So you want to be an entrepreneur: 5 things to know

DJ/entertainer shares insight, advice


Maybe you -- or a young person in your life -- is considering a major, or a career, in business. Or perhaps (s)he wants to become an entrepreneur. In this ever-evolving economy, it’s often worth a shot. Chris Ortleib, originally from St. Clair Shores, considers himself a DJ/entertainer as well as an entrepreneur, and he was kind enough to share some advice for anyone looking to blaze a new path.

As for some background on Ortleib, he landed his current role after his job was eliminated at the Bar Management Group, or BMG. He had always kept his DJ business alive as a plan B of sorts, as he said he’d always felt drawn to it. “But it was only when my position was eliminated that I actually considered it a career,” he said.

Ortleib continued, “I began DJing in high school. I was inspired to do so after a week at band camp at Michigan State. One of the schools there had an end-of-week party that I attended, and I swore I could do it next year. My first gig was in fact that next year. Some future gigs included band dances, cheerleading dances and fundraisers in high school. When I got to college, I joined Sigma Phi Epsilon, and DJ'd a bunch in their basement, enjoying every minute.

I transferred to Grand Valley in 1999, and caught on with Premier Entertainment. I ended up DJing about 250 weddings before joining BMG and DJing at my first club gig at Tiki Bob's Cantina in downtown Grand Rapids in 2003. I moved to Columbus on a whim in 2005 after Tiki Bob's got shut down. I worked for a concept called The Lodge Bar until 2007 as a DJ and a sales manager.

Toward the end of 2007, I was promoted to director of entertainment for the BlackFinn brand, as well as a couple of other offshoots -- handling technology, hiring, firing, coaching and training of DJs, coaching and training of management; writing technical manuals, writing playlists, and basically shaping the overall sight and sound of the musical offerings of BlackFinn. I completed my MBA in July 2009, and worked for them until summer 2011.

It was in December 2011 that I decided to pursue a DJ business, and I threw myself in to it. I started out hosting Monday Night Football in a bar in downtown Columbus and trivia at a bar in the suburbs. I have since taken that to about 75 events per year and seven nights of trivia throughout the week. I am also the official DJ of the Ohio State Alumni Association (they know where I'm from and who I root for -- Michigan), and I provide game day sound, music and emceeing for Buffalo Wild Wings at Lane and High, on the campus of Ohio State.”

So, now that we’re acquainted, let’s get to the five pieces of wisdom:

1. Most people don't get past the first step. Taking the first step and actually pursuing your dreams into an entrepreneurial life is often THE most difficult. If you're passionate about your endeavors, your passion will shine through and help you overcome any obstacles in your way. Jump in with both feet!

2. Try, try, and try again. You will try. You will fail. Keep trying until you find something that works for you. My trivia concept, after three years of polish, is getting better. It's still not there. Keep improving and get better every day.

3. Utilize a good note-taking system. Once you begin to tap certain parts of your brain associated with your passion, you will find ideas you didn't know existed. Figure out a way to record them all for safe-keeping and future reference. I use Wunderlist and e-mail myself often. Set due dates for deliverables you'd like to implement, and follow through.

4. Enjoy the perks. As an entrepreneur, you will work long hours and toil away at your passion. You'll work nights, weekends, and holidays. You may be on-call at all hours of the day and night. However, you get to write your own hours and take vacations at a whim. Embrace the time management challenges, and use them to your advantage when scheduling your recreation time.

5. Have a good support system. Some days, you will wake up and wonder, "What did I get myself in to?" You will want to quit. There will be extreme highs, some hills and mountains, and some valleys. Expect and embrace them. Use the valleys to get better at whatever it is you pursue. Reach out to a friend, mentor, or other fellow entrepreneurs and have coffee. Celebrate the victories and commiserate in the bad days.

Best of luck!

About the Author: