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IN CONVERSATION WITH: JARROD GOLDSMITH’S ADVICE ON NETWORKING AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Originally published by Ioana Pitu of Minstral Spirit on June 21, 2018

Last week, I attended a youth entrepreneurship conference in Ottawa organized by the Government of Canada. I had a phenomenal time, learned a lot, and got to meet some amazing young and veteran entrepreneurs. Among the mentors we were able to learn from was Jarrod Goldsmith, an entrepreneur specializing in networking events, and saxophone musician based in Ottawa. His companies are eSAX and SAX Appeal. You can find him below at these links:

Website
eSAX website

Twitter

Facebook

YouTube

He was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule a few days ago to speak with me on the phone. He shared his experiences as an entrepreneur, as well as his advice for those just starting on how to network and brand themselves. Here is our conversation:

What did your career path look like? Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

Most people these days study something in school and find a job in a completely different field. My background is in music and my specialty is actually in archaeology because I never thought music would be a viable path. It was just a passion of mine, but I kept it up on the side. I ended up doing a master’s degree in archaeology and I enjoyed it but I thought there was more to life than sitting behind an artifact, studying a rock.
So I moved to have a day job that everyone wants and needs and so that way I could do other things on the side. I kept up the music all these years. My last government job was in May 2011. And then I said enough is enough.
I finally decided to go into music full time. I heard all my life it is hard to go into music and it as even more difficult in my case because my band is only saxophones. So it’s not a very common group, nobody is going to hire us because they’ve never heard of it before.

So I learned a lot about marketing and social media, because I had no choice! I had to make this viable. There was no option or plan B. I didn’t want to go back to a government job. I realized I had to go all in to make this a success.
When you don’t have a plan B you find ways to make this work.
I started going to networking events to find gigs. At the time there were a lot of networking events in my area. You’ll see that a lot of people are there to, well for lack of a better word, “hawk” their businesses. Throw their business cards. Get customers.
This is what they’re told to do. Give your sales pitch, work on your elevator pitch. When I was making these contacts I was trying to develop long term connections because nobody is going to hire a band – this type of band – for a 600-person dinner or wedding. But they might tell someone in a year or two from now; they’ll keep me in mind.
So what I was doing without even realizing it, I was creating these relationships with people. Not trying to sell them anything but just trying to develop this trust factor.

I got tired of the way networking was being done, and so then I started eSAX.

At the time there were a lot of chambers of commerce around the Ottawa region. But business has no boundaries in a geographic region. I’ll make a gig anywhere. Now with social media these days you don’t care where they’re from.
I started eSAX to help teach small businesses and startups and students about networking.

What does eSAX stand for?

eSAX is a bit of a long acronym. But it’s the entrepreneur’s social advantage experience. Three reasons. It’s cute. It works with the band because the band is SAX Appeal. And it’s short.
The word social and the word experience is very important. With any business out there, you’re trying to develop this experience so people want to come back. And by having the word social, it differentiates it from any other event out there.

What was your experience starting out?

Most musicians they teach on the side to make ends meet. But I became very very good at e marketing and the branding side. Any passion can be turned into a business if you know the business sense. I didn’t have a background in entrepreneurship, I didn’t know anything about startups. I just went all in. You learn really quick to sink or swim.
To me a lot of it was using social media to the point that people were thinking that SAX Appeal was performing two or three times a week but the reality was that when we were starting out we were only getting a gig every four or five months.

Right now you host networking events, do music gigs, and get called to other events. What is your typical week like? Do you have one?

Well everything changes depending on the events I get called to. I was out until ten last night for an event. And I get invited to guest speak quite often.

So a typical week is going to early morning breakfasts, scheduling meetings downtown and going to events in the evening. And I book another group, so I’m a music agent as well. I like to think I’ve developed a credibility as the guy who plays music and books bands and also hosts networking events.
I’d like to think that developing this rapport with people helps your branding in the long run. It takes a long time. You’ve heard the expression “an overnight success takes about four years”? I think the reason for that is because it takes that long to develop those relationships with people.

In dealing with people so much, you’re often expected to always be on the ball. How do you deal with being tired or not feeling at your peak ability?

As soon as I put on my hat [Jarrod’s unique personal branding has to do with the fedora he wears at all the events he attends and in the videos he creates] and attend the events, I get my energy back. Being a professional means you go on regardless of what happens. Now, I’m a professional at networking. Think of it this way: if you’re not out there networking who’s selling your business?
I’ve always thought to myself, if I want to stay in business two years from now, what do I have to do now to get there? A lot of it has to do with this passion to make something out of nothing. This is the epitome of being an entrepreneur. So I started these Ask the Fedora videos to help others. It’s not rocket science. But people aren’t taught these skills.

