in the beginning it was only
"Today all you need is an idea and a computer and you can start a business..."
An entrepreneur's life is a lonely one. Trust me. I know.
You have an idea, you believe in it, you think it has legs ... A start-up? Business? Scalable? Your vision tunnels, your focus narrows, the obsession begins. The idea becomes you. Your paradigm shifts, your brain synapses, your pulse races. The possibilities seem endless. You can't harness the day-dreaming. You own the idea, you talk too much about it, you bore your friends, your family can't escape you. You work too much, just one more email--one more pitch letter--one more call. You're fixated, frantic, fanatical. Nothing else matters but this race. With what, you don't really know or care, but the adrenaline drives you. You believe in this. You must do this.
This idea is your baby. You fiercely protect it. But you must introduce it to the world so it can grow. Let the games begin.
This describes my life since August, 2007. A self-proclaimed music freak, my idea of fun was to make playlists of the newest music. My friends always asked to borrow. I thought other grown ups might like this service as well, so I launched the Valslist music site to make my playlists available to the public. I've always been entrepreneurial - my whole family is. When I was growing up, our dinner table conversation was always about what you'd invent or what product you'd improve. In college I had a massive haircut biz (Miami Univ Oxford OH) - $3 a haircut, a dollar cheaper than uptown. I cut everyone on campus' hair, and I knew all the campus gossip as a result. I had a silk tie business (sewed & sold) during my corporate years. I started Video Tours in '81 (I videoed real estate - virtual tours - for realtors). So it's in my blood, this serious obsession with new ideas. No one was really surprised when I launched Valslist (except that I was 50 and it was the music industry.) Pretty ballsy I know. But whenever I enter a green room to interview a young band, I always open with, "I know I look like your mom in here interviewing you... but I'm getting your music to an adult audience who will never find your music on their own." Their response is always the same. A very postive one.
Mine was a solo act for the first two years. And I mean solo. Desk, computer, lamp, home office, me. When you work 16 hour days by yourself on something you're passionate about, you become a bit strange. You get off track. Traditional schedules don't matter, 6pm doesn't mean dinnertime in your wonderland. Getting up from your chair to let the dog out breaks your train of creative thought. Getting groceries: not on your priority list. My act was especially solo because my kids were away at college and my husband travels a lot. I love what I do - it isn't work! This perspective makes you lose perspective. I canceled morning workouts, declined offers for lunch, ran errands later. I shifted all my fun to after five. You know you're a workaholic when you hope for a rainy day or an open Friday night.
But when things start to hit (in a good way like Oprah, NYT and a TV spot) then all the crazy work is justified. You say,"See! This is working!" and those around you say uh-oh.
At the two year mark a golden egg fell in my lap. A helper named Joy. Ten years my junior and originally from my hometown, she'd heard about my music biz and reached out to me. She had her own music/design blog, and I had an idea... I brought her on board as a sounding board, a creative collaborator and project partner. She brought a skill-set that I'm not good at: technical and digital design. And she was a social (media) animal - she worked tirelessly trying to train me on @ #hashtags, likes, and retweets. Her age was important to me - a younger point of view. Her talent was valued, but even moreso, she was my biggest cheerleader. Every entrepreneur needs some rah rah siss boom bah when the going gets exhausting. It wasn't until Joy that I realized how solo I was running. I wanted more like her...
My team started to grow and today I'd like to introduce them to you. They're the engine behind my obsession - the only reason I'm not in the crazy house (read an issue of Entrepreneur magazine - this is common). My team has taught me to let go, delegate, share ideas and dream together. Liberating? You have no idea. Because of them the work gets done and I get to finish what I started - with time left over for play.
World, meet my team:
they are brilliant, clever, hilarious, genius, savvy, witty & worldly
Works on special projects for Valslist. Her day job is Associate Creative Director at an ad agency in Columbus OH. With 25+ years of design experience with expertise in automotive, healthcare, higher education and retail, you know I know how lucky I am to have her on board. Mom of an 11 yr old boy who spends most of her time at hockey rinks and baseball fields, she is music obsessed, design obsessed, tech savvy, and uber creative. While I grew up on 70s music, Joy grew up on 80s music - an important bridge for Valslist. Joy is the best Lolla partner ever, loves boots (and vodka.) Our new website design - which will be unveiled soon - is all Joy. Check out her design/music blog. #Form&Function
Marketing / Social Media Director, Valslist. Ellie knew about Valslist before she knew me. I brought her on board 5 years ago. A successful entrepreneur herself (she launched a baby accessories company called "Suddenly Mommies" - and sold it years ago). Ellie understands the work and life demands of an entrepreneur (read: she gets me). An Indiana girl (she describes it as small town like John Cougar Mellencamp sings about) and her background is marketing/advertising - she's now a Chicagoan - wife of 28 yrs and mom of 2 grown daughters. Ellie is obsessed with numbers and analytics, and she's my daily go-to for business strategy and decision-making big or small. Hilarious and witty, her laid back personality helps me cut through the mountain of incoming and prioritize to get things done. #Takin'CareOfBusiness
Val's Personal Assistant. One of the most intelligent women I know (and bravest -- this is a picture of her at Burning Man last year (she doesn't always dress like this) - her son invited her to come with him (that says it all right there, doesn't it?) A huge news junkie, Bonnie is up at 5am sending industry articles to my inbox. Her 3 adult kids live in CA and she visits them every single month. She approached me a few years ago at a block party - wondering if I needed help. She said, "I'm uber organized almost to a fault." I said, "When can you start?" Bonnie helps with every facet of the business, from our house concerts to marketing, to big picture strategies. She reminds us often about the 60s' music scene (simpler then) and we appreciate that. #BonnieFromThe'Hood.
