October 22, 2016

From Unemployed Orchestrator To Startup Founder, Part III

This series chronicles the experiences of Walt Ribeiro after he was laid off and started his new company, For Orchestra, while on unemployment (Prior installments: Part I; Part II).

So I started working at the music awards company, which was great for me because my music lesson show slowly started to decline in sales and viewership.  As I mentioned earlier, the recession caused my music lesson syndicators to cancel their partnerships (along with other channels), which severely stunted my show’s growth.  Since sponsors depended on total views, metrics, and a large audience, they eventually were turned away from my show.

So, for 6 months, I took the reverse commute from NYC to NJ at my new job as the director of a music awards company.  Let me just say — it was an awesome time.  I was working on their iPhone App, marketing efforts, sponsorships, and bands.  It was the perfect job that allowed me to work in music, create cool stuff, manage projects, and the entire atmosphere was amazing.

But in May 2009, nearly a month before the layoffs happened, I started ForOrchestra because I knew that the tone of the company was shifting and people were going to get cut.  It was one of those instinctual feelings in your gut, and unfortunately I was right.  The recession didn’t get any better and the staff cuts that I was a victim of 6 months earlier caught up with me again at this new job when several people, including myself, were given the pink slip.

At that point I had a decision to make: should I work for ANOTHER company and get laid off again?  Or should I create my own future and career trail?  The thing is — I never liked the idea of depending on other people for payment and employment.  Even my music lesson show bothered me because I was dependent on others for syndication and more.  I’ve had so many layoffs before I was 26 years old that I just didn’t want to run the rat race any more.

Unemployment does funny things to a person because, as I mentioned earlier, there is a certain fire and desire you obtain when your back is against the wall.  The distribution, marketing, manufacturing, productions, and even my orchestration abilities were light-years ahead of where they were in 2006.  Since I always wanted to try a second shot at my orchestra company in order to apply what I now knew from my mistakes in 2006, I figured unemployment was a better time than ever to start fresh.

So while on unemployment, I released a song a week and slowly grew my audience.  The first month I had made $10, so it wasn’t much, but it was enough to show me that this could be done.  I always felt that if you can make $10, then you can make $10,000.

Being laid off again was tough for me because I had a signed lease for a year that I had to make work.  And when you get a new job you have to buy new clothes, transportation, consider health insurance benefits, a new phone, laptop, and more.  I still had to pay off these investments even though I no longer had income.  It was tough and really scared me.

I was starting to see a new world — one where I was more understanding of others and what they go through.  I could make sense of the father who goes crazy after getting laid off and might lose his house, the mother who is scared after her unemployment checks run out, and the new college graduates who are in student loan debt up to their knees.

But, maybe that’s what I learned most.  It wasn’t only about learning how to start a company, it was also about how I was beginning to see the real world and the personal experiences people go through every day.  That really is a powerful thing to hold on to and always carry with you.  It’s made me more understanding of others, which I feel is more powerful than learning how to run a company.  Anyone can read a business book, but the differences of success lies in the mindset and experiences we all have — and how we apply them throughout our journeys.

In the next and final installment, I’ll look back at the previous 3 parts to this series and discuss more about my final thoughts and lessons.

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.