What does a writer who has a passion to play music do when he’s had enough of his journalism job? Quit the job and start his own business on April Fool’s Day, of course. But Benjie Hughes wasn’t joking when he did just that. Eight years later, Backthird Audio, the company he started so he could pursue his passion for music, is still running strong.
This is a story about how bringing innovative business ideas to the table can help someone turn their passion into a reality.
Tell us a little bit about what your company does and what services you provide:
The short version would be: We connect people through music.
We’re a music company dedicated to serving and empowering local musicians in our city of Aurora and throughout the Chicago area. We operate a recording studio that produces quality recordings for everyone from professional artists to music students. We offer open houses, community-building events and audio production classes. As Backthird Entertainment, we provide live music and DJ services for about 100 Chicago-area events – including weddings, galas and private parties – every year.
How did you get started?
I have a degree in journalism, but music has always been my “other passion.” I quit my writing job with a local newspaper on April Fool’s Day, 2003, to see if I could figure out how to make a living at music – and bring as many people along with me as possible. I had no business plan and no idea about the specifics – just a sense that I wanted something else, that I was smart enough to figure it out eventually, and that God would take care of me. I’m closer to “eventually” than ever before, though I still don’t have it figured out. It’s been a (very expensive) faith journey. I never recommend anyone else do it like I did – unless they really, really want to. I’m sure glad I did.
How many employees do you currently have?
There are 3 of us in the studio every day, plus 8 bands and DJs that work for us regularly on the weekends – and a few more “occasional’ performers.
How does your company stay connected with clients and your business community?
Weekly emails go to both a “musicians” list and a “brides and grooms” list with tips, insights and interviews with other local music types. We host open houses about 4 times a year and always make sure to invite both the chamber of commerce AND all the crazy artist types we know. Our last event was a record release and “open recording session” for some clients of ours – the band re-recorded 3 of their songs on different instrumentation, in front of a studio audience.
How does Batchbook help you run your business?
In addition to holding contact info for our clients, artists and partners, Batchbook is the core of our sales process and the source for most of our marketing reports. We use SuperTags to track where prospects are in the sales cycle and to track which marketing was influential on which clients, so we know how our marketing dollars are translating (and not translating!) into sales. Since the vast majority of our new clients come to us online first, all the contact forms on our websites are Batchbook contact forms – we import, read, and start communicating.
Can you offer any advice for anyone else looking to start their own company?
Do the homework – know where the money will come from, and how you will get it. Without sales and marketing nothing else can happen (for long).
Recognize that there are different types of entrepreneurs, and what works for someone else’s personality may not work for yours.
Have a vision – what you want your business to look like in X number of years – and review it every so often to keep yourself on track. You want to make sure you’re striving for success as YOU define it, not as your clients or vendors tell you it should look. Otherwise – why bother?