Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I would’ve started my business a lot sooner had I not been so worried about whether I was doing things the wrong way. It’s OK to make mistakes. Consider them to be learning lessons. Experience is the best teacher.
As a part of our series about entrepreneurs who transformed something they did for fun into a full-time career, I had the pleasure of interviewing..Christopher Dijon-LaRoy Parker (born September 10, 1988) known professionally as Chris Parker, is an American songwriter, rapper and producer from Chicago, Illinois. He is also the founder and CEO of the record label SelfMadeGlory
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I was born in Chicago, IL. Grew up on the South-side, in a working class neighborhood. Raised by mother and grandmother. Unfortunately my father wasn’t around much, but the family that was around did the best they could to provide for me and my little brother to keep us both happy.
What was the catalyst from transforming your hobby or something you love into a business? Can you share the story of your “ah ha” moment with us?
At first, I was just playing around with my friends. Then they were telling me that I was good at writing rhymes, so I ran with that, using my friends as my support system. But we all know that great lyrics can fail on inadequate beats, so I started producing. I started hearing music differently, paying more attention to the craft, trying to understand why I liked what I liked in someone’s work. It wasn’t just the popular songs on the radio type of thing, I listened to the artists who influenced the artists who were popular.
Not only was my work picking up listening fans, people started contacting me for beats and to produce for and with them. It was kinda funny because my schedule was getting jammed up, so people offered me money for my time and attention.
There are no shortage of good ideas out there, but people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. How did you overcome this challenge?
That is a struggle because what works in one set of circumstances could fail in the one right next to it, you know like under totally different circumstances. But I think it comes down to two different things, well maybe three. Persistence, you keep at it. If you get tired, take a breath and get back at it. In my case, it was about continually making product, writing rhymes, making beats, hitting them knobs and dials in production. Another way is to be lucky, and the best way to be lucky is to be persistent. I guess the third way is a combination of luck and persistence. Be persistent so you always have a body of work for when you get lucky.
What advice would you give someone who has a hobby or pastime that they absolutely love but is reluctant to do it for a living?
Manage your faith. Find something you can enjoy that doesn’t necessarily make money, yet. Build up your creep of faith until you are comfortable or maybe uncomfortable enough to take that leap of faith.
It’s said that the quickest way to take the fun out of doing something is to do it for a living. How do you keep from changing something you love into something you dread? How do you keep it fresh and enjoyable?
Well love isn’t always kind. I love my family and friends, but they can get on my nerves too. Sometimes you have to take a break or something but when it’s money on the line, you can’t always take a break. You just have to keep pushing and then take a break when you can, maybe get yourself a little reward or something.
What is it that you enjoy most about running your own business? What are the downsides of running your own business? Can you share what you did to overcome these drawbacks?
I would have to say that I love collaboration projects the most about being in this business. Being able to bring artists visions to life is a really fascinating experience. The downsides to running this business is when you put a lot of hard work into a project and it sounds great to everyone in the room except for the recording artist.
Can you share what was the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
The level of detail. A good musical product is more than just conducting a symphony, it is also seasoning soup, grinding rocks to make concrete, crushing coal into diamonds. The difference between okay and great, is one made of ingredients and degrees. Good musical product isn’t good every time you hear it, it is better every time you hear it. More magical, more wonderful, more intriguing, and that is what I am shooting for. Before I got in it, I had no idea about how specific you could get in the details and the impact of every choice you make.
Has there ever been a moment when you thought to yourself “I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to get a “real” job? If so how did you overcome it?
Yes and unfortunately this happened while in a relationship. She was the bread-winner in our house and although I didn’t have a problem with her making more than me, I did feel bad about not being able to contribute financially as much as I liked. I had gotten used to making money out of my studio daily. The only problem with that is the inconsistency. After a lot of arguing, I finally gave in and got a “real” job. The underlying problem was the difference in what success meant to us. To her, having a job meant success. Getting up, going to work everyday was a success. Success to me means achieving personal and professional growth. Entrepreneurship. Finding a way to get paid for what you’re passionate about. Being a CEO of something.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Absolutely ha ha I remember entering Wells Fargo bank with what I thought was a business plan. I had all these great ideas in my head about the business I wanted to start. I told the guy all about my entertainment company / record label ideas.. then he says to me “So where’s your business plan?” Due to my lack of knowledge at the time, I took it as offensive and haven’t been back into a Wells Fargo again.
Who has inspired or continues to inspire you to be a great leader? Why?
Well it’s not so much of a who, but in my case but a what. The neighborhood that I grew up in. All the stories I’ve heard about it while growing up. Stuff and people that was just getting passed over. For instance, there was this little jazz bar around the corner from my house. I heard it was once owned by a dude named Johnny Hartman. I wasn’t into jazz but I found out he was like the only singer that John Coltrane ever played with. Now it is a Subway. Then there was these liquor stores right across the street from each other, they was both owned by the same black man, named Lee Trotter. He still got his name tiled into the floor. But now everybody call it Happy’s. Its kinda famous, but that history is there. I wanted a chance to put my name out there like that.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
SelfMadeGlory is about claiming credit for what you do or have done. Too many times people underestimate what they give to the world, what they give to life. Everyone in the world might not know what you did, but there are people who do know and appreciate you for it. SelfMadeGlory is about recognizing our ability to impact the world as we know it, and highlight the things that we are proud of. Always remember, you are worthy of the recognition.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I would’ve started my business a lot sooner had I not been so worried about whether I was doing things the wrong way. It’s OK to make mistakes. Consider them to be learning lessons. Experience is the best teacher.
- Money. You don’t need to have a lot of money to start a business. However, you do need money to buy equipment, pay for the space that you’re using, advertisements etc. all while still taking care of personal matters.
- Create a business plan. You should have a business plan because it helps you focus, but also keeps your eye on the bigger picture. Without a business plan, you’re not able to show partners or investors that you have a set of core values, target audiences, marketing analysis, sales strategies and overall goals of the company.
- Plenty of sacrifices. This is probably the most challenging of the five things to do before starting your business. You may have to simplify your life for a while in order to have funding for your business. I found myself alone often. In some cases, I’ve had unsupportive family and friends. And probably worst of all things, having to get a “real” job in order to support yourself and finance your business.
- Marketing Plan. If you don’t plan to succeed, you plan to fail. Having a marketing plan is imperative to any business because it’s the strategies of how you will go about executing your plans or ideas.
What person wouldn’t want to work doing something they absolutely love. You are an incredible inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
SelfMadeGlory. Getting people to feel proud about themselves after the work they put in, or hardships they’ve been through. It’s easy to criticize or judge someone else’s story because you’re not the person living it. I believe it should be just as easy to acknowledge someone for the good things that they do. Random acts of kindness like this could potentially make the world a better place.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Businesses take advantage of what you don’t know or are too lazy to do yourself.’’ That’s just the way life works.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Ryan Leslie. He’s an entrepreneur and a musical genius. That’s the lane I consider myself going into.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.