SBTRKT, Roni Size, London Elektricity, John Digweed, Gorillaz, Mobb Deep, Ghostface Killah… If you love your electronic and hip hop beats like we do, we reckon you might just be a tad jealous of this month’s feature #nzentrepreneur Mitch Lowe, who has made a business out of having fun, running events and gigs with artists like the ones just listed and managing and promoting a whole lot more.
Now aged just 26, and with offices in Sydney and Auckland, Mitch’s Audiology Touring has put on over 500 events since he accidentally fell into this notoriously brutal business as a teenager in 2008. And judging from some of the awesome entrepreneur insights Mitch shared with us, we have a feeling he’s just warming up.
NZE: Mitch can you tell our readers a bit about Audiology Touring and your other businesses? What do you do?
Essentially, all of my companies (Audiology Touring, Talk Later, Tenfold Agency, Forgotten Island Events and Bay Dreams) aim to provide entertainment across NZ and Australia in the form of concerts, festivals and weekly club events. We also work closely with managing and developing artists in the industry.
NZE: How and when did you get started in the industry?
Ironically, I had no intention of running events originally. I always knew I would take a creative path, though, and set out to study graphic design straight from school. Upon gaining a diploma I learned that the industry roles offered for fresh graduates were not as “creative” as they were made out to be, so I launched a clothing line. With very little money at the time, it only made sense to throw a “launch party” to get the brand name out in public. It seemed like a cost effective marketing strategy. The launch party had over 600 attendees and made a profit, it was at that moment I realised I could turn this into a full time business, with clothing soon becoming my secondary focus.
NZE: You were very young and had no prior business experience – what made you think you could be successful in an industry where so many others have failed?
Persistence beats failure, every time. I truly believe that anything is possible with the right attitude and the right work ethic. I was confident in my personality and my relationships with people even at a young age. Ultimately I was an eager 18 year old ready to risk it all, and sometimes that’s all it takes, that initial leap with a “what’s the worst that can happen?” approach.
NZE: Many people put off starting a business because they don’t have any money. Does it really take money to make money?
You do not need (a lot) of money to make money. I truly believe this is a false perception. To use myself as an example, I was earning $10 an hour at a store, barely able to fill my car up with petrol, but I knew that if I started small and built up I would eventually get there. For me it was key to do it on my own, for others there’s an opportunity to call on investors. I started with shows that cost $300 to put on, and built up to running shows that now cost $300,000 to put on. As long as you are making a small profit and reinvesting into yourself and your company you can only move forward. That’s not to say there won’t be truly difficult financial times. I clearly remember the odd show emptying my bank account and I was having to pay off contractors, but that’s exactly it, if I had bailed then, I wouldn’t be here now. Pay your debt, regroup, and relaunch, and above all keep healthy relationships which will allow you to push forward.
NZE: A lot of people believe building businesses is too risky for the average person… Do you agree?
We are all wired differently; some of us thrive on the risk, and some of us play it safe. There’s no right or wrong way, just differently personality types that should play to their strength. Personally, I could lose every cent I have ever made tomorrow and it would barely phase me, as long as I maintain the relationships I have built along the way it means I can get back up on my feet relatively quickly. My security is not in my bank balance, it is in my staff, friends, family and business model. Events and promotion is undoubtedly one of the riskiest industries in the world, so it’s imperative I have this perception. There are so many variables and to make a loss on a project that you work hard on is common. For me it’s about understanding the bigger picture, knowing that losses lead to wins and just trying to find that balance whilst steering the ship in the right direction.
NZE: Learning from our mistakes is essential if we are to grow as entrepreneurs. What’s one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made as an entrepreneur and what lessons did you take away from it?
I have made more ‘mistakes’ than I have had hot dinners (haha)… Again, this is a matter of perception as I only ever see these as learning curves. I justify it to myself, treating it as my “university degree” that I never paid for. The biggest mistake I have ever made was taking on an artist/show that I wasn’t passionate about, purely due to believing it would turn a profit. It lost so much that it took six months to come back from. Never do something just to make money! You must have your heart in it as well. I have found time and time again that the shows I am passionate about are most successful.
NZE: What comes first – confidence or success?
For me, confidence came first, although I see the ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario here. I have always been confident because I believe so heavily in my values as a person, more so than I do my ability to run a company. As small amounts of success start to come, you definitely deal with things differently I find. Rather than begging for something to be done, you can simply request it, because you know what you stand for and you understand the value of your company.
NZE: Starting and building a business is the one of the most stressful things most people are ever faced with – what do you do to cope with stress?
I’ve never been much of a stress-head, but I travel. Lots. For me success is based on how much of the world I can see, I’ve been around the world 10 or so times now, and whilst it’s for personal enjoyment I always make a point of meeting with potential clients, catching up with artists, and checking out festivals to get inspired and take away ideas. Due to travelling I now have the opportunity to take my companies global, which I intend on doing by next year.
NZE: Do you believe anyone can be a successful entrepreneur?
I believe that anyone with the right attitude, that understands the level of risk, can be a successful entrepreneur. If you’re prepared to make your work your life, then you can achieve anything. There is no such thing as a “9-5” in your own business. Case in point: Right now I am in a taxi on the way to the airport.
NZE: What are the three most important personal qualities you would advise up and coming entrepreneurs to develop?
- Positive perception: As I touched on before, it is easy to view mistakes as failures, but they are learning curves. Make every single problem an opportunity. It really is your choice as to which one it’ll be. I choose not to believe in problems.
- Be nice: It may seem simple, but too many people forget this in business. Your goal is to build healthy relationships that are fruitful, you don’t have the headspace or time to work with idiots.
- Lead by example: Make sure you represent your brand and its values, and your staff will do the same. After all, it’s something you created and you know better than anyone how it should be portrayed to the public.