Chris Sendejas Chats with 3 Creatives

Analysis and interviews by SMU student, Chris Sendejas

I found my interviewees to be very helpful in developing my perspective of being a creative entrepreneur. Even with their own unique stories, the creative process of entrepreneurship seems pretty standard yet versatile for all types of art ventures. What I found most exciting about the creative process is that you have full control of your idea and where you want it to go. That is, until you release your product to the market. All three of my intervieweesfailed to develop a business plan initially. While their negligence did not kill their dream, they all agreed that it would be wise to organize your ideas on paper so that you have a general idea of where you want your business to go. In my opinion this is true, especially from a financial perspective. When seeking investors for help financially, they need something to be able to judge if your idea is worth their investment.

Secondly, one entrepreneur mentioned a risk with seeking investors that I had not realized. He mentioned, “I believe equity is the most important thing. It gives you control financially and structurally.” To me, without those two things there is no point in bringing your idea to life as other people will benefit more from all of the work and creativity that you have put in. Imagine being in your own dream-come-true but having zero control of it. Therefore, it is wise to be careful with the distribution of equity.

I also found that it is almost inevitable that in a start-up, the entrepreneur will face a time where he or she wants to quit. Whether it is because of loss of profitability, having little capital, a bad order, or even personal relationships, it is the entrepreneurs reaction that will ultimately determine the character of the company. However, more important than not giving up is to be smart about the next moves you will make. My friend the The Violin Guy said for him, he “took a step back, re-organized, and then slung ten steps forward” as a result of zigging when the market zagged.

Lastly, perhaps my favorite piece of advice was from Geoff Garber, the CEO of Matrimoney Clothing. He said an entrepreneur should shift his focus from “starting a business” to “starting a solution to a problem.” For me, this approach gives your customers a perspective of your intentions. Are you in it for the quick buck, or do you have the customer’s best interest in mind. It is a very thin line to walk because while you want to bring in customers and retain them, as a business you have to maintain profitability or else you find yourself doing everyone a favor at your own expense.

I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur before, but hearing entrepreneurial stories has inspired me to be open to it. The possibilities are limitless, and if all else fails a small-scale venture can be great experience that could lead to success in the future so long as you do not accrue too much debt from the initial venture.

Interviewee: Geoff Garber, Matrimoney Clothing, Roi’al Bijoux

1) Please introduce yourself and share what your business is…

My name is Geoff Garber and my two businesses are Matrimoney Clothing LLC., and Roi’al Bijoux LLC.

2)Did you have a business plan when you started your first business?

No

3) Do you think business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship?

No, but they help

4) What three pieces of advice can you offer developing arts entrepreneurs?

Connect with as many people that can help you as possible. Work hard and never give up. Don’t start a business, start a solution to a problem.

5) Share a moment where you wanted to quit. How did you overcome that?

There are more than a dozen times I have wanted to quit. One in particular is when we placed an order for 15,000 pairs of socks from China and the foot size of the entire batch was too small. I managed to sell them as a youth size to a younger demographic of customers.

6) How much help did you need starting up? 

Not much, I started Roial with $500. It just took hard work and a lot of researching on my own. I needed to find suppliers, figure out profit margins, learn about importing, logistics, packaging, and design.

7) Did you, at any point, seek loans from investors?

I have not brought on any investors, but that is a possibility. I believe equity is the most important thing. It gives you control financially and structurally. I am always seeking advice from anyone that is more successful than me, as well as customers who give their opinions on products.

8) Did you use a business plan when you started your second business?

No, I just learned from years and years of self-experience and determination. A business plan probably would have helped, but I did not create one.

9) Why did you choose to register your company as a LLC?

It is pretty cheap and still offers protection if someone tries to sue.

Interviewee: Reid Glaze, Gris Apparel, Inc.

1) Briefly introduce yourself and describe your business and the service you provide.

My name is Reid Glaze. I am 23 years old and I am a senior in the UNT College of Business. I own and operate Grís Apparel, which I started in November of 2011. Grís is a clothing company that specializes in mens clothing and accessories. We aim to help shape & subtly evolve the world of quality made menswear through the development of simplistic yet sophisticated products.

2) Did you have a business plan when you first started your business?

No, I did not. In hindsight, I definitely wish I would have established a formal business plan. I was only 19 at the time and decided to just sort of “jump in” and see how far I was capable of taking this idea. Also, I did not have any intention on fully relying on this company and viewed it more as an experience for my professional development. I’ve learned from this mistake that business plans are necessary for any business you choose to start, especially if you plan on having investors in your company.

3) What advice would you offer to developing arts entrepreneurs?

To any future entrepreneurs, I would suggest you work with a team of dedicated individuals who share your business goals. It is extremely difficult running a business on your own, no matter how small or large the company. Secondly, do not throw in the towel when things go south. Every bad business decision I have made has provided me with insight and knowledge. Also, I would suggest that if you plan to sell merchandise, do your research on all of the tax laws and requirements of businesses in the state you do business in.

4) Have you sought investors for your business? If so, what advice would you give for those seeking investments?

To this day, I have not had any investors involved with Grís. I have enjoyed keeping the business small, but I do keep the option open for the future. When the day comes that I do seek investors, I will make sure I am fully prepared with at least a 5-10 year plan for the company.

5) Can you describe a moment you wanted to give up and how you overcame it?

Honestly, I almost gave up in the early stages of Grís. I overproduced and rushed my first big release, and in result I still have some of the first t-shirts I made. I decided to make another attempt and spent much more time designing and preparing my second release, which sold out within the first few weeks. Since then, I have narrowed my product focus and shifted toward creating more limited, unique pieces, which has been more successful with my target market.

Interviewee: Radu Cernat, Cernat Entertainment Group

Cernat Entertainment Group provides a variety of entertainment services that are not just limited to the violin, despite Mr. Radu Cernat’s unique stage name, The Violin Guy®. In addition to playing the cover songs of your choice on multiple instruments, he also provides his own personal DJ services which he can perform in 14 different languages, and his very own “Play the Light” performance. The Violin Guy brings life to the party as he performs at local restaurants, clubs, corporate events, and even offers wedding services like decor lighting, videography, and a complimentary cruise in his The Violin Guy®-wrapped Lamborghini Murcielago or Audi R8.

1.Did you develop a business plan before you started up?

No, I never know what I’m going to do. I came to the United States originally to study Violin at LSU, but brought together my other musical skills to create one unique experience

2. Do you think business plans are necessary for creative entrepreneurs?

Yes definitely, it is good to be ahead of the crowd and know where you are going, but it is also important to watch how the market reacts to what you are doing and to find out what works and what doesn’t. But when something doesn’t work, the worst thing you can do is quit if you really believe you have something.

3. What three pieces of advice can you offer to developing arts entrepreneurs?

First, definitely be unique. I know it sounds cliche but you have to separate yourself from your competition. Second, always work on improving your craft. Sometimes people get comfortable and feel like they have made it but you have to always work to maintain and sharpen your skills. Lastly, never give up on yourself.

4. Can you describe a time you wanted to give up and how you overcame it?

I was at a low point financially and emotionally, but I channelled all of the negative energy and focused on just my skills and set a goal. I set a goal that seemed impossible, but I reached it, and I finally bought a Lamborghini. My idea behind setting a goal that seemed impossible was even if I don’t reach it at least I will get myself out of the mud and can go on from there.

5. What is your best form of advertising?

I would say my cars. When you pull up to an event in a Lamborghini(especially when it’s wrapped with your branding) as opposed to any other car you get everybody’s attention. Some people like it, some people don’t. Regardless, they start talking and then the word spreads.

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