Champagne Wishes TV
For every entrepreneur it is important to have a mentor at one time or another, yet not everyone is fortunate enough to have one. What we do at Champagne Wishes TV is talk with entrepreneurs around the world and ask them the difficult questions so that you don't have to.
...is a motivated and talented independent musician who appears to be in complete control of her destiny. She takes an approach to her music in a way that many aspiring musicians can learn a lot from. Not only is she very involved in the creation of her music, but her brand as well. To me, it’s like she looks at her music as a product that is for sale and she is the salesperson. It’s awesome. I find that far too many people that have a talent that they want to be paid for, tend to not take the time to learn the business side. Which in my opinion is a poor choice. Far too often you see talented people rely on others who understand the business side very well, to only be taken advantage of.
Alexa hails from Delaware, a state that is known for many things including it’s lack of sales tax. She studied physics in college and decided somewhere in the middle of her studies that she wouldn’t be happy with a life that didn’t consist of her making music. So being a woman that finishes what she has started, she graduated school and instead of following a career path in the medical field she relocated to The Music City. Nashville, Tennessee is known to some for being the center of the music industry and the home of country music. It’s where many serious musicians go to develop their writing ability and create some of our favorite songs. Since the 1960’s Nashville has been the 2nd largest music production center, the first being New York City. In fact the music industry is so big in Nashville that it’s economic impact on the city is roughly $6.5 Billion annually and is responsible for 19,000 jobs. So it’s safe to say that this was a good move. After about a year Alexa returned to Delaware for the holidays and decided it’d be cool to do a show while at home. The show was a tremendous success, that night every ticket was sold. Alexa is a huge proponent of, “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.” She isn’t afraid to get out there and tell the world who she is or what she does. She isn’t afraid to tell the world her story. She attributes much of her success to making it a habit to sing for anyone, anywhere. Why? “Because you never know who you are talking to or standing next to.”
Over the summer in 2014 Alexa went to a popular crowdfunding platform called Kickstarter to raise money for a new album and a tour. She set out to raise $5,000. She successfully blew past that number and by the time the fundraiser was complete she raised nearly $9,500! That’s nearly 90% more than she asked for which says a lot about her fan base. As an independent artist Alexa knows about "bootstrapping" or funding everything on her own. We talked a lot about how much money and time goes into developing music in addition to getting it recorded. She expressed to me how important it is to be savvy with your money, but also picky with how or more importantly who you spend it with. She continued with how important it is to understand your brand as an artist, make music that correlates with that brand and only match up with producers who understand that vision. Essentially you want to make sure you get the most return on your investment by generating the greatest output. In this case, the output is in the form of beautifully constructed soundwaves. Currently Alexa is planning a European tour. As an independent artist she wears many hats. Not only does she write her music, but manages her merchandise and touring as well. This tour is not only going to gain her major exposure to gain new fans but will give her the opportunity to meet current supporters for the first time.
Alexa is a talented singer/songwriter first and businesswoman second. Though there’s no way you can tell me that those two don’t go hand in hand. Her future plans consist of staying independent and developing a fruitful career that completely supports her financially. When I listen to her music I hear Florence from Florence + The Machine, I hear Adele and I don’t doubt her future plans once. Read below to see what Alexa thinks are some best practices for aspiring musicians and songwriters.
What are your thoughts and best practices when it comes to networking? Why are these best practices important to you?
I combine several pieces of advice and opinion when it comes to networking. Right after I moved to Nashville, I told myself I would be as open minded-and committed as possible with my plans: I wouldn't make excuses, or be flaky, or procrastinate... basically I would never say no. I wanted to make as many connections as possible in my new city and have people take me seriously for my craft. However, one of the writers I met along the way gave me some extremely good advice, which was not to mistake "going out and drinking" for networking. By no means does this mean to not be social and have a good time, but instead to be cautious about the image you are portraying and keeping yourself professional in a networking situation. Therefore, I try to take advantage of networking opportunities while also making sure to represent myself appropriately.
What steps did you take to develop your brand?
My brand has been constantly evolving. This relates not only to the music itself, but also to the logos, my look, and even the general color scheme. The first step was making the switch from my given name, Alex Saad, to my artist name, Alexa. I wanted something shorter, sexier, and easier to pronounce properly. Musically, I have been transitioning from an acoustic to a more electronic sound, which is changing the way I write, record, and perform. When I switched my hair color to red, I realized this color could be an excellent theme in my image as well. The "Alexa" brand now represents a unique, sexy, and cool image, which is reflected audibly and visually on my websites/pages.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to any aspiring musician?
