Seniors Launch Business with Help of ICC Business Accelerator on Campus

Spectrum photo

Imagine having a successful business when you’re in your early 20s and not yet out of college.

Thanks in part to the helping hand of the Eastern Kentucky University-based business accelerator, that dream has become reality for a trio of EKU seniors plus a recent graduate of another institution.

Spectrum Entertainment Inc. (spectrumky.com) pools the diverse talents of its founders to provide a variety of services to recording artists and musical venues. Already, the firm has seven exclusive clients while providing specialized services to several others, and expects to grow exponentially in the months to come.

Dustin Spicer, senior music industry major from Glencoe, serves as head of operations. Daniel Hicks, senior music marketing major from Monticello, manages artist-venue relations; Andrew Hooper, senior music industry major from Danville, contributes his unique luthier skills; and Andrew Barr, Warsaw, a recent recording arts graduate at Full Sail University in Florida, serves as sound engineer. Spicer, Hicks and Hooper are all classically trained musicians from the EKU music program. Barr has additional business experience as a Wendy’s manager in northern Kentucky.

“Our plan, one year from today, is to dominate the Kentucky scene,” Spicer said. “It’s not an unrealistic goal.”

Though Spectrum was only recently incorporated, the roots of the business go back a few years, when Spicer and Hicks first teamed as college freshmen to work with William King, an aspiring singer-songwriter from Pikeville. Today, their clients include three acts well known to area audiences: Out of the Ashes, Steve Zunker and the Vaticans and Chieftain Wilson. Their clients have spanned the musical map: country, hard rock, metal, rap, classical and jazz. They even assist with instrument repairs for the EKU and University of Kentucky symphony orchestras.

“We get our clients gigs, help get their music in TV and films, review contracts, assist with web development, and offer several other services, including video and photography,” Spicer noted.

Spectrum requires a live audition before it will sign on with a client. “We’re focused on live performance,” Hicks said, “because that’s where the industry is headed.”

It was the quartet’s combination of experience, education and ambition that made Spectrum a “strong fit” for EKU’s business accelerator, housed in the university’s Business & Technology Center, where Spicer, Hicks and Hooper have taken business classes. “They showed up with a strong sense of where they were going,” said Kristel Smith, executive director of the Innovation and Commercialization Center (ICC) at EKU, part of the Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship and Technology. “This is a company that has great potential.”

Michael Rodriguez, director of the Small Business Development Center at EKU, helped Spectrum restructure itself and with its incorporation. “He also helped us work out our finances, so we could make accurate projections,” Hooper noted.

Smith is helping the firm develop strategy and utilize technology to expand its reach internationally.

All the young entrepreneurs agreed that they’ve learned valuable lessons along the way – lessons they’re eager to pass along to younger students who might want to follow in their footsteps.

“Network all the time,” Hooper said.

“It’s not just what you know, but who you know,” chimed Barr.

“Never underestimate yourself,” Hicks added. “The four of us had no idea a few years ago that we would be here right now.”

“Just do it,” Spicer concluded. “If it’s something you really want to do, you can do it.”

And, by all means, take advantage of a make-or-break resource just steps away on the Richmond campus, maybe just down the hall.

“Once we found the accelerator, the business took off from there,” Spicer said.

Spectrum is just one of three student-run businesses among seven clients now served by the accelerator.

“We like to see students graduating with a profit,” Smith said with a smile.

The EKU Business & Technology Accelerator, which includes the SBDC and ICC, focuses the energy, skills and intellectual capital of the university on enterprise creation and expansion. In order to facilitate business start-up and growth, it provides shared resources, affordable office space, and access to faculty, staff and management assistance.

For more information about the accelerator, visit bizaccelerator.eku.edu.

Published on September 05, 2012