The Internet has forever changed how we get our information and entertainment. As one of the first video bloggers (vloggers), Amanda Congdon continues to innovate and integrate media with entertainment.
Raised between New York City and Connecticut, Congdon witnessed art, culture and expressionism. Her father, James, is a retired actor who starred in the original cast of The Miracle Worker on Broadway. Her mother, an anesthesiologist, also began as an actor, so Congdon easily transitioned into a role in front of the camera.
Congdon attended college at Northwestern University and majored in organizational communication, then took a job at famed advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi in Manhattan. After only seven weeks, Congdon says she knew the corporate world was not where she would thrive.
On a fluke, she attended an open call for an NBC reality show called The Restaurant. She booked a role, which began her acting career. Congdon did a string of commercials before answering a Craigslist advertisement to host an online video show called Rocketboom.
In 2004, one year before the launch of YouTube, Rocketboom pioneered the digital content industry with daily skits of news, humor and commentary. Congdon learned to write, edit, produce and host a daily show, while building a fan base. She also scripted advertisements and met with investors, which she considers invaluable early business experience.
Longing to come to California, Congdon left Rocketboom and embarked a seven-week cross-country road trip with three friends. They filmed and edited on the fly, posting six videos a week, and invited viewers to submit ideas on places to see and topics to cover. The content caught the eye of ABC, which hired Congdon to be its first online news host.
After a year with ABC, Congdon says she realized hard news was not her beat.
“I like working with the same crew — they feel like family,” she said.
Congdon also liked being part of the production, adding, “It’s cool to start with an idea and see organically where it goes and what it eventually becomes as it unfolds.”
In 2009, Congdon and now husband Mario Librandi put their belongings in storage and set off on another adventure. Through a contract with now-defunct Flo TV, they did month-long stints in a handful of American cities, including Phoenix, Santa Fe and Santa Cruz. They explored the cities in depth and guided viewers to the expected and lesser-known treasures of each location.
After the network folded, Congdon and Librandi decided to create their ideal, combined dream. Raised with restaurateur parents, he had visions of doing something with cooking — specifically, raw food. Since Santa Barbara has a significant concentration of raw foodies, they choose to move here and begin Vegan Mario’s, a vegan food restaurant that serves lunch daily out of its quaint courtyard location downtown at 205 Santa Barbara St.
Bringing her production skills into the mix, Congdon will launch a cooking show on their channel Sometimesdaily.com. Viewers will see the meals being made, have access to recipes, as well as the option to purchase on site or, eventually, online through packaged retail sales.
Some of Vegan Mario’s top sellers include Schmicken Nuggets and Save the Crabcakes. He also offers flavorful vegan sauces and cookies.