A close friend in Nashville gave me a piece of advice recently: be 100 percent on your game and ready to sell your product at all times. Whenever you meet someone; whether it be at a gig, in a restaurant, or even at the grocery store, be prepared to show them what you do. Be confident in your talent and ready to share it. This is easier said than done, but you never know who you can meet and how they may share your story.
...is a guy who is in control of his own destiny, a visionary who doesn’t see limitations in the areas that he is unfamiliar with. His father emigrated from Mexico as a young man and has owned several businesses over the years. Everyone has their motivation for being an entrepreneur and he gives that credit to his father. In college at the University of Notre Dame, John studied Political Science—though he always had a passion to start a business of his own. He would often find himself concluding these thoughts like many of us, that he would start something only if he had that one big idea.
As an avid shopper during the early years of Gilt.com, he found that many of the clothes, especially jeans, didn’t fit properly. He would often spend so much time speaking with customer care to send jeans back, that he felt he wasn’t saving much money through online purchases. John’s pivotal moment came while customizing his character in the video game Madden Football, where he had his one big idea. Why can’t we shop online with similar 3D graphics, in order to ensure that the clothing will fit as expected when delivered? Using his resources efficiently while still in school, John went to the computer science department at Notre Dame. There, he spoke with programming students to figure out what it would take to make his concept a reality. He also took several business courses and used his idea in as many of his case studies for class in order to seek consultation from professors—free consultation that is. John and his co-founder Rick both followed that semester with a summer in the library studying everything in the law books about intellectual property, in addition to anything else relevant to the startup ecosystem. That summer, they designed the concept for myfit.co.
After designing a plan of action, they went on to find the missing piece, an engineer. Now in the beginning of any business it is important to either be or partner with someone who can turn your idea for a product or service into a reality. In the case of starting a tech company it is important to either be or partner with a programmer to write the code for you proposed idea. John explained to me the difficulty that’s associated with finding a programmer. “In Silicon Valley, where most programmers are busy working on their own companies or have high paying jobs that keep them quite busy, finding a programmer is easier said than done. Unfortunately, many founders end up outsourcing their development work. In the end, they pay twice the amount because they spend twice the time. The code is so poorly written that it’s not transferrable from old programmer to new.” Needless to say he is a proponent for learning how to code, even if you aren’t the one who is the programmer. Why? For quality control. How else would you be able to tell whether the code is good and useful for future programming teams. I suppose this can be compared to a blind man telling a painter how much red and white to mix together in order to make the perfect shade of pink.
As they say, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed. John networks daily, he attributes much of his success to it. So from the beginning, not only was John heavily into networking by shaking every hand in every room he visited. At night he was also teaching himself programming on sites like Lynda.com. During our conversation he expressed how many times he’s seen companies fail due to their lack of communicating with others about their company. How amateur entrepreneurs approach too many conversations with NDAs in hand, even the ones with investors. According to John, entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to share their business idea with other entrepreneurs. The truth is that the majority of the time it isn’t the idea that makes you successful, it is in fact the execution. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but entrepreneurs who are willing to dedicate at least 4 years to growing a business aren’t. I gotta say, I agree with him. I’ve seen many people over the years get really excited after hearing about a new idea. First they try to replicate it and then within a matter of months, quit. Why? Because they weren’t truly passionate. Stealth mode isn’t one you want to be in for too long or at all, really. Who is going to give you money if they can’t see you?
Today John is not only still highly active in myFit.co but he is also a partner at two consulting firms and advising an additional startup. Juggling four ventures isn’t an easy thing to do he agrees, but he is very methodical with the twenty four hours that he has in a day. The same amount of time that we are all given. He makes sure to make a plan daily and stick to it, paying close attention to not unfairly spend more time on one venture more than another.
What are John’s future plans? To make sure that every online clothing transaction in the near and far future includes myFit technology to guarantee the perfect fit.
CWTV: What are some words of wisdom that you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
John: "Most people don't pursue entrepreneurship because they find it to be too risky. It's true—entrepreneurship is incredibly difficult. However, if your goal in life is to make an exceptional impact, then it is far riskier to pursue anything other than entrepreneurship."
Click the Linkedin logo below to connect with John.
...is a self starter, a serial entrepreneur and is in the business of changing the world. Ehb is a Bay Area native who opted out of attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country in order to teach himself everything that he wanted to learn. After playing professional volleyball and some time working in the real estate industry, Ehb decided to share his love for music even further and opened a music studio. After 7 years of running a profitable recording studio, Ehb decided to get out of the music business and started his first tech company. His motivation? Gaming for good. After a real life test of the market he found that this concept, gaming for good was viable and he went to work. Ehb is a huge proponent for testing out your idea on a very minor scale in order to learn whether or not if it’s worth your time on a large scale.