Where did you learn these skills?

Trial and error. A lot of the things I’ve talked about in my videos I learned the hard way. Anywhere from spilling food on myself, to not having a free hand to shake, to throwing people my business cards and giving my sales pitch. I used to do everything wrong but I learned through time and time again better ways to interact with people.

Do you read entrepreneurship books?

I don’t. I never have. I just do things because I think it’s the right thing to do. I guess I’m a bit of a dinosaur in that way. I just don’t read entrepreneur books. I know I should but I just never have.

Do you read other books?

I don’t read much. I don’t watch TV, I don’t watch movies. I’m always on; I’m always working. I mean, it’s not work for me. But it also keeps me on my toes.

What is your biggest challenge in your industry?

I mean the drive to Toronto once in a while gets a little tiring. But the biggest challenge is changing things up. Businesses get stale. Butsineesses have to change. You have to do something different every three months. I found a format that works really well for my networking events, but I change it up each time.
For example, the one in July is a pitch fest. The one in October is a fireside chat, and I’m looking to get one of the Dragons [from the popular entrepreneurship TV show called Dragon’s Den] to attend. Things are changing all the time. I encourage people – whatever you’re doing – keep tweaking.

What are some of the biggest changes that have taken place in your profession?

Well I’m not sure how much the music has changed but people understand the need to support local. Everybody likes to support local when they can.

Do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs?

Everyone needs to become known as the go-to in their field. In my case, it’s networking. Think: how else can you branch out without losing that. You know, being a specialist in everything is not going to work.
And leverage your strengths. Because I host eSAX, I’m getting calls to help other people plan events. So now I’m an event planner. Go figure. But it’s a paid gig, so as an entrepreneur, your first reaction should be yes to everything,
You know, you’ll get calls from people asking, “do you do this?” And you go, “oh yes, that’s my specialty.” Then you hang up the phone and go, “oh shit.” And you learn real fast.
In your industry and as somewhat of a “freelance entrepreneur”, you have to negotiatie your own value with your client.

What was your process for learning how to price yourself?

So that’s a tough one. I’m going to talk about the music right now. When I first started, there were no saxophone quartets. At least in Ottawa. There were very few in the world.
So I based our prices on on a string quartet. And I even priced us lower than a string quartet when we first started out, just to get our foot in the door. After a few years I realized there’s no reason to be cheaper than a string quartet because we are so unique.

We’re not the cheapest, but I can do that because there’s no competition.
So when I started eSAX, the events used to be free. I used to spend four or five hundred dollars for food and for everybody. And everybody was happy. I started getting twenty, then forty, then in October 2013 I had 280 people. So I realized I could start charging. I upped it to forty a person. Now it’s 65 at the door plus sponsorships and booths and things like that. You have to do market research and know what can the market bear. But you also have to see how you stand out and why they would pay more and come back.

How do you determine how much to put back in your business, and how much to keep for yourself?

I put everything back into my business.

Do you have last pieces of networking advice for people just starting their careers?

Well of course, subscribe to the eSAX YouTube channel. Obviously. Little plug plug.
Don’t treat networking as a sales pitch. Wait until someone really wants your business card before giving it to them. Then ask for their business card.

When you’re starting, of course you want to throw it into everybody’s face. Then it comes across as a sales pitch, but nobody likes that. Engage in conversation. Talk about everything else but business. Try to get them to relate. Ask questions.

Eventually the conversation is going to be brought back. Why are you at this event, what do you do, why are you here. And I would let the conversation take the time to get there.


And that’s a wrap!

Hope you enjoyed our conversation and that you learned a little something from it. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to see more of these interview-style posts!
And of course, special thanks to Jarrod for speaking with me and sharing his story. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, eSAX! His bite-sized networking tip videos are a fantastic resource for anyone looking to improve the quality of their interactions with others!

THINK YOU’VE GOT THE HOTTEST SAX BAND IN CANADA? THINK AGAIN. MEET JARROD GOLDSMITH.

Have you ever found yourself at a swanky event thinking, ‘This string quartet is nice, but I could really use some more saxophone’? That’s music to the ears of Ottawa’s Jarrod Goldsmith, possibly the hardest working saxman in Canada. As a lifelong player, Jarrod finally took the leap and turned his passion into a career.

image of Jarrod Goldsmith playing sax on stage

We interviewed the young entrepreneur and spoke about struggles of creating a market for your product and the joys of not only making your own dreams come true, but helping others do the same.

