Elijah Collins is one of the San Francisco recipients of the SmartBiz® Boost a Small Business in Need Grant Program. The program was created to empower Black and minority-owned businesses in both Austin and San Francisco. Although greatly affected by the coronavirus breakout and economic downturn, Collins has put creative strategies in place to rebuild his business and continue his mission to serve musicians throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Here’s the story of his small business journey.
Collins graduated from the Art Institute of California - San Francisco with a Bachelor of Science in Audio Production.
“My primary focus was on music production, live studio recordings, and live performances and I began working in the audio field in the San Francisco - Bay Area,” he says. He found work hard to come by as an African American male in the music scene. “While my hopes were to work in a studio, my experiences led me to build a partnership with a local up and coming entertainment company.”
Collins developed his ability to organize, plan, and produce trade shows, conferences, and live performances on any scale. Leading events at some of the most prestigious legacy hotels around the San Francisco, he continued to purposefully develop skills as a photographer and stay active in the local music scene.
Over the years, he observed numerous talented local bands who struggled to gain a following and progress past playing small venues. He realized that these bands would enjoy a boost in their social presence, and support with promoting and hosting shows.
“Once they were able to establish themselves with an income, they could afford to hire other artists to help connect their music to the fans.” He formed an idea to use his academic experience, love of music, and Bay Area culture, and event production skills to support independent music. “Zeallous was founded to help invest in and give back to my community,” he says. He has a strong entrepreneurial background as his grandmother, uncle, and three cousins all own small businesses. Collins reports that he did “a lot of sweeping” in his family’s beauty salon.
When it came to launching his business, Collins was able to self-fund.
“I’ve been slowly growing from my own funds since 2015,” he says. “I’ve pivoted to fit within what the market needs while keeping costs down with digital video, live streaming, and a remote office.”
Unfortunately, in March of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic brought live music to a halt. He’s had to rethink how to manage the business and remain active in the music scene. He says, “I will continue to run Zeallous and help musicians and bands to establish themselves while learning how to navigate through this new COVID environment. My intention is to keep driving brand growth by seeking new prospects & projects, and connecting local musicians to music lovers across the San Francisco - Bay Area."
COVID-19 has impacted his business in a multitude of ways.
“There have been major losses in the music industry in the last 6 months, due to social distancing restrictions and guidelines. Local music has already suffered from bar, venue, and event space closings. There are no guarantees for festivals to have crowds until the fall of 2021,” he says.
However, these obstacles have provided Zeallous with a huge opportunity to help build a digital community.
Collins is staying positive. "Nina Simone, a famous singer and songwriter, once said: “It is the artist’s duty to reflect the times.” After COVID, I imagine the music industry will change drastically. Zeallous services are equipped to help musicians through this difficult time, so they can get back to what they do best - bringing people together through music.”
The SmartBiz Boost Grant is allowing Collins to invest back into Zeallous and build up the necessary infrastructure to grow.
“I plan to use the grant money to buy a year's worth of accounting software to track and invoice customers. Through online campaigns and marketing, I will also extend Zeallous’ reach to other artists through all social media platforms. And finally, I would use the grant to maintain my web hosting service so Zeallous can be accessible to the larger music community,” he says.
Collins wants to grow slowly and not take on too many clients during the economic downturn. Fortunately, Zeallous has an excellent word-of-mouth reputation. “I’m studying marketing trends to elevate my brand in the community.”
Building a diverse client base and employee team is important to Collins. “I want to have people from diverse backgrounds pulling in resources to really help musicians get out there and build themselves up.”
For more information on Elijah Collins and his creative company, visit the Zeallous website. The SmartBiz team wishes you the best!