Our talk with Ryan Gruwell brings us to discuss how to turn your passions into entrepreneurism. The full transcript for Talk Experiential episode #28 From Radio to Relationships is followed below.
#28 From Radio to Relationships
Ryan Gruwell on episode #28 of Talk Experiential.
JOEY: All right, and welcome back to another Talk Experiential podcast. Pretty excited to have a good buddy of mine, Ryan Gruwell, on this new podcast up here in Grand Junction. We are the Initiate Conference, here at Two Rivers or Double Tree or something.
RYAN: Double Tree.
JOEY: Double Tree.
RYAN: It’s all right. You haven’t been here in a while.
JOEY: No, I haven’t.
RYAN: So, we’re going to let that slide.
JOEY: It’s been like six years. So, Ryan, tell me about yourself.
RYAN: Yeah, so I obviously went to school with this guy over here at when it was Mesa State, now Colorado Mesa University, finished up in 2004. Right out of college, I got into radio and worked full-time in radio for about 12 years. And then early on — And I did a number of things at the station. I did anything from commercial production to sports broadcasting. I worked in various formats: top 40 country and 80s based station, music programing, so gained a lot of experience from that aspect. And then really, right off the bat, right out of college, a year or two in, is when my entrepreneurship spirit was born and I kind of got to thinking, “Man, maybe I can do something with my love for music.”
And the way it was kind of — At that time, working at the radio station hosting a show, I would get calls from listeners. They would call in and ask me, “Hey, do you — I’m getting married here in a couple months. Do you DJ weddings or does somebody there do it?” and I was like, “Well nobody offers that here,” and that kind of sparked the idea to maybe do something, myself. And so that’s when my DJ entertainment business was born, 2005, and started off really small, as you know, when you start a business it’s extremely grassroots, just kind of getting the ball rolling.
And as the years went on for a good yeah, about 12 years, I was full time at the station and then also had my side business, as well, DJing events, parties, weddings. So, I was kind of doing both there for the longest time. And then, finally, as time went on, I began to grow and add more sets of equipment to the mix to where I could do multiple events in a day, added a photobooth to the mix, and then finally it got to the point where it’s like, “I can’t do both. I can’t do the radio station and do this. If I were to pick between the two, my passion is entrepreneurship.”
And so I basically quit my day job, so to speak. That was about two and a half years ago or so. I still have minimal involvement, but for the most part, I’m solely doing this. And so, this last couple of years, it’s allowed me to really grow even more, to the point where my lighting has taken on a whole new animal, as far as event lighting, like I said, photobooths, I contract out live musicians — It’s really kind of taking it to another level, since I’ve had more time to focus on that. And then one quick thing too, taking you back to my roots at KMSA radio, you and I.
JOEY: Yeah. We were doing this.
RYAN: Joey was a sideline reporter.
RYAN: Doing sports broadcasting, among other things. I think I even interviewed you one time.
JOEY: Well, we made a lot of commercials too. I wish — I still had that in my car for a little bit. It was pretty hilarious.
RYAN: Well, I interviewed you because you were the standout of intermural flag football.
JOEY: Yeah, I was.
JOEY: And we did okay.
RYAN: Back to back. I think back to back. Season champs.
JOEY: We were, yep.
RYAN: But, I am currently the advisor of KMSA at the college.
RYAN: And so, I get to kind of still have my foot in the door there. It’s really a good mix between taking my love for radio, which I had for a long time, and then my business mindset to kind of combine the two and then help some new students as they venture off to the next level.
JOEY: Very cool.
RYAN: I think I kind of rambled there too long.
JOEY: Yeah, but it’s okay. Well, a few things. I remember, I believe, your first gig was at my graduation party here in Two Rivers — Double Tree. I keep calling it Two Rivers.
RYAN: That is very true. Very true. It’s just so funny to think about where it was. I mean that was 15 years ago, maybe.
RYAN: Ish. But, you know, a little iPod. Back when iPods were, you know — I’m sure that for the younger listeners, they’re like, “What’s an iPod?”
JOEY: Right. So, with your DJ business, you do it all over western Colorado all the way down to Telluride. Let’s kind of talk, dive through that. What do you see differently at events? We’ll start with that. What do you see different with events and what’s changing what you see?
RYAN: Yeah, as far as trends?
JOEY: Trends and just how are you beating the competition to be part of these events?
RYAN: Yeah, I mean there are really a number of things. I think what drives me the most and I think what should drive all entrepreneurs is just having a passion, a love for what you do, because if you’re not doing what you like then you’re not going to be good at it. You may kind of get through it but at the end of the day, I think what really drives me is just my passion for it. I really do. There’s some huge satisfaction I get at the end of the day when a client is like, “Man you just,” — Weddings is mainly what I do but when they’re like — a bride comes up and she’s like, “This was perfect.” It’s the biggest day of their lives, for a lot of them, and for her to come up to me at the end — and that is what kind of keeps me going. That’s what gives me — I want to provide this amazing experience.