Head of Mobile Development. My second son Peter moonlights for Valslist on top of his full time job at Morningstar. Peter spearheaded our recent mobile app project (ValslistRadio) from inception to launch. Pete's basically the reason Valslist is in existence. Back in '07 when I knew I wanted to create a music website, the one challenge was licensing. How would I sell other peoples' music without rights from artists and record labels? Pete called one day from college and told me he'd researched this for me and suggested I become an iTunes affiliate -- link my website to iTunes -- sell their music under their licensing umbrella. 7 years later he said it was time for a mobile app. He did the research and recommended a platform. Together we designed and built our playlist app (it's free - download on the iTunes App Store). The visual was often drama-filled: a 25 yr old and 55 yr old building an app together that needs to be user-friendly for adults but cutting edge for millennials. It's a wonder we didn't kill each other. #WeAreFamily
Graphic Designer for Valslist Brand. Her day job includes big clients like The Waldorf Astoria NY, The American Craft Exposion, Chicago Botanic Garden, but she gives to my small start-up and I know how lucky I am. Elizabeth makes Valslist beautiful -- our logos, thumbnails, icons, biz cards, mktg mats, are all Elizabeth. The most fun is sitting with her at her computer and explaining a design I want and watching her whip it up... Zip zip zip - voila! Done. I'm the one with 96 ideas, want to see every option... Elizabeth can narrow it down to 2 options within 4 minutes, it's a design miracle. Married to a product designer/innovator and mom to 3 daughters (the oldest Monroe is a film whiz who produced our Lolla video). For Elizabeth, even her obsessions are beautiful: white orchids, chocolate and good coffee. #Isn'tSheLovely
Software Developer / Valslist Web Master. Aaron has been with me from day one. And I need to thank not only Aaron for all he's done for Valslist, but also his fabulous wife Mindy and baby Seb. I am very aware that for every minute Aaron spends on Valslist, he's not spending with them. I'm a wife, a mom, and I value this over anything else. Aaron built my website in '07 and has maintained it since. He responds to me immediately whether I have a new idea, a change request, an update, or am having a freak out (chapter 2 in the Entrepreneur book). He's been there for every up (traffic surges to the site when the Oprah article hit and the Katie Show aired) and for every down (glitches with iTunes updates and music won't download). When he's not in front of a computer screen, he's cheering on the Missouri Tigers, or fixing up old furniture. #Can'tLiveWithoutYou
Multi-Media Specialist. Photographer. Videographer. Valslist Instagramer. Audio editor. Music Freak. Sassypants. I met her mom a few years ago and she told me about her daughter who was studying abroad in Australia and was due back mid-summer when all internships and jobs would be filled. She told me Caroline extended her Aussie stay to travel alone. I was sold. This girl is remarkable. In her first week she offered to cover a concert for me since I was out of town. No ticket? "No problem, I'll get in" she said. Don't know how she does it but she always does. She understands my goal (getting music to grown-ups) and eventhough she tells me that millennials love Valslist too, her mission is to help my mission. Her eye behind the lens is unbelievable. She whips up creative videos in a night (see our Andrew Belle house concert video and Pat McKillen's Dylan cover) and she says yes to anything, grunt work or not. She landed a dream job at Music Dealers, but stays very much involved with Valslist. Check out more of her work. #SweetCaroline
Music Journalism Major, U Kansas. Started working at Valslist 3 yrs ago through a special high school opportunity called "Senior Project". New Trier H.S. (one of the largest best high schools in the country) called me personally and recommended Lyndsey for an internship at Valslist. Lyndsey writes the music column for her college newspaper and loves discovering new and upcoming talent so when we get going no one can get a word in edgewise. When I wrote the music match column for the Times she took huge interest in the process, reading my original submissions and noting my editor's edits. Lyndsey also helps on the tech side of Valslist - she inputs all new content on our home page each week. Her humble and unassuming personality wins everyone over - she's rocking 2 plumb internships this summer - one for Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune, and WXRT Chicago's gem Triple A radio station. And she still finds time for Valslist. She's a great listener - but when she speaks - she nails it. #ShiningStar
