September 28, 2016

From Unemployed Orchestrator To Startup Founder, Part II

This series chronicles the experiences of Walt Ribeiro after he was laid off and started his new company, For Orchestra, while on unemployment.  You can read Part I here.

I started my online music lesson school after my CD failed miserably. At the time, I still had no income and was not receiving unemployment because I was self-employed straight out of college.

The concept behind the new school was that I would teach online free.  In turn, I would make my money through in-video sponsorships from companies who wanted to be my exclusive advertisers for guitars, music books, clothes, guitar strings, amplifiers, and more every day within my videos.

I did not receive my first paid sponsor until the fifth month of broadcasting my daily show. That is something I think people forget.  When people finally get the courage to start fresh and new they want instantaneous results.  It does not work like that. Growing a community of fans and customers is about going slow and steady and winning the race. Be patient.

I am also not saying that you should always start a company after being laid off.  Being unemployed was a difficult situation for me and I could only imagine how difficult it would have been if I had mortgages, kids, was married, and more. But, it was difficult nonetheless — because I had comparable payments for a 23-year-old college graduate a year earlier.

However, I always felt the best time to do something is “right now.”  It’s too easy to make excuses and, if you have a dream, you should tackle it. Whether it’s starting a company, traveling, or taking a risk with a new employer you always wanted to approach — to me, unemployment is always a good opportunity for any new beginning.

So, after 5 months of my show, I got my first $50 sponsor. Though it was not much, I knew at that point that I had a business model. It was an amazing journey that allowed me to move from Philadelphia to New York City within 2 years because I had 10 sponsors each paying nearly $1,000 a month to be in my videos. Being that the average advertisement in a magazine cost $5,000 – my show was affordable, fun, trackable, and permanently archived online. It was a great business model and everyone was thrilled.

But, then the recession happened and two of the main companies I syndicated my show with – Ustream.TV and Revision3 – had to make some tough choices, including cutting me from their partner program. This all happened within 2 weeks and was a tough blow because not only did that hurt my income, but it hurt my community, scaling opportunities, and future sponsorships due to a lower viewer count.

In hindsight, sure, it was scary starting something new, but it worked. Sure, I shouldn’t have been dependent on syndication, but that was my business model. Sure, it was difficult watching it grow and then see it fall so fast.

Here I was in New York City, and once again, unemployed — and then the phone rang. It was a music company.  My unemployment and failed attempts of my two music startups gave me the skills necessary to become a director of media.

Sometimes failure is the most attractive thing to a company. It shows courage, entrepreneurship, passion, and care. Unemployment isn’t a choice, but bouncing back from it is.

However, what happens when my future employer lays people off — including me?  I will discuss that in the next article.

The trick is to keep your chin up.  Always.

Walt Ribeiro arranges pop and rock songs for orchestra, an idea which he jumped into after being laid off and collecting unemployment.  Since then, he has done it full time, orchestrating songs by Lady Gaga, Pearl Jam, Aha, Owl City, and more.  To learn more about Walt and to check out his work, visit his website at ForOrchestra.com.  You can also connect with Walt via his iTunes, Twitter, and Facebook pages.