IU South Bend professor teaches theater by day, bottles water by night
Apr. 2, 2014
Yuri Cataldo, visiting lecturer at the Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts, is a bottled water aficionado. He owns IndigoH20; an award-winning premium alkaline mineral water company, and is helping IU South Bend theater students discover their inner entrepreneurial spirits.
After years of designing apprentice scenes at The Santa Fe Opera, creating the back lot of an Al Pacino film and assisting in the production of Broadway's "West Side Story," Cataldo ran into trouble finding work.
2008's economic downturn hit the entertainment industry hard. Theater jobs were drying up; and Cataldo had to decide whether to search for the little work available or return to Indiana to teach, where he graduated from IU Bloomington in 2004 before earning master's degrees in fine arts from The Juilliard School and the Yale School of Drama.
"I discovered, at that point in my life, that the skills I learned in art and theater classes could help me start my own business," Cataldo said.
So he started IndigoH20, and it took off.
Part teacher, part entrepreneur
After reading play scripts and designing set pieces during the day, the theater professor slips into entrepreneur mode, personally packaging blue glass bottles of IndigoH20, which he then ships to customers around the world.
Enter to win
Faculty and staff using a valid IU email address can enter to win a six-pack of bottled water from IndigoH2O, a $39.99 value.
Judges at the Berkley Springs annual water tasting competition recognized IndigoH20 as some of the world's best-tasting bottled water. IndigoH20 earned the bronze medal in 2013 and the silver medal in the 2014 competition. The honor landed Cataldo a spot on St. Joseph County (Indiana's) Chamber of Commerce's 40 under 40 business leaders of 2013.
In high school, Cataldo was diagnosed with Mediterranean anemia, a condition caused by small red blood cells. He said the addition of alkaline water to his strict diet helps manage his illness. The lack of access to the specialized water in Indiana inspired him to create his own.
Indigo H20 is targeted at a niche market for consumers like Cataldo, who have medical conditions or specialized tastes for the highly concentrated minerals in his bottled water.
In addition to teaching at IU South Bend, Cataldo presents lectures to arts students at colleges around the country. He educates them on the skill of marketing themselves, an ability he said many theater and art students graduate without understanding.
He's also the current set designer for IU South Bend's production of "Kiss Me Kate."
Cataldo said he has plans to create a class at IU South Bend dedicated to helping students market themselves in the entertainment industry. He also plans to reach out to IU campuses around the state, in an effort to eliminate the title of "starving artist."
He argues that self-branding and marketing are some of the many entrepreneurial traits already embedded in the heart of arts training.
"You have to not be afraid of failure," he said. "You have to be the kind of person that tries new things out that are sometimes scary and then learn from your experiences -- it's the only way you grow as an individual and express your individuality."