So I think, for me, what separates me from the competition, I would say, really trying to explain my passion to potential clients and why I do what I do, and just being, like you talked about today as keynote, just being real with people, authentic, not trying to hit them with the sales pitch, right of the bat. Ask them questions about themselves. You develop these relationships with people instead of just, “Okay, here’s what I do, here’s what I offer, sign the bottom line.”
JOEY: Well, and for what you do, in the event world — I don’t know how you do it but you deal with very, very high stress. I feel like they’re more high stress than anything because these are people’s memories of something that they’ve always dreamt of like, “This is how it’s going to be.” How do you handle if something goes wrong in those situations?”
RYAN: Yeah. Yeah, so for me, it wasn’t always like this. Starting out, you don’t have a lot of money and so you kind of — you don’t always have backups for things and so I’ve definitely learned over the years to where I’m at now. I think to deal with stress, it’s preparation, understanding if something does go wrong, here’s how to fix it right away. And I think almost for everything I do from whether it’s microphones to sound setup to lighting, because technology is never 100%. Stuff can happen, but being able to, on the dime, just, “Okay, if something goes wrong, no problem. I have a quick out to fix it.” That eases so much stress, to me it’s worth the extra investment to have those backups.
And also training my people, as well. I have a staff of DJs so they know, “Okay.” I’m actually going through some training with two people right now and we’re going to have a day of troubleshooting. Kind of pretending like we’re at the event and I’m going to unplug things and try things to throw them off. “Okay, what are you going to do in this situation?” and rehearse that now so that when it does actually — when the event takes place, they know how to fix it right away and they’re not Googling on their phone, “How do I,” — No, we’ve got a solution, right away.
JOEY: Right and you’ve got to get people that know that up front, that can fix it fast. Last night we talked about some really cool new technologies that can bring into an experience. I think the cool thing of how you’ve evolved is you’re not just sound anymore. You evolved a ton more than that. Why don’t you kind of touch on that?
RYAN: Yeah so, started as DJ entertainment and then over the years it’s grown into, yeah, photobooth I mentioned, lighting — When I say lighting, I mean I can take a whole room, transform it with color, Gobo Projectors, pin spotlights, I can shoot miniature spotlights down to highlight things, continuing to learn and grow in that area, I’m taking some conferences, color theory, all those things with the lighting part of it, and then contracting live musicians. That’s something I’ve added to the mix. I feel like I’m forgetting something.
JOEY: It’s almost like you’re creating this full experience package that you’re providing that’s entertainment based.
RYAN: Right. Right. So, it’s allowed me to really — not to where I want to be all things to all people but being able to surround myself around people that can help me grow to where I can really kind of hit a wider scale.
JOEY: Cool. So, going back to the entrepreneur side and the business side, how are you finding your clients?
RYAN: Yeah, you know, a lot of it is — Especially in a smaller town like Grand Junction, a lot of it is word of mouth. A lot of times I’ve DJed for somebody’s wedding years ago and their sister gets married or their friend and so that’s why, in a small town — And really the same could be said for a big city as well because in this day and age you have Yelp reviews and there’s big platform out there for that. So, developing just a good reputation has been a huge part of it and I would say, definitely, I’ve done some things online, some online advertising, social media, trying to stay up with that.
JOEY: Where do you think most of it comes in? Is it word of mouth or is it a lot of incoming —
RYAN: I would say word of mouth and just developing relationships with vendors.
RYAN: Vendors is huge and just really, I think the biggest thing is building that trust with people. I try to operate my business with integrity and I think there’s something to be said for that. Just building that trust with people which can go a long way.
JOEY: Well, throughout your career, it’s been fun watching you because I could be — My parents have a place Ouray, Colorado and we drive down there and guess who I hear on 93.1? KMSA or not KMSA — The Magic.
RYAN: Yeah. Yeah.
JOEY: And your voice pops up. I’m sure that helped a lot to be able to just be that voice but also can hire you outside of an event like that.
RYAN: Yeah my time in radio — And I’m still involved. I mentioned KMSA, the college station, and then also I fill in from time to time still at MBC Broadcasting doing some various things. But, yeah, my time in radio has definitely helped me tremendously in just being comfortable on a microphone, understanding music — When I put together playlists for events, my time in radio helped me a ton in just understanding you have different components of songs: the texture of it, the lyrics: is it a sad song? Is it an up song? Is it a ballad? Is it not? And how songs flow from one to the next. And my time in radio programing a station really kind of segued into what I’m doing for these events and, again, training my staff and getting them up to speed with that as well.