A minimal viable product or a MVP is when you take a business idea that you are considering, figure out the the most minimal version of that business and see if you can get people to pay for it. For example if you wanted to open a sandwich shop, first see if you can get someone you don't know to buy a sandwich from you. Maybe at a park or downtown in your area. It’s all about testing the market first, in addition to testing yourself. If you dislike selling a half dozen sandwiches for one day, imagine having to sell 50 a day, everyday. Today Ehb is working to do something epic, as if gaming for good wasn’t already a gigantic venture. Ehb’s next venture is in the business of disrupting the economics of human trafficking by making the business of it unattractive. Read below and check out Ehb’s story and his take on entrepreneurship.
CWTV: What made you decide that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
EHB: I've always been a naturally curious person who likes to tinker and figure out how things work. My nickname as a child was "Mr. Puzzle". Due to my curiosity, I also like to solve problems. I'm almost obsessive about solving something once I get it in my head. This is what we do as entrepreneurs: create solutions to pain points (consumer or human issues). I was also influenced by my father who was and still is a serial entrepreneur. I used to watch him lead his team to solve engineering problems and I always thought that would be a fun thing to do - work in a team to solve big issues.
One other reason I became an entrepreneur was out of necessity. Sometimes we don't have choices but to become entrepreneurs in order to survive and push on in life. This is why India is exploding with entrepreneurs. There is systemic poverty there and the only way to survive is to be creative and entrepreneurial. I had similar circumstances when I was much younger. My survival instincts have always been strong and have served me well over the years which contribute to and compliment my entrepreneurial skills.
CWTV: Did you go to college?
Ehb: I was supposed to attend Stanford University, but decided against it. I'm an autodidact which means I have a high ability to motivate myself and learn everything I need to know on my own. Perhaps, it's also my innate stubborn nature and inclination towards independent thinking. At the time, I saw college as a time and money sink. I decided to teach myself what I needed to know. Trial by fire out in the real world to prove my worth and abilities.
CWTV: Do you think college is important when it comes to starting a business?
Ehb: I think, in general, college is very important. Just because I didn't attend doesn't mean that everyone can get away with it. College can open many avenues of opportunities for those who lack them. The networking effect of colleges alone is worth it, in my opinion. There are certain things I had to learn and hustle the hard way which would have been easier to obtain through a top college. So deciding to go to college depends on you. Do you think you are strong willed enough to strike it out in the world alone or do you need to work within a closed system to find your way? There are advantages and disadvantages to either path. There are many paths to entrepreneurial success. The advent of online open source education deeply excites me because it can provide top quality education to everyone across economic lines.
CWTV: What was your first business?
Ehb: My first real, bona-fide business was my recording studio. It was a more traditional brick and mortar business. I built and operated my own studio for 7 years. The premise was to build a mobile recording solution that was affordable to bands tight on budget or who couldn't afford world-class studio time. I grew revenue by volume instead of seeking marquee names and it was quite successful until the advent of mass home recording solutions which put a dent in both independent operations, like my own, and even high end studios.
CWTV: Tell us about your transition from employee to business owner?
Ehb: Perhaps, a better way to look at this question is to understand that as a business owner you are always a humble employee. Business owners hold the double function of having to lead and be held accountable to their own leadership. In fact, I would go so far as to say that business owners/founders are beholden to work tirelessly for their team. Leading by example means you have to be a model employee yourself.
CWTV: What were some of the early lessons you learned that were necessary for being successful?
Ehb: The biggest lesson to learn is how to deal with failure and accept that failure is part of the learning process. How a person deals with failure is a litmus test of entrepreneurship. Having a healthy relationship with failure is key to success. I would also say that stress management is incredibly important. One of my deepest and earliest failings as an entrepreneur wasn't failing on the business side, but failing in how I treated those in my life that loved and supported me. I was so focused on my ambitions and pursuits that nothing else mattered, not even family and friends. This was a mistake. It created massive emotional stress and dissonance in my life that I thought I could overcome by simply pummeling through them instead of creating space for people in my life. Learning how to be more in tune with yourself and emotional health is important to being a successful entrepreneur. It also makes you a better leader.
CWTV: What inspired you to create your tech company?
Ehb: Chuck Close famously said, "Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work." I live by this. I live by my passions and pursue activities that help those passions flourish. I had a passion for education and video games, so I creatively combined the two disciplines and started my own gaming-for-good mobile gaming company.
Funnily enough, the catalyst was a simple, random conversation I had with my best friend over a New Year's Eve toast many years back. I was taking a break from being an entrepreneur and he asked what my next move was going to be. I had no answer, so I decided I needed an answer and the genesis of WRENDO (my gaming company) came to be. No inspiration needed, just a motivation.
CWTV: Is a MVP (Minimal Viable Product) important?
