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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.

Top Ottawa Entrepreneurs Collaborating to Give Back to the Community

Originally published here by the Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network  (KCSBN)
From right to left: Jarrod Goldsmith, Dylan Black, Santa, Michael Wood (December 14, 2019)

What do you expect three top Ottawa entrepreneurs will be doing on a cold Saturday in December in the midst of the holiday season? I would say anything from shopping for gifts, to pitching their services, to dining out with friends and family. However, that is not what Jarrod Goldsmith, Michael Wood and Dylan Black were doing at all. Actually, these three were at the Canadian Blood Services in Ottawa, not only donating blood but also hosting a blood drive to raise awareness and attract donors on a cold December day. Their act of kindness definitely caught our attention and we wanted to know what drove them to do it, so we joined-up with them to learn more.

By the time we got to the Blood Service Center on Carling Avenue the place was full of staff, volunteers, friends, reporters, as well as other entrepreneurs who stopped by to show their support – even Santa and Captain America were there to cheer the donors! We sat down with each of these entrepreneurs to know more about their businesses, humble beginnings, key achievements, some challenges along the way, and their desire to help the community.

We started with our friend Jarrod Goldsmith, the founder and owner of Sax Appeal (Canada’s Premier Saxophone Ensemble) and eSAX (a renowned entrepreneur networking community).

Can you tell us a bit about your business and what made you start?

I started Sax Appeal in 2011 as a unique all-saxophone band. This was an entirely new concept as most people have never heard of a group like this before. With a specialty of performing background jazz or classical ambiance music for events like cocktail receptions, weddings, gala’s etc, it was very difficult to create a market for this kind of band. So I started networking to get gigs and haven’t looked back! That is why I started the networking community eSAX to bring together small businesses to help them connect within the entrepreneur eco-system. (And always having Sax Appeal provide elegant jazz music while people network is a nice touch)! Little did I know that the appetite in Ottawa for such a networking community was huge and we were supplying a much-needed demand for personal connections.

What would you consider your major achievements?

I have received many business awards over the past eight years that I am very proud of, but my greatest achievement so far had been supporting other entrepreneurs establish the right connections to grow and scale their business. “I just love it when people make connections through me; it makes the hardship worth it.” For eSAX, my major achievement must have been having Brett Wilson (Dragons’ Den emeritus), Bruce Linton (original CEO of Canopy Grown (on the day that cannabis became legal in Canada), and series entrepreneur Steve Cody (who launched Ruckify) all be featured speakers at the October 2018 eSAX event. We had over 600 people!

What would you say were the main challenges facing you as an entrepreneur?

When you have just started your business, you are everyone at once because you cannot afford to hire help. So you end up being the receptionist, the window washer, the accountant, the web developer, the graphic designer, the sales person and the president. It is time consuming! Most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘boot-strapping’, but until business really takes-off, we have no choice to literally do everything. It’s very time-consuming.

You are a very busy man, what makes you organize this blood drive on top of everything else?

Saving lives by donating blood is one of the most unselfish acts someone can do. When I talk about eSAX being a community-driven organization, it’s events like this that make it all worthwhile. About three years ago I collaborated with my friend Michael Wood (who I understand you are interviewing next), to organize a blood drive to help our mutual friend Stu Schwartz, the MAJIC 100 morning radio host who was going through cancer treatments at the time. We have been organizing these blood drives together since then, and now Dylan joined us but I will let him tell you why himself.

After talking to Jarrod, we started chatting with Michael Wood, the founder and owner of Ottawa Special Events, a Professor at Algonquin College, and a renowned Canadian musician.

What made you start a business during the peak of your musical career?

I was very lucky at a young age to do what I love, touring in a band while playing music and visiting the world. In 2009 when I decided to settle down in Ottawa, I realized there is not a good one-stop shop to host big events – where clients can rent everything they need from tables and projectors to lights and mobile stages. Therefore, I decided to launch Ottawa Special Events and the rest as they say is history.

What would you consider your major achievements as an entrepreneur?

In less than ten years, we grew to 35 full-time staff and we became an award winning party, event and audiovisual rental company. In 2019 alone, we organised key events for the city of Ottawa, including the Tulip Festival, Latin Sparks, Sense Soiree and Capital Pride, just to name a few.

Along the way to success, what would you say were the main challenges?

When we started the business we were only two people, but the demand grew quickly and it was very time consuming to do everything ourselves. We needed to find the right team that reflected our value of putting consumers first. Our key to success from the get-go are our exceptional customer service and my knowledge of Google and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which drove the company to the top.

All this success, why are you organizing this blood drive?

As Jarrod mentioned earlier, three years ago our friend Stu Schwartz, the MAJIC 100 morning radio host needed cancer treatment. The music industry here is a close-knit family so we got together and used our collective networks to help raise awareness of the need for blood donation. It was an amazing experience, we felt compelled since then to continue on our mission of leveraging our voices and networks to help the community.

At the end, we sat down to interview Dylan Black, who is not per se an entrepreneur but embodies the entrepreneurial spirit, and through his media platforms (boom 99.7, Rogers TV) and YuK Yuk events has helped so many small business entrepreneurs in Ottawa to grow.

What made you start focusing on small business entrepreneurs?

I have been in the radio business since 1997, when I was still in high school, but I would say I started getting into the entrepreneur world about four years ago when I became an MC at several corporate events and an affiliate member in many boards. I noticed that these small businesses need a voice to grow and get the word out, at the same time they cannot afford marketing and advertisements when they are operating on a start-up budget. Therefore, I started using my platform either boom 99.7 or Rogers TV to support them. In short, I do it because “I want to use my voice for good.”

What would you say the entrepreneurs’ biggest challenge today?

Promotion, getting the word out and their name recognized. It is not easy being heard and seen when there are many budding companies around. To get them seen is my mission. “I welcome entrepreneurs who reach out to me, if they do not it is a missed opportunity”. For example, I can help their charity events, which in turn helps them get their business recognized.

What would you consider to be your major achievement?

In 5 years, I collected $15,000 through the Movember campaign, raised over $3,700 for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada through boom’s #buzzforboobs campaign, and raised close to $10,000 for various charities including “Tysen’s Mission to a Million”. I also was honoured to win the United Way 2015 “Community Builder Award”, among other prestigious award.

However, my biggest achievement I would have to say is my son Maxwell James, who was born in 2017 and named after Order of Canada recipient Max Keeping and my father James. Raising my son with the values of giving back to the community is the legacy I want to leave him with.

Why are you participating in this blood drive and will you do it again?

I have donated blood 90 times since high school but this is the first time I participate in a blood drive. I want to do this in memory of my father, James Barton, who passed away at the Heart Institute this summer and needed blood transfusion. I think it is very important to have the blood drive in Christmas where people are in their most charitable spirit. As you can see, it is a great success. Over a hundred people stopped by today to show support, volunteer or donate. We collected 80 units of blood and each unit saves three lives. If you do the math, we managed to save 240 people in one day. That is a successful day worth celebrating, and we intend to do this again.

We finished this interview with these three amazing entrepreneurs feeling so inspired to do more to help the community. We actually invited and offered to help them host their next mega blood drive here in Kanata, and they seem all in. Until then, please visit the Canadian Blood Services in Ottawa or call 1-888-2-DONATE to book your next appointment today!

Originally published here by the Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network  (KCSBN)