Interviews: Doyle Martin, Gary Minyard, Joe Kozera

In this post, you will find three interviews with three entrepreneurs. They were created to reflect on the possible parallel between entrepreneurship and the mythic structure of the journey of the hero, as articulated by Joseph Campbell. These interviews were conducted as part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program. 

Doyle Martin, VP of Show Services at TLS Productions, Inc.

1.) In the process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?
“Probably the first, just as a young man, was just not knowing how to enter the business … The people in the generation I was in that came up in the early 80’s through the 90’s were basically coming into a virgin industry … Secondly, was battling myself realizing that the angst of your teens and twenty years is a wonderful thing but can also work against you. Sewing your wild oats, you know … I know guys who are in their 50’s and 60’s who are still out touring rock shows because it’s all they know how to do. And the third, you know, I’m in a weird place right now because I’ve just gone from being an independent lighting designer … to being part of a management team that’s running a $10 million a year company so … I’m no longer finding work and doing shows for myself and my family. I’m also trying to find work and do shows that keep the company growing for all the employees of the company. It’s a different mindset in how you work and deal with things.”

2.) Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process where you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light”? 

“The one time that sticks out in my memory is right after 9-11: the entertainment industry died. I was about two weeks away from having to declare bankruptcy and my home going into foreclosure. I had a little webpage I had put up and I got an email from the Government of Mexico saying that they were doing a UN convention and they wanted me to be the primary lighting supplier. When it first came in, I thought it was a joke. But I replied to it anyway. It turned out it actually was the Government of Mexico. And it saved myself and a handful of my friends from, you know, completely fiscal death. It was one of those moments that you just can’t explain.”

3.) What role has change played in your process and have you changed?

“Being primarily a lighting designer and having come up in the age I did when it was all about pushing the technological limits of what was available to us. There were some pioneer lighters who did that sort of thing with circus technology and turned it into high end motion technology that it is today. We used to hand-focus like a thousand lights. Now one guy does it from a light desk.”

4.) What key take away or knowledge have you gained as a result from your experience.

“I think ultimately, being one of those people who came from nothing and worked in his way into somewhat a position of prominence in his industry, it’s about perseverance. It’s about pushing through the obstacles and following your gut. I’ve always believed that you know what the right thing to do is and if you let it happen, it’ll work out, and somehow it always has. I think a lot of it speaks to the human condition. I think a lot of it goes back to at our very base we are who we are and we’re all a lot more similar than we are different”

Gary Minyard, VP of Education and Engagement at Victoria Theater

1.) In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you over came them?

“I would say the first obstacle … you know, universally, something artists struggle with universally is Ego and the idea that you can’t get better or that you have learned enough. So, I am a very strong proponent of reflective practice… You’ll hear someone say ‘They’ve got to come see our show! It’s amazing!’, but they don’t, you know? So what’s your argument? What’s the thing? Get out of your Ego. Just because you worked on it for 8 weeks doesn’t mean I care. Another challenge is being able to call a place home. In a way, I’ve been a nomad for 20 years. It’s very rare if you’re a working artist…that you are fortunate enough to be in a place in your career where you are able to live in one place and practice your art full time and make a good living. If you are not comfortable living out of a suitcase or the smell of hotels then it makes it very challenging. What do I call home? My wife and I call Dayton home now… but we are both in the business and we are both former actors and we know that if Spielberg calls then we are probably going (laughs). I would say a third one is … because I am the first person in my family to have a master’s degree, it was a journey for me. I really was carving my own path. That can be very intimidating even if you have a supportive family. Those ‘chance moments’, those things that send you in directions. I have several of those. The reason I have a master’s degree is because of one conversation I had with someone. It set me on this journey. I wouldn’t be where I am today without having had that conversation.”

2.) Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments where there “seemed to be no light”? 

“I would say yes to that. I’m a firm believer that there has to be a little bit of pain in your life, a little bit of hunger, in order for you to make it in the performing arts. If it’s easy, then there’s something missing. There was a time where I had been touring for about 5 years straight. I was exhausted. My mom is a realtor in Dallas so I basically went back home to Dallas and got my real-estate license and became a realtor for about a year and a half. It wasn’t that I left the arts because I couldn’t get work. It was just that I was exhausted. So I took it away from myself to see if I actually missed it, to see if I could get hungry again and I did.”

3.) What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed? 

“It’s in constant change. … for me being, in a constant state of adaptation, I know how it is whenever the business changes. At the end of the day the business is still great. I used to have minuscule amounts of money in my own personal budget. Just because you add zeros to your budget doesn’t mean the business has stopped changing or gets easier.”

4.) What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

“Never allow yourself the complacency of thinking you have stopped learning. Never think that you have learned it all.”

Joe Kozera, Host/Operations at KXT 91.7

1.) In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you over came them?

“… getting into radio is very, very difficult. I guess one obstacle is just getting somebody to answer me. I wrote to every single station in the Dallas area and no one even responded. I sent resume, I had been noodling with sound. Finally, someone at KERA gave me a shot. Really, the obstacle I had to face was just getting in the door for something that’s very precarious anyway. Another obstacle… Just trying to get experience with equipment was very, very difficult. Third, going back to my animation background. For some reason, I picked fields that were very difficult to get into. I had to kind of overcome that and teach myself and get contact myself by just banging on doors and writing letters. That’s kind of a recurring theme with my obstacles.”

2.) Were there any moments in your process where you considered giving up or were there moments where there seemed to be no light?

“Absolutely. When I was trying to get into radio itself and just sending tapes and no one was responding. It took me 2 years of consistent banging on doors to get any experience. No one responded. Even a professional in the business told me, he was a weather guy, he said ‘turn away and run, don’t get into this field.’ With other people, you’ll hear ‘I just kept on doing it and I knew it was supposed to happen’ but I didn’t think that way. I thought all that was a bunch of nonsense and I was ready to give up, but finally somebody responded. They let me come in 2 nights a week. I got my foot in the door.”

3.) What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

“It’s big, especially in my life. There’s a song by Rush, “Tom Sawyer,” it has a genius line: ‘He knows his changes aren’t permanent, but change is’. That’s always been a philosophy of mine even though it’s been very personally difficult to accept change. Change is expected in radio. People come, people go. I’m more patient now, more easy to adapt to a certain situation.”

4.) What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

“…I have a 7-year old boy and, to me, the most important thing to instill in him, as far as I’m concerned, is self confidence, a true belief in him that ‘yes, I can do anything, whatever it is I want to do, I can do it and nothing can stop me’. Really truly believe it, if you wanna be something. There’s a line from “Head Full of Doubt” by The Avett Brothers: ‘Decide what to be, and go be it’. Go bang on doors, whatever it takes to be it and go do it. Don’t let anyone cause you to doubt yourself whatever it is. I wish I had more of that. I listened to too many people growing up.”

These interviews and analyses were conducted by student Joe Whitenton for the Arts Entrepreneurship program at Meadows School of the Arts, SMU. They were created for the class Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure and are part of a blog series called Heroes Among Us.

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