Ehb: One word: ABSOLUTELY. MVP's are how you test out ideas fast and cheaply. It's part of the lean start-up methodology. Most entrepreneurs are cash poor when starting out and need to figure out creative ways to test ideas and product. Creating a bare bones MVP is the way to do this. I would go further and say that testing whether or not your MVP can create revenue is even more important. In lieu of that, at the very least, test user adoption through your MVP.
I remember I needed to test if my gaming for good idea could work and bring in revenue, so I conducted an open experiment to prove the business model to myself. The premise was to set up a table and two chairs in a high foot traffic area with a bag of groceries and sign that said Play War For Good. If anyone could beat me at the card game War, then I would donate the entire bag of groceries to a homeless man that I personally knew. To test out monetization, I would offer the player additional cards at a price in order to beat me. I would also offer to put 20% of whatever the player paid me and put it in the bag of groceries. What happened both helped me solidify my idea and amazed me by what I learned what people were willing to do help another individual. One person didn't have the cash to pay for additional cards, so he crowdsourced the funds. Another girl also didn't have any money on herself so she left. I thought that was that, but then an hour later she came back and simply gave me the cash to put 20% towards my homeless friend. That was wholly unexpected. Eventually, I had a very large crowd gathered and motivated to help my homeless friend. In only the 2 hours that I performed this test, I had made for myself $80 and an additional $20 in the grocery bag for my friend. Even though I know there were factors that skewed the experiment, this result was enough for me to move forward and decide to build a team. That was my MVP.
CWTV: To you, how important is a Business Plan?
Ehb: A business plan is a living document that evolves and grows. When first starting out, I wouldn't obsess over a business plan. What I would obsess over is implementing ideas, building MVP and coming up with revenue strategies and incorporating that learning process into the business plan. Business plans are fundamentally useful in communicating your ideas when you are talking to investors and need to deep dive. However, for the most part you should focus more on perfecting your different pitches and presentation decks. They are far more important in the beginning. If you can't effectively communicate what you do in 1 - 2 sentences then you have an issue with your business model. Do eventually get your business plan in order because you will need one. Just don't obsess over it in the beginning. I operated without a formal business plan for almost two years before anyone even needed to see one.
CWTV: When you started your tech company, what were some tactics you used to build your team?
Ehb: Building a team is a fluid and incredibly important process. There is no formula to it. For me, being able to build a team is, not only a test of my leadership and motivational skills, but also a test of how viable my business idea is. If no one wants to work on what I'm building, then I need to take a closer look at it. Even the worst communicator can have an idea that's so compelling that it draws people.
Some basic tactics is to reach out to your network and simply ask. That simple act can go a long way. People love to help each other and even if they won't work with you, they can recommend and make intros to people who will. If you don't have a network, then get cracking and build one.
If you can't build a team through your network, then it's time to get creative. Don't become discouraged. It could simply be that people are working on other projects. Competition is very high these days for certain skills. When I was building WRENDO I spent the first 5 - 6 months networking my ass off and looking to build a team. Even though I didn't find the right partners, I did build out a network that has come in handy even to this day with my other ventures. When I realized how difficult it was going to be to find the proper partners through my network I had to do some creative thinking. I thought about what types of people build video games besides programmers/engineers: artists, musicians, animators, UI/UX people, etc. I decided if I couldn't find a trusty programmer, then I could find an artist to get started. I was already versed in music, game design, and UI/UX design myself. I started looking at art sites online, such as Deviantart. That's where I found a wonderful artist, Renee Yoch. I saw that she had a small exhibition at FLAX art store and decided to go meet her. We talked for some time and she decided she really liked what I was trying to do and mentioned that she was already working on another game with a programmer in Michigan. Eureka! I asked Renee if it was ok to contact her partner and that's how I met Pete Mooney, a fantastic code ninja from Michigan. I was able to convince the both of them to port over and work with me on what I was doing. In one fell swoop, I had acquired a mobile gaming team. On the surface, perhaps, random, but it was through creative thinking and searching through different avenues that produced this opportunity.
CWTV: What's one of the most important thing to keep in mind when building a team?
Ehb: You must be the best component of your team. If you can't honestly do this, then don't try to build out a team or even be an entrepreneur. Your team is going to look to you not only for leadership during the fun times of building product, but also during crises. As team leader, you will be tested to the most extreme and if you can't maintain stability then your team will notice and will fall apart.
