Editor’s note: RTP Beat is a regular feature on Thursdays.Two former Art.com employees have joined forces and purchased General Vitamins, a Durham vitamin company that sells its products through third-party direct mail.

Tom Lotrecchiano, former vice president of sales and marketing, and Joe Schmidt, former director of sales, left Art.com earlier this year after the company’s marketing department was axed. The duo said they were looking for opportunities to own their own business and use their sales and marketing skills.

“We weren’t too critical about the kind of product,” says Lotrecchiano, president of General Vitamins.

They first stumbled upon the company when it placed an ad for new talent. Upon meeting, they realized that it was in a state of flux and in need of a turnaround. So the two decided to buy the company from its seven shareholders for an undisclosed amount.

“It has a good business model, but it was losing money,” Lotrecchiano says. “Once we get things stabilized, we’ll be looking to grow the business.”

The 30-employee company is based in Durham and has distribution, call center and fulfillment capabilities on site. Founded in 1963, General Vitamins offers 50 different vitamin products, including basic vitamins, weight-loss products and energy-boosting supplements.

Zooming into music

The shuttering of Zoom Culture in January sent its 40 employees scrambling for work. Some went the freelance route, specializing in music, video and all things creative, while others looked for more permanent gigs.

Adam Touw, former technology and support manager for the Chapel Hill television production company, chose to team up with Kevin “Kaze” Thomas for a new venture. Thomas, the former host of Zoom Culture’s television show “Hip-Hop Nation,” started his own record label, Soul Dojo, late last year but kept his business on the back burner while Zoom was still in business.

Since Zoom’s demise in January, the two-man team has in some ways continued the late startup’s mission: to give voice to new and undiscovered artists.

“Our goal is to start a label and not only put out [Thomas’s] album but those of other hip-hop artists, too,” says Touw, director of label operations. “We want to establish North Carolina as a hip-hop state.”

In March, Soul Dojo released Thomas’s premier album, “Spirit of ’94,” which is available in 18 stores across the Carolinas, as well as online. The record label has signed two other local artists and plans to debut their albums next summer. Soul Dojo sponsors an open-mike night for up-and-coming hip-hop artists every Monday at Local 506 in Chapel Hill.

And all in the Zoom family, Heather Caldwell, Zoom’s former public relations manager, is helping Soul Dojo with its PR efforts.

On her own

Shawn Ramsey-Kroboth is flying solo these days as founder of SRK Communications, a public relations and communications firm. Ramsey-Kroboth, formerly the director of public relations for TogetherSoft, was squeezed out of the company after it was acquired by California-based Borland Software.

“[Starting my own firm] is something I wanted to do for quite some time,” she says. Prior to TogetherSoft, she worked at truePilot, OpenSite Technologies, Brodeur and Nortel.

Despite the competition in a market flooded with consultants and freelancers … and few companies willing to ante up dollars for products and services … Ramsey-Kroboth says getting new business has been easier than expected. Just shy of three months old, SRK Communications has already signed four clients: Aurora Funds, Pinpoint Networks, Trivirix and Norwegian company Trustix, an IBM business partner for Linux.

Reload for the Matrix

For all you fellow Neo, Trinity and Morpheus fans … a.k.a. cyberpunks … the Matrix reloads today at theaters nationwide. The much-anticipated sequel to The Matrix, which gained a cult following when it debuted in 1999, cost more than $300 million to make and 18 months to film in Sydney, Australia. Although the sequel’s budget is about five times the original’s, many are wondering if the movie will be able to rival the first one.

The Matrix Reloaded ends with a cliffhanger, forcing viewers to wait until Nov. 5 for the finale to the trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions. In the meantime, take the red pill and fight the good fight.

What do you see on the tech horizon? A ray of sunshine, a thunderbolt or rain shower clouds? E-mail Cal at: calchang@hotmail.com.