JOEY: Yeah, very cool. So, with — and again, we talked yesterday about being able to use technology to scale your type of business. What are the ways that you’re using and one you’re currently using and even just finding the songs and working with a client?
RYAN: Yeah so, I’m a big tech guy and we talk about that and technology can be huge. For me, it’s efficiency, being able to — We mention things like Calendly.com a scheduler, where it used to be the back and forth when I’m trying to get together with a client to meet. “Are you available Tuesday at 3?” and you’re going back and forth through email. “Now, I can’t do Tuesday, what about Thursday? What about,” — and it takes like two days to figure out a time to meet and then you’ve got to cancel, you know? And it’s the headspace. Calendly, I shoot them a link, and it accesses my Google calendar and they can add something to my calendar and then it’s done.
So, things like that to really streamline it. I’ve got a mobile app, as well, for my clients that really just makes the process — For me, and every business is different, for me I deal with millennials.
RYAN: People getting married between the average 25 to 35, you know?
RYAN: And so, millennials, from the stuff that I’m gathering, they want convenience, they want things right away, and the digital age. The want to be able to communicate through social media, through some of these tech forms. I think — I go to this conference in Vegas and don’t quote me on this exact stat but they were saying that for the first time, I think, 2018 — maybe it would have been 2017 — was the first year that mobile devices — Internet traffic was higher on mobile devices versus desktop.
JOEY: Yeah, I heard that. I’ve heard a similar thing to that.
RYAN: And so, if you aren’t — As a business owner, if you aren’t accessible on a phone or a tablet, you’re way behind.
JOEY: Yeah. Well, even for you to work with a client, too, because I feel like back in the day, you probably wrote down, “What song do we want?” You probably had a sheet, “Fill this out.” Well, now it’s, “No, let’s listen to the song, see if my significant other likes to play this song, click it and it’s already on the playlist and then it plays it for you guys.” So, it’s almost taken a lot of work off your guys’ plate.
RYAN: Yeah. Yeah, it does, which allows me to focus on other things. There are a lot of managerial tasks, I feel like, that computers have taken over like, yeah, stuff that I used to have to manually do five, seven years ago, has been — the process has been cut in half because of computers. Like, yeah, you mentioned the mobile app and allowing my clients to select music and build a playlist and collaborate on that playlist with other people. Yeah, that whole process has been cut in half.
I have things like a CRM platform, making workflows that has cleared up a ton of headspace for me, where it used to be reminding myself to email people 60 days out, 30 days out, oh invoices, now I’ve got that automated. And then some of that is semi-automated where I make small edits. So, the cool thing about that is, that’s allowed me to grow more as a business because I don’t have to spend as much time on these managerial things and I can look into the projection mapping and some of these other creative ways to grow my business and to utilize all these different resources.
JOEY: Speaking about projection mapping, I’m so fascinated about that. Tell us a little bit about what that is.
RYAN: Yeah and I can only vaguely — I’m still researching and looking into it, so I can’t speak to it too much but basically it’s taking real life as we know it and using projector and this scanner thing that will look at the dimensions of an object and that object,you can, from your computer in real time, give it color or throw photos on this particular object. You can have lasers go around it, highlighting the perimeter of it, and how I’m going to implement that, I’m still looking into.
JOEY: Well, one thing you were saying is, we’re talking about weddings, you put it on a cake and you can put a slideshow around the cake. I thought that was really interesting in how you can utilize this in different ways. I mean I want to use it just for fun at home, really.
JOEY: I want to have a full wall of this of just doing cool things.
JOEY: But it’s almost like taking Vegas because there’s these thick pillars that light up and change and it’s nothing. But, just being able to see in a different experience, I think it’s pretty fascinating that you literally can almost bring something in and make it pop out.
RYAN: Yeah, I mean just completely change the whole dynamic of something with color and lights. Yeah, so that’s kind of — I have a bunch of different ideas in mind.
RYAN: You and I, we get together, and we just go back and forth all the time.
JOEY: Brainstorm. It’s fun. Well, cool. Well, Ryan, I really appreciate you coming on this podcast. It’s been fun coming back up here.
JOEY: We’ll do it again.
RYAN: We’ll have to go — After this, we’re going to go wander over to —
JOEY: To the Mesa State.
RYAN: — the old stomping grounds.
JOEY: I call it Mesa State. It’s the wrong name.
RYAN: Just call it Mesa.
JOEY: Mesa. Colorado Mesa. Well, thanks, Ryan. Thanks for doing our podcast.
RYAN: Yeah, absolutely.
JOEY: If you like what we’re doing with Talk Experiential podcast, please make sure you five-star it and review it. Also, please share it on Facebook and Twitter or any other social media outlets. Please tell your friends who you think that will get value out of our podcast. Your support will help continue the success of Talk Experiential.