Another aspect to look out for is to not build a team out of desperation. I've seen entrepreneurs who cobble teams together sloppily and the work suffers for it because the team leader didn't take the time to vet out the team and make sure they are all on mission point and message. Too much bickering, doubt and distrust arises. This is not a failure on the team, but a failure on you as a leader. Always take the time to make sure your partners are fully on board and don't have other distractions. If you are going to be 100% committed to your venture, then be fair to yourself and surround yourself with those who are equally 100% committed. The allure of outsourcing for programmers is always prevalent, but if you find you have to do this then you haven't done the legwork to make your idea is attractive enough to build a true team.
CWTV: Tell me how your experience was with getting funding?
Ehb: Fundraising is a pain in the ass and fun at the same time. Basically, the very first day you begin to fundraise, you never stop fundraising, ever. If you raise a seed round, then the bigger angel round is right around the corner, then Series A and so forth, so understand what you're getting yourself into when you begin looking for funding. Very few startups are revenue positive enough to not have to look for early funding.
I'm a huge proponent of bootstrapping for as long as you can, along with taking small seed funding from family/friends until you are truly ready to strike out for angel funding. Accelerators and incubators are another great avenue to go because they typically lead to bigger funding options.
I bootstrapped my first venture and became revenue positive enough to maintain growth. However, that was a more traditional brick and mortar venture. I also bootstrapped with WRENDO and eventually found my way into an accelerator. That road took some time because we had to prove team and product viability.
There were a couple of reasons why we didn't take larger funding. One was because we found ourselves early on in acquisition talks, but things went sour so we abandoned talks. Second, after we entered the accelerator I found I had personally lost passion for what I was working on and wanted to pursue a higher venture which I am now doing: disrupting the economics of human trafficking. I have found that it is vastly important to find a mission you can dedicate your life to, but I wouldn't have come to this realization without having started a couple other ventures.
CWTV: Would you ever get into venture capital one day?
Ehb: Perhaps. I do believe we need more impact investors who will funnel money into ventures that truly matter and affect real human issues, such as poverty, economic inequality, access to potable water, access to education, sustainable energy solutions, etc. Right now, I'm content being an activist entrepreneur trying to solve these issues.
CWTV: Do you feel that traveling is good for entrepreneurs?
Ehb: Absolutely. Traveling brings perspective and gives you a chance to see how others live. It forces you to get out of your bubble and realize that there are far bigger issues to solve than what the next big social media bet or frivolous app will be. Of course, if building frivolous apps is your thing, then it's your thing. Not my thing. Anyways, yes, absolutely travel and see the world. While doing so, respect the cultures you visit and incorporate outside ideas into your matrix and learn.
CWTV: Of all the places you have traveled, which place made the most impact on you and why?
Ehb: There hasn't been any specific place. Every place I have traveled has taught me something new and impacted me in different ways which is why it's so important to travel. It's opened my mind to possibilities I never would have thought of and brought different perspectives to problems I'm trying to solve.
I will offer a fun exercise, which is to travel in your mind. Just sit and daydream and imagine the many different ways people can possibly live. By doing so you don't necessarily have to physically visit every place in the world but you expand your own thought horizons.
CWTV: Some say your network is your net worth. Do you agree?
Ehb: First, I would take away the word 'net'. Worth is an ever growing process and can be quantified in many different ways. I would say your network is simply an extension of who you are. Your worth is based on the fundamentals of who you are. If you are superficial and superfluous, then your network will reflect that. If you are a person that cultivates compassion and care for others, then your network will reflect that.
Everyone possess innate worth. It's how we draw out the best in each other that is important. Not looking at factors that create subjective notions of worth.
CWTV: Tell me a little about your next venture and why this is important to you.
Ehb: Currently, I'm starting something called The Wren Initiative to disrupt the economics of human trafficking. The wren is my favorite bird and is famous for its many loud and complex songs across breeds. We represent the multicultural and diverse wren and must come together as one and raise our voices loudly to combat human trafficking and modern day slavery.
Equality in all forms - economic, social, political, etc. - is very important to me. As a people and species, we are most harmonious and happiest when there is equality. This is the main driving factor for me in combating human trafficking because this particular issue will soon become the #1 illegal trade globally. I made a promise to a wonderful little girl that I helped raise that I would make this a better world for her and her children. I mean to keep that promise.
CWTV: What's some advice that you would give aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ehb: Build things that matter. There are so many human issues out there that have yet to be solved. In order for us to achieve the next order of enlightened evolution we must do a better job at solving these issues. As entrepreneurs, we are poised at the forefront as the vanguard towards creating impactful innovations that can deeply affect society. Societies have become better over the centuries, but we still have a long ways to go before we have earned the right to call ourselves an enlightened society. Build things that matter. That is all.
Click the Linkedin logo below to connect with Ehb.