Tech Side, Content Side, Music Side - Valslist VIP. Everyone wants to work with Andria. She's fun, open-minded, quick-as-a-whip smart and delivers fast. She works mainly on the app side of our biz - she inputs every single track into the playlists. She too came to me from New Trier H.S. for her Senior Project. She worked full time for me during the month of April. A full-timer to a start-up is like honey to a bee. And working with Andria is effortless. Her parents raised her well (on Beatles' music exclusively til' age 10). Second to music she loves the outdoors. She spent last semester in Patagonia, Chile through the NOLS program - where computer and cell phone were replaced by mountaineering & sea kayaking. I could listen to her stories about wilderness living for hours. She basically said she was cold and wet for 3 months. I'm in awe. She's majoring in International Disaster Psychology. Of course she is. The job she really wants? To help clean up my email in-box. #Survivor
Head of Valslist Music Club. Ten years my junior, even Michelle understands the plight of trying to get out to live music when you're a busy mom, dad, career person, adult with obligations, schedules, commitments -- and most importantly -- when you have no one to go to live music with! (ie: it's not just a boomer problem). We launched Valslist Music Club (a community where grown-ups who love music can keep up with new artists, get concert info, and meet up with others at the show.) Michelle wrote to me from a local magazine article she'd read about Music Club. I put her in charge right away. Growing up in L.A. she's been going to live music since she was little (first concert = Shaun Cassidy #She'sYoungerThanMe) - then worked at Leo Burnett & Kraft on the marketing side. Mom of 3 teen/pre-teens, she makes time to meet with me weekly and scour the Chicago concert scene (a give back to my town) and recommend artists (nationwide) who are on tour. The artists want us at their shows - it's the least we can do! Interested in joining Music Club? Sign up here for FREE. #She'sNotABoomer
Print & Visual Journalism Major at University of Miami (FL). Emily jumped on board and dove right in headfirst handling a variety of Valslist tasks we've had on the TO DO list: tattoos for Lollapalooza, transcribing artist interviews, pinning on Pinterest, and other serious work :) #Somebody'sGottaDoIt. She's proud to say she's attended a concert every single month for the past 4 years, regardless of genre. Her faves? The Stones, Phantogram, RHCP. She too is a quiet listener - you can see her analyzing info in her head - then delivers a perfect solution with a simple strategy. Interns who can write - the journalism majors - are a huge help to me when it comes to artist bios, press releases, interpreting industry articles. There's lots of work ahead, Emily. #SoGladYou'reMine
Started with Valslist a few years ago as a college intern and took on the daunting task of organizing our mountain of contact information. We get hundreds of press releases a day and it's got to be catalogued in an efficient manner. Christy's a can-do person with no excuses, so the jobs get done sans whining. She landed a real job at an experiential marketing agency working with Verizon and the NFL. But she still meets up with us at live shows... She has lots of goofy hobbies: ukelele, growing avocado plants in downtown apt windowsill. And yep, that's Miley in the photo. #MissYouBabe
Social Media Music Maven. One of the most music connected girls I know - who eats, breathes and lives music world. She literally hangs with the bands, has tons of musician friends, knows their lifestyle and challenge in a music industry with too much music. She too, left for a real job at Convometrics, a social media marketing company - but keeps her hand in our biz, sharing advice and know how on everything networking-related. Maddie's largest contribution were the hours and hours we spent on designing the mobile app, categorizing playlists, naming them (so they wouldn't sound too old or too young), and sharing new artists with each other. #ThanksForTheMemories
Australia-bound new intern this summer who (weep) could only stay for a few weeks. But we will have her back when she comes back from down under. A smartypants, she just finished her sophomore year at Northwestern University... She came in strong - the kind of intern you love - checked in every day, "What do you need? How can I help? I'm free today." I love her step-right-up-come-and-get-it approach. She's helped strategize our ever growing contact list - a wild animal that needs taming. She loves music, Game of Thrones, running, and spends her entire year planning around Lollapalooza music fest. Whatever will she do this August when it's here and she's not? #SheGoesToTheLandDownUnder
Valslist: Project Contributor. Her real life: Political blogger. Campaign worker. Non-profit arenas. Horse rider. Dog lover. Coolest girl ever. Always shows up looking chic with hair pulled back in a bun, cool glasses and red lipstick. Haley is a valuable team player who brings various points of view to the table. Also now at a real job, we get her when she'll have us. Haley jumps in wherever work needs to be done, which is everywhere, all the time. A brilliant thinker, wise beyond her years, she joins us at live shows in the city, especially the intimate shows at JBTV where we saw the fabulous Glass Animals last Thursday. Keep it coming, Haley. #YouKeepUsHangingOn