Tell us about yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Jarrod Goldsmith and I’ve created two full-time businesses: Sax Appeal (which is Canada’s Premier Saxophone Ensemble), and eSAX (the Entrepreneur Social Advantage Experience). I have a real passion for music, but I also get to use my organizational abilities, public relations and leadership skills. I’m also know for my signature fedora.

Tell us more about your businesses.

Sax Appeal is a rather unusual professional all-saxophone ensemble whose specialty is to provide live music to enhance the ambiance of functions that require the finest of touches. With our distinctive sound (ONLY saxophones), Sax Appeal provides a unique musical experience by playing jazz music, classical music, or anything in-between for literally any event, ranging from weddings to festivals, to cocktail receptions to Christmas festivities. There’s a short documentary explaining more.

When I started networking to literally create a market for Sax Appeal, I became one of the region’s most active entrepreneurial networkers.

This led me to create eSAX; an entrepreneur networking group for startups to develop connections, gain knowledge from featured speakers and promote collaboration among regional Chambers of Commerce. Events are held every 3 months to coincide with the provincially funded Y-Enterprise Center Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program (OSEB).

Sax Appeal at the 2013 Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival

Sax Appeal at the 2013 Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival (photo by MillsPhoto.ca)

What made you choose this path?

I’ve been playing the saxophone for close to 30 years, and I grew up listening to everyone telling me not to pursue a career in music. While earning a graduate degree in archaeology, and having tried for close to 10 years to secure a permanent federal government position in any department, I continued to hone my skills at music by playing ‘on-the-side’, never intending to pursue music as a full-time career.

I bounced from contract to contract and government department to department, but finally decided to literally ‘throw-in the trowel’ and pursue a music career in 2011 (much to the chagrin of my family). Being accepted into the Y-Enterprise Center (OSEB) made me realize that in order to make music a viable career, I needed to embrace being a startup entrepreneur and treat my passion like a business.

Why do you love what you do? What it is that drives you every day?

I never had any business training, let alone any aspirations on becoming an entrepreneur. Hard work, coupled with unwavering persistence, has led me to make my passion for the sax a viable business.

There simply was no alternative or ‘plan B’. My motivation was simple. If I didn’t get gigs, my dog will starve and I’ll need to sell the house. As these were not options, I devote every waking moment to furthering the Sax Appeal and eSAX brands.

eSAX-event-october-2013

Everyone knows that first impressions have the capacity to make or break a relationship, so it’s important to show others that you absolutely LOVE what you do. Anyone who has ever met me knows there is nothing else in life I would rather be doing. This enthusiasm for playing music and helping to encourage other entrepreneurs is so infectious that it’s easy for others to believe in me. Plus, you’ll never hear me call his businesses ‘work’!

Was it all smooth sailing or have you had to overcome adversity to get where you are?

The decision to pursue music as a full-time career is difficult for anyone. The challenge is compounded immensely since a saxophone quartet is, from the general public’s perspective, a rare and almost entirely unknown kind of ensemble.

It’s a guarantee that no one is going to wake-up one day and rip through the telephone book looking for a saxophone quartet to perform at their upcoming function… though I’m trying to change this perspective.

There are almost no full-time saxophone quartets in the world. As such, the public has little knowledge that four saxophones are capable of performing as an acoustic ensemble together. If someone is getting married, they would most likely consider a traditional string quartet, maybe a flutist or harp.

We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?

Oh you don’t know crazy till you’ve toured with a band (lol)!

Perhaps the most memorable was a gig at a private Ottawa-area golf course last year. An elderly woman seated near us momentarily passed out and her chair fell backwards onto the floor. As I was dialing 911, the other sax player leaned over and asked if she would like any requests which greatly helped to break the tension! After 10 minutes she got up and we continued playing since the show must go on.

And now for something completely different… a few months ago I was contacted by the BBC who somehow came across the following sample we recorded of a Sousa March. Turns out they were interested in featuring that clip during the closing credits of a new Monty Python reunion documentary. How wild is that?!?!? Watch out for it 

A rare Fedora-less shot!

A rare Fedora-less shot!

What do you do with your time off?

A normal day involves playing with my dog pretty much every time she trots into the room and going for regular walks in the forest. I also often bike to the store for a little exercise to get away from the computer, but I’m never far from my phone.

The only time I take time off is when I go home to Montreal for a few days. Seems all I ever does there is eat, drink, sleep, eat more and gain weight. (I’m convinced my parents think I’m lazy, but if they ever saw me in action they’d know otherwise).

This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?

As most Sax Appeal gigs are private events (weddings, cocktail receptions, etc), I quickly realized that social media (particularly YouTube) would be essential to allow people the opportunity to see what the group is all about. Even today, many people who know about the group have never had the opportunity to see a Sax Appeal performance first-hand.