...is to say the least, the king of DC. Washington DC is a magical place. It’s a city that hosts some of the most important moments in current events and world history. A city that’s home to the first family, gogo music and some of the biggest landmarks on the east coast. By day you’ll see more suits running between meetings than wall street. DC is a city where people pride themselves more on their job title and the role their department or government contractor plays in the government. The happy hour conversations are a fine mix of politics and the economy. But when the sun falls and the moon shows it’s beautiful face, is when the city really comes alive. No one knows this better than Marc.
Marc grew up in a business oriented household. His father was an entrepreneur and his mother worked in business as well. When he was 16, after a heated argument with his father, Marc took a one way bus ticket to Atlantic City to explore and clear his mind. After several months of working various jobs and sleeping on the beach, Marc returned home with plans to venture out on his own. His first business was a courier service and before he was 20 years old he had over 70 employees. After several years in the courier business, he decided he wanted to get into a new venture and spent a lot of time exploring where that would take him.
Today, he is the biggest name in the DC nightclub game, but he got his start almost by accident. Marc worked his way into the scene in 1991 after he won a bet in that he could throw a bigger party than Andre Harrell, though he had never done party promotions before. He started promoting at various clubs throughout the city for several years following until he had saved enough money from his parties to buy his own club in 1996; The Republic Gardens. The club was located within walking distance of Howard University. Like many students, in 2001 Marc graduated, but not from Howard. In 2001 Marc opened the mega club “Dream” on Okie street in Washington D.C. and with doing so, he took the experience he was known for to the next level. At the time the location was just an abandoned empty warehouse on the market for $1,000,000. Being the savvy business man that he is, he painted a picture of what his vision for the space was. He convinced the property owner to agree to a $1,000,000 loan instead of cash, $15,000 up front and a $10,000 monthly payment every month thereafter.
The opening of Dream redefined what nightlife in DC looked like and made Marc the creator of the new standard. Dream was multiple floors of Hip Hop and R&B, plush seating only available to those who paid for the VIP treatment and home to some of the biggest parties ever to take place in DC. Dream was the sophistication of Republic Gardens and was a true representation of what it’s like to mature in an industry. After three years Marc changed the club name to “Love” which revived the club and brought a whole new romance to 1350 Okie street. Today Marc owns “The Park at fourteenth”, located just a few blocks from The White House, it is truly a further sophistication of his career as a club owner. The Park grosses approximately $9,000,000 a year with profit margins that hover around 12%.
Marc is a true success story. He’s larger than life and is an inspiration to a city full of young men who lack role models that are cut from the same cloth. Despite a period of financial issues shortly after the downturn of the economy, which affected all business owners nationwide, especially those who are directly affected by government budgets. Marc is now standing stronger than ever. Any given night you will find a line full of young people who all admire and respect him, looking to catch a moment to speak with him in hopes that some of his energy and relentless work ethic will rub off. Marc is a true club owner. You can find him outside greeting patrons, helping his staff, fixing mistakes and laughing his way to the bank. With a successful history like his that has resulted in an industry wide improvement in quality, the mentoring of countless aspiring party promoters to the position to be club owners and 4 successful businesses. One can only wonder what’s next? Marc’s next plans are focused on working with charities to assist them in the money raising process. Which anyone who’s familiar with charities knows this to be the most difficult process for most. With Marc's charm, business knowledge and enormous rolodex I couldn't imagine anyone else in DC that'd be better for the job.
“It’s making people believe and then delivering. You’re dead after the first one if you don’t deliver."
Click the Linkedin logo below to connect with Marc.
...is a former CFL, NFL, Cal Berkeley and SFSU Defensive Back who has been keeping his head on swivel in the arena of alternative energy. Doug was raised in Alabama and has been playing ball since he can remember. Though coming from humble beginnings in a small town in the south he ha always had ambitions to see the world. In the 1991 NFL draft Doug was drafted by the New York Jets to play DB to crack some heads. After one season with the Jets Doug went on to play in the CFL with the Edmonton Eskimos and Sacramento Miners from 1991 to 1994. After playing football Doug returned to the Bay Area and went on to have a great career in sales. Through his experiences in the field of sales and technology he saw the growing need for alternative energy needs. in 2009 Doug started a company to answer what he saw as a growing need and that is solar panel installation.
We all at one time or another struggle with coming up with the name for our company, whether it's your first or tenth. When coming up with the name for this blog I struggled and then one night it came to me in a dream and I couldn't sleep until I registered the domain name. Similarly Doug struggled when creating the name for his company until one night in Napa, where the stars are far more visible than from San Francisco, he saw the Big Dipper so clearly that it was clear his company's name would reference it. More importantly one of the most important stars that make up The Big Dipper is the The North Star. Which was an important indicator during slavery for escaping slaves which direction was north in order to get to safe land. Being from Alabama, The North Star is quite significant to Doug. So with adding a little flare with the word Red, Doug came up with the name that would soon run synonymous with his own, "Red Dipper". Today Doug's company is known for being the first to offer a 10% discount to employees of Anheuser Busch for solar panel installations, he consults with companies on how to minimize their carbon footprint and he also runs a program that educates former inmates to be certified solar panel installers. Red Dipper is playing a huge role in reducing the carbon emissions that are dangerously polluting our atmosphere and is destroying our environment as we know it. Doug has made the transition to defending an end zone to defending the very thing that keeps us all alive, mother earth.
