Agency.
Like many former Front Rangers, Ben Sorensen (Marketing, ’13) moved from Denver to Durango to play.
“I came for football and stayed for everything else,” Sorensen said.
When he wasn’t defending the Skyhawks as a cornerback for the Fort Lewis College football team, Sorensen studied Marketing in FLC’s School of Business Administration. The major was a natural fit for him considering he was a Business Marketing State Champion in high school. He said the practical coursework in his FLC business classes prepared him to work with local businesses long before graduation. During his sophomore year, Sorensen tackled an assignment to build a Facebook page for a nonprofit in Cortez.
“That project allowed me to apply what I learned in the classroom and then prepared me to talk knowledgeably with business owners,” Sorensen said. “After graduating from FLC, I didn’t just have a degree; I had real-life experience. There were many measurable moments like that.”
Sorensen got a job selling advertising for Ballantine Communications Industry, a Durango-based newspaper corporation. He worked at BCI for nine years, and in 2021, stepped away from his corner office and position as the director of sales to start his own business, Ascent Digital Agency.
“I’m chasing the dream,” Sorensen said. “I figure the worst-case scenario is that I go all in on something I believe in. I think my entrepreneurial spirit helps when working with small business owners. They’ve got it all on the line, too.”
With clients scattered from the East to West coasts and three offices located in Durango, Billings, Montana, and Charlotte, North Carolina, Ascent offers a range of digital marketing services geared toward small businesses. Sorensen and his team recently celebrated their 100th client.
“Our secret to success is our overwhelming commitment to customer service,” Sorensen said. “We have two philosophies: go above and beyond, and givers gain. We believe the best way to grow our business is to grow other businesses.”
Ascent soars on Skyhawk wings
As Ascent continues to flourish, Sorensen and his business partner Brittany See (Psychology, ’15) seek out opportunities to partner with FLC, serving as a banner sponsor for the 2022-23 Skyhawk Athletics season. Sorensen is also a mentor in the newly launched Springboard Fellowship program, supporting underserved, hard-working students who are excited about their future careers.
"We started with the intention of finding how we could take marketing to the next level by offering high-quality services that make real impacts on real, local businesses. We wanted to fill in the gaps."
The startup also taps into up-and-coming talent from FLC. Sorensen and See hired Peyton Rutkowski (Journalism & Multimedia Studies, ’21) as Ascent’s photographer and videographer and David Jimenez (ATT 2018-20) as a project manager.
In 2021, Kuriko Stoddard, a senior majoring in communication design, came on board as Ascent’s dynamic intern. Stoddard has been busy creating ad designs, writing blogs, running social media, and more. Sharing a Skyhawk tale as old as time, Stoddard said she moved to Durango to attend FLC for its small class sizes and connections to professors. She earned her Digital Marketing Certificate through SOBA and blends that knowledge with her passion for graphic design to deliver the “non-cookie-cutter, customizable solutions” that Ascent is known for.
“I love having the chance to help people's businesses succeed,” Stoddard said. “Being able to work directly with clients and help them build an online presence and online success is one of the most fulfilling things I do.”
There’s no business like a Skyhawk business
When hiring, Sorensen said that Skyhawks stand out thanks to FLC’s hands-on learning environment.
“Once budgets are on the line, you quickly see how what you learned in class applies to actual people and their businesses,” Sorensen said. “You can get a marketing education anywhere, but we want to hire people who share our values.”
Sorensen added that it’s important to him and the community that these students do not have to flee Durango to the Front Range to launch their careers.
“In a world where consumers are spending their time online, what we’re doing is in high demand,” he said. “And the talent here is huge. It’s been so fulfilling, knowing that we’re creating jobs in Durango for FLC graduates. We’re making a real impact on several people who call Durango home.”