Back in 2011, Sax Appeal was only getting a gig perhaps every fourth month or so. Obviously this was not enough to live-on, but as I began engaging people and promoting the ensemble via various social media outlets, the impression that some had was that the group was performing a few times a week! One of the lessons learned was that starting out, it was important to appear more successful than one actually is in order to start developing a deep-rooted trust from the public’s perspective.

eSAX event, April 2014.

eSAX event, April 2014.

Are you involved in your local community?

All business owners understand that they need to network to get work. Having attended hundreds of networking events myself, as well through the hosting of eSAX, I’ve strategically placed myself at the forefront of the entrepreneurial networking scene in Ottawa. I’m an ambassador for the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce as well as the Orleans Chamber of Commerce. I’m also extremely active in three other local Chambers of Commerce: the West Ottawa Board of Trade, the Nepean Chamber of Commerce, and Le Regroupement des Gens D’affaires de la Capitale Nationale (RGA). I am very active within Ottawa’s entrepreneur community and regularly devote my time to promote, encourage and assist other entrepreneurs.

What does the future look like for you and your businesses?

GREAT! With any niche business, of course, it takes a few years of hard work to build a brand.

As I’ve been literally been branding himself (via the signature fedora and music ties), I’m starting to get a lot of recognition. However, it’s important not to become complacent and wait for the phone to ring, so my future will continue to consist of extreme amounts of both attending and hosting networking events, using social media and playing as many gigs as I can!

Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?

First off…never underestimate the power of face-to-face networking!

Networking is not about people buying your products and services NOW, but it should be about building future relationships. Relationships take time in order to develop trust. Think to yourself that everything you are doing now is to help make your business a success in 2 years from now. People tend to ‘buy-into’ others whom they like, trust and respect. This building of trust takes time and persistence. Be patient.

If you really don’t like networking events, try to at least smile a lot, let your passion shine through, listen, ask questions and follow-up with everyone you meet.

  • Smiling lets people know that you are outwardly warm and friendly. Plus, let’s face it…who would you rather go introduce yourself to…someone who is smiling, or someone who is not?
  • Being genuinely passionate about what you do is often the very first impression people make. Always make sure to keep a positive attitude, as well as sincere enthusiasm around people (and even at home). This is very important because people see through fake. If you don’t absolutely love what you do, then it will be almost impossible for others to believe in you.
  • As people generally like talking about themselves, it’s often not hard to engage people you just met by asking them some simple questions. Doing so puts you in a stronger position to find ways you can help them, as well as bring your background and business back into the conversation.
  • Always make sure to follow-up with every single person you meet right away. Even if you think someone has absolutely nothing to do with your business, one never knows where a referral may come from. It’s also wise to keep a detailed database and track which event you meet someone at and when you followed-up with them.

Success breeds success so associate with like-minded people. It’s simply not healthy to be around people with a negative attitude who always complain about how unfair life is. If you don’t like how things are done, change it. Embrace what it means to be a startup entrepreneur by standing out and transforming the status-quo.

Think Of Networking As A Long-Term Goal

Today our #AskTheFedora video encourages you to look at networking as a long-term goal.

Starring: Jarrod Goldsmith of eSAX and Sax Appeal.

With help from Wasim from Storyline Productions and Jessica from Hewett Ripley Communications!

Transcript:

How do I find the time to balance all the networking events and follow-ups that are required? This is what I treat as a full-time business. It’s people. Because people buy into people. Take the time to respond to every single e-mail that comes your way since the other person took time to write you, it just seems like a courteous thing to do to reply. I spend a lot of my time replying to people, following-up with people, connecting on LinkedIn and entering everyone’s information in my database. I don’t know if it’s going to get me a gig this week, but it may in 6 months or a year from now, especially if you see them at regular events you’re going to continue to build this relationship with people.

What’s The Purpose of a Business Card

Today our #AskTheFedora discusses the purpose of a business card.

Transcript:

You walk out of a networking event with 30 business cards…what do you do? After many years of trial and error, I decided to put everybody I ever met on a database. On that database, I include where I met the person, what was said, when I followed-up with them. And then I connect with the person on LinkedIn. Then the business cards ends-up in a box. I rarely look at them again. The purpose of a business card is to get you to follow-up with somebody. Put them on a database so that you can easily access that person’s contact information in the future, to not only connect with them yourself, but to send referrals to other people.

Starring: Jarrod Goldsmith of eSAX and Sax Appeal.

With help from Wasim from Storyline Productions and Jessica from Hewett Ripley Communications!