"I surround myself with good people, life is short. Like they say 'men sharpen men, like iron sharpen iron'. You gotta surround yourself with the right caliber of people."
Click the Linkedin logo below to connect with Doug.
...is a native of The Big Apple, "if you can make it there you can make it anywhere". That's where he was born, but both his parents got their start in a small country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti; Dominican Republic. As a child his parents owned a bodega, knowing Alvin and his siblings I'd say that's how the entrepreneurship spirit was born. His parents were sure to raise him to know his culture; from the Tostones to the Merengue the Dominican culture in his home was so thick you could cut it with a knife. As many Dominican boys, Alvin grew up playing baseball and can't remember a time when he didn't have a glove around. He joined the neighborhood pickup games at 8 and has never looked back. To Alvin it was always a passion, an escape, a way to express himself and embrace his culture by playing one of the greatest games that has ever been played.
4 years later Alvin was requested to represent the USA in Japan in a baseball game. It was through this experience he realized that not only were his talents being recognized, but that he wanted to see how far would this recognition take him. Six years later Alvin was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, he received his biggest check and put all his focus on one thing other than family; baseball. After a short but significant career with the Diamondbacks Alvin returned to New York to get into accounting. He eventually worked his way to being an accountant for The Bob Marley family which gave him incredible insight on licensing, copyrights and many other financially sensitive legal formalities regarding managing an estate for a musical icon.
Currently Alvin is living in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He is in pursuit of his calling in sports management. He found a way to get back to his true passion. Though he isn't stepping up to bat and swinging to get a grounder so he can sprint to first. He is doing something more meaningful, that goes beyond the field. Alvin has chosen to return to his parents' country to be a sports manager to represent the players the way that they ought to be. As we've seen in other sports, players are returning to represent the young participants in a way that they wish they had been represented in the beginning of their careers. Many young athletes when they are first drafted they have no choice but to trust the individuals who are representing them. Especially when they are as vulnerable as children from foreign countries coming to play ball in the USA. Quite often these young people are misguided, misinformed and robbed of their earnings. Alvin has returned to put a stop to these bad practices and represent the players properly while helping them achieve their goals of playing the game that they love, making money and taking care of their families. Check Alvin's take on entrepreneurship below.
CWTV: How did you get started in Baseball?
Alvin: I started to play baseball at the age of 8 at Heritage field where the new Yankees stadium presently sits.
CWTV: When did you realize that you wanted to play Baseball professionally?
Alvin: I realized I wanted to play professional baseball in 1992 when I was chosen to go to Japan and represent USA. I was only 12 at the time. It was a great experience and I really played well, catching the eyes of a lot people.
CWTV: What was it like being drafted so young?
Alvin: Being drafted out of high school was a great feeling. Actually I remember being at the ESPN Zone on 42nd street in NYC on my draft day. My friends and I were watching sports center. All of sudden, my name appears on the bottom half of the Television saying I was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 14th round! Great feeling!
CWTV: What is your favorite memory from playing with the Diamondbacks?
Alvin: It was a great experience, I wish I would have been better prepared mentally to continue to play the game longer. My best experience was sharing time with the ballplayers that actually made it to the big show, the MLB.
CWTV: What was it like working for the Bob Marley Family?
Alvin: It was great working with the Marley family. I learned a lot on how the music industry works and what to expect from it if you consider to have a career in the industry.
CWTV: When did you decide that you wanted to be a sports agent?
Alvin: I decided I wanted to be an agent, after I learned business management at Bob Marley Music Inc and at Berdon LLP. I figured with my baseball experience, business management, speaking spanish and English that I would be a great addition to Latino professional athletes.
CWTV: Tell us a little about what your company does?
Alvin: My company recruits, prepares and represents elite players from Dominican Republic Venezuela and other Caribbean countries to become professional baseball players.
CWTV: What was the transition like moving to DR to start this business?
Alvin: I thought the transition moving to Dominican Republic would be easy since I come from a Dominican culture. My parents are from Dominican Republic. But it was actually difficult getting accustomed to because I had to learn the country and the ways they do business here which is totally different from the USA. But eventually, I learned a lot and things started getting better quickly.
