If you’ve been to a concert, music festival, or other large-scale event, you probably don’t think about everything going on behind the scenes. Southern California business owner Evan Smith definitely thinks about it. As his website states, his production company is “Making Magic.”
MS Event Production, LLC offers equipment rental, project management and staffing for concerts, corporate events, marketing projects, national tours and private parties. In four short years they have grown from a single freelancer into a major force within the industry with four full-time employees and a network of dozens of contractors. Their slate of clients includes super-group Aerosmith, Warner Brothers Studios, Whole Foods, Coachella, AOL, Red Bull and many more.
We caught up with Smith recently to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey and how he’s quickly scaling with the help of an SBA loan.
Smith started his career touring with bands as a stage and production manager. One band he worked with spoke to him about renting equipment. He thought, “I should buy the equipment so I’ll have two income streams. My perspective at the time was that it would be a side gig.”
MS Event Production quickly went from renting musical instruments to providing audio, lighting and video equipment. Smith retired from touring as business picked up.
When first launched, the business was self-funded. But as it grew, Smith knew he needed more capital to level up. “I learned about SBA loans three years ago. I went to a local financial institution that offered micro loans. I was just looking for $15,000 but I got so overwhelmed with the paperwork. There was no guidance offered and it never happened.” Smith turned to a long-time friend and took out a personal loan. He was able to pay him back very quickly and didn’t think about extra funds for another few years.
“I paid cash for everything and reinvested profits back into the business. That’s when we hit a wall. We were doing a few events that grew to an enormous scale. Purchasing the appropriate equipment was cost prohibitive and we couldn’t jump to the next level.”
Business was fragile the first 2 years and Smith wasn’t comfortable making loan payments. Once he had steady cash flow, he Googled “SBA Loans” and came across SmartBiz. In 2016, his $275,000 SBA loan facilitated by SmartBiz was funded. He worked with SmartBiz Relationship Manager Mike Dang throughout the process.
“Mike was hugely helpful and instrumental in completing the application process. I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own. He understood what we were trying to do. The banker I worked with before couldn’t wrap his head around what I was doing and didn’t care.”
The funds helped Smith more than he thought possible. “It was just life changing to jump up that level. Because of the loan, we are able to do things in-house that we never would have been able to do. We purchased a large video wall and a large format audio system and we’re now able to service big events that current customers have been asking for.”
Smith doesn’t need a marketing plan. After working in the entertainment industry for a decade, he had the contacts and was now able to meet a growing demand.
“We jumped from small concerts and events to working on Coachella stages. It was literally an overnight change. Since we upped our inventory we’ve done stuff for the NBA, large university graduations, Comicon and video game conventions. All of these things wouldn’t have been possible if we hadn’t gotten the loan.” Smith says, “We’re no longer the guy who brings out the PA for a party of 100. We’re doing big events.”
The company now has four employees. “I was killing my self so the extra revenue allowed me to hire employees and has freed up my time to pursue more business,” he says.
Smith speaks about the rewards of owning a business. “I work with some younger kids just getting into the industry. They’re eager to get involved and learn new things. It’s rewarding to feel like I’m mentoring a new generation. “
He also acknowledges that being a business owner is hard. “It’s challenging. There’s obviously a lot more responsibility. I get calls at 2 am and 7 am – they all need attention and the business is always on my mind.”
However, the good outweighs the challenging. “I feel like I’ve built a business I can be proud of and developed something I can call my own. When we facilitate concert or event, it’s incredibly rewarding to see everyone having a good time because of our hard work.”
Smith has no plans to slow down. “As I’ve gotten more confident and witnessed growth over time, I’ve set my sights a lot higher than I ever would have ever dreamed.”
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