I was born and raised in a small city bordering Detroit called Oak Park. Our house was located right on Detroit’s northern border, 8 Mile Rd… and by the time I became an adult, I had a good taste of both the inner city as well as the suburbs. I’m a full time musician/producer… it all began at a young age when I started playing guitar but I also acquired an insatiable curiosity for music from around the world. I love the sounds of instruments from other countries so much that I started collecting them and meeting musicians that play them professionally. I enjoy creating multi-ethnic ensembles that perform live as well as in studios for recording projects. In other words, I bring musicians from different cultures together on one stage and have them perform collectively along side with Detroit jazz, rock, funk and soul greats. I also, give school lectures on the world’s music and dance. Over the last 25 years I’ve worked with and befriended a plethora of internationally diverse performers from Argentina, Brazil, Armenia, Senegal, China, France, Spain, Canada, Mexico, Greece, Poland, Cuba, the Middle East, India, Venezuela, Chili, Pakistan and more! These relationships have shaped my career as well as my views on life, music & culture and expanded my outlook of the world.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Well, first of all, there were no venues that said ‘World Music’ over the door (…and there still aren’t). So, I had to improvise by performing in venues that weren’t geared for this style of music but from that I eventually built a following of world music lovers. I also utilized media as much as possible. From grassroots marketing techniques to mainstream media outlets. I believe the power of media can drive a business to success. Now, I create my own events and work with corporations to hire me to perform at their events, where I can show how diversity and inclusion can not only be successful in the work force but on a stage full of musicians as well. In short, I persevered by not being affected by my surroundings and staying driven to my visions and goals.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I did… My visions and ambition was too much for many of the people that are close to me and they couldn’t understand where I was coming from or where I was going with most of it. I found myself exhausted trying to explain my passion and drive to them so instead of sharing my deepest thoughts with them I sought out people that were in my field to rely on for bouncing ideas off of and eventually created an advisory board that help me with major decisions.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Without being boastful, I can comfortably say that I am a great guitarist/performer but it takes so much more than being great at your craft to make-it in business. I was blessed to be raised by a vibrant and very socially active Mother who loves people. I eventually became very similar to her and I believe that a large part of my success is based on the amazing relationships that I make naturally without even thinking about it. I’ve been to seminars about the importance of networking and everything they teach I already do simply for the love of getting to know people. Maybe I learned a little bit about follow-up but even that I do just cause I enjoy the correspondence. I feel that friendships are paramount in the foundation of everything new.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish someone had told me early on to never make a decision based on how much money you have in the bank. I now know that most business decisions that involve money is somehow sourced. In other words, most projects are funded by other people’s money. It can be from grants, loans, foundations, private donors, etc… Whatever it is you want to do, just create a budget then go after the funds it will take to get you what you want.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
If you know what you want then the next step is to jump in the car and hit the gas. Don’t give up if you get a flat or even if you blow your engine. I feel like there will always be some kind of rough terrain but you just have to not focus on what anyone else is doing and just go after your dreams with a fierce drive. I find it unnecessary to be competitive… just maintain your focus on being great at what you do. Also, find people to do the jobs that you’re not great at… even if you’re good at it, it’s better to find someone that’s great at it and hire them. You stick to what you’re great at. Utilize all media sources and always think global.