When Evan Dunbar (General Management, International Business, German ’18) was told that starting a business is said to cost 10 times more after you graduate, he took it seriously. So, as a sophomore at the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, Dunbar set out to do what most will not risk: launching a business.
“I like to do things on my own and I hold myself accountable for my results. Starting a business would put all this to the test, and if I ended up not running a business in the long term, I would have the skills to differentiate myself from my peers,” Dunbar said.
After he decided that the “when” was now, he then needed to make a decision on the “what.” Guided by a passion for music, he and his partner now operate a recording studio in Lansing called REO Town Recording, where they keep their fingers on the pulse of the niche market. Behind the scenes is their business, Shooting Moons Media, LLC, where they can expand into artist development and branding, as well as other revenue streams big and small.
“I wanted to start a business, and music was the medium by which I expressed that desire,” said Dunbar. “I’m experienced with music and I know the industry really well in a way that many artists don’t. Those kind of insights are what help us to achieve profitability.”
Dunbar first got started by working with The Hatch, a local student business incubator. “I would say for anyone who is trying to do this, have a mentor through the process. I got grant funding to cover equipment costs. I started working with incubators. I wrote a business plan. I took my equipment, grants I had received, a ton of my own money, and the business plan to MSU Federal Credit Union and used it to get a start-up loan.”
Once securing the loan, Dunbar had to put all of the pieces together and at the beginning, his to-do list felt daunting: finding a location, handling rental agreements, and making improvements to the space. Seemingly small issues with large margins for error taught Dunbar valuable lessons, as he was handling all of the accounting, finance, tax filing, cash handling, and market direction matters. “We messed up a lot early on. We lost money from our taxes because we lost a bunch of receipts. Cash wasn’t being tracked effectively and we had issues with scheduling and communicating with clients. We were dealing with both top-level stuff and day-to-day operations at the same time, and every lesson stuck with me because I was monetarily responsible for them all.”
Dunbar has gained a versatile experience in an environment where pressure is inevitable. “I would recommend starting a business to anyone. I’m going through an internship application process. Without being too confident, everyone I’ve interviewed with has liked me because I know finance, accounting, and management in a high stakes environment: if I don’t finance properly, I’ll go bankrupt. That is the kind of incentive you don’t get anywhere else,” he said.
Over the past year, Dunbar has learned not only how to run his own business, but what he truly wants. “Right now I’m moving away from this. The long-term prospects that come with the music industry are not appealing to me. In 10 years I would still be working 80-100 hours per week,” said Dunbar. “That’s not what I want to do, and I’m pulling back because I’ve learned what I really want. Before, I was terrified of having a job and a career. I wanted to own my work. But it was deeper than that; it was my autonomy and wanting my results to matter in a way that hadn’t happened in other organizations I’ve been a part of. In my job search now I know to look for these things to find jobs that will give me the same outcomes and value congruence without requiring so much time commitment, so I can have fulfilling work and a meaningful work-life balance.”