CWTV: What was the greatest thing you learned while starting this business?
Alvin: Starting this business I learned that I had a good eye to recognize talent. I found this to be a great thing because I didn't know this about myself before.
CWTV: What was the hardest thing that you had to overcome while starting this business?
Alvin: The hardest part was learning different parts of Dominican culture that I wasn't exposed to and learning the business culture here in DR, because it's different than USA.
CWTV: What keeps you going?
Alvin: What keeps me going is that I love what I do.
CWTV: What are your future plans?
Alvin: I have plans to represent players from Colombia and Cuba. There is a lot of good players coming soon and I want to be in with the best prospects.
CWTV: What is some advice that you would give to young entrepreneurs?
Alvin: Before starting your company, do a lot of research and development before getting in. If you do this, you will avoid a lot of unnecessary expenses.
CWTV: What do you want to be remembered for?
Alvin: I want to be remembered as an honest agent who didn't take advantage of his players inability to not understand contracts and negotiations.
Click the Linkedin logo below to connect with Alvin.
...is an energetic, goal-oriented, serial entrepreneur, a proven sales person, who has mastered networking and has spent significant time building his personal brand. And that's a lot to say for someone who's only 27. Paul started his first company at 16 years old, selling sneakers. Back during a time when most of his peers' internet experience comprised of instant messaging. Back before Facebook's original algorithm was mapped out and during a time when the only place you would think to purchase sneakers was at Foot Locker. Young Paul had a vision. A vision that was developed when he asked, "where do my sneakers come from?" Understanding the concept of middlemen, commonly referred to as the layer cake, he set out to disrupt that. At least for himself and his classmates. He sought out a supplier in China via eBay, back when most teens were still drooling over sneakers in "Eastbay".
From that point on Paul was hooked with the idea of turning an idea into money. He went on to be a successful sales person in several industries, while maintaining a side business at all times. His last venture, concert organization, generated him significant profits and earned him his biggest checks. He showed me a picture of his first 5 digit check from a concert, I think I'm in the wrong business. Through that venture he got familiar with marketing strategies by utilizing grassroots teams and radio advertisements. He also worked with many investors and got loads of experience with raising money. Paul started from humble beginnings, in a family where entrepreneurship was taboo. Like most entrepreneurs his parents followed very traditional routes with careers in military service and medicine. Paul's currently looking at a particular area in the tech space to dive into, he's more interested in bringing his sales and strategy expertise to silicon valley. He's currently working on something that is sure to not only lead him to disrupt another market, but earn additional significant profits. Check out his take on Entrepreneurship below.
CWTV: When did you realize that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Paul: It's something that I believe was always in me. However, the light bulb went off at my first job which was at Baskin Robbins. The owners were never there! The only time I would see them was to pick up money. I was 15 at that time. It was the only place that would hire someone at age 15.
CWTV: Were either of your parents entrepreneurs, if not what did they do?
Paul: No, my parents both went to school for things other than business and worked in non-business fields. My father, he's a retired Colonel from the United States Air Force. My Mother who recently retired, is a Registered Nurse.
CWTV: What was your first business and what made you realize it was a good idea?
Paul: My first business was an online business. The domain name was www.latestfashionsonline.com. I used to purchase shoes on ebay, which is how I met a supplier from China. I would save $40-50 per pair. This gave me the idea, I knew other people would enjoy saving money too. I would have him send the shoes directly to the customer's house from China, I didn't even need a warehouse! The website would make it seem as though I had them on hand. I would keep my profits, send the money to china and he would send the shoes.
CWTV: Tell me about how you got into organizing concerts?
Paul: Honestly, it was by accident. My friend and I were at a new venue drinking champagne and we started talking with the owner. At the time he needed help bringing people to his venue. He told us how we could profit. He broke down exactly how the money in that business works. We got really excited, we then decided to hire 30 people to help us create the first event. He ended up tripling his profits and we exceeded our goals tremendously.
CWTV: What's your greatest memory from all the concerts you've organized?
Paul: My greatest memory is the relationships I built on the way. Business, good business, is all about gaining and maintaining good relationships.
CWTV: What is the most important factor when it comes to organizing successful concerts?
Paul: The most important part, like in any business, is making sure that you have the right team in place.
CWTV: Would you suggest entrepreneurship to others? And if so, why?
Paul: Yes, absolutely. Only if it's what you enjoy, if not it will just feel like a job. And if it feels like a job, then what's the point? If you do what you enjoy you will never have to work another day in your life. You'll hate going to sleep, you'll love waking up. Because you'll love what you do with your time when you're awake. If you enjoy sleeping more than being awake then something needs to change in your life, quick!
Click the Linkedin logo below to connect with Paul.