Updated: May 21
When your business is just an idea, finding funding for your start up cost can be nearly impossible. You need connections within your industry, in order to find the opportunity that will get your idea off the ground. However, this does not mean you need to wait to build traction. Your current network is an asset, start building off the relationships you already have. This week, I interviewed a man that used his relationships to start a broadcast career that led to him owning VoiceItRadio, an Internet radio show. Not only is this the best Internet radio station in Cleveland, it's where I record Founders Get Funds!
It was over a cold drink at a bar in Cleveland, that Errol Porter and Larry Gaines decided to start a TV show. At the time, Larry was one of the baddest guitar players in Cleveland and Errol was the Ward 7 Resident Service Provider for the Consortium of Economic and Community Development. After that drink, Errol went home and dove into writing his first show, “The Touch”. This show was recorded live at The Touch of Elegance two weeks in a row. It was filmed in front of a sold out audience as word-of-mouth gained the show a local popularity. When the production team returned the footage, the entire staff of the show was deeply upset to find that it was worthless due to the poor production quality. However, the show allowed The Touch Entertainment to gain traction with their local community and made their name known even though their TV show was a bust. However, this was only their first production and there were many… many more to come.
Errol and Larry decided to pivot The Touch Entertainment to sports. They developed relationships with local bars like The Tavern and Buffalo Wild Wings, to record “Look But Don't Touch with Kenyon Johnson and the Teammates”. This show interviewed players from the Indians and the Cavaliers. They packed the venues out with people, dancers, and lights to create a nightlife scene that was like “Hollywood in Cleveland”. By the 2nd year they actually started making money off the show and ran for the entire Browns’ season. Their next move was to figure out how to get other people to upload their videos onto The Touch Entertainment’s online video platform. However, the team split up before this came to fruition. Starting a business with the wrong people can ultimately cause the business to fail. However, you may learn something from that failure that helps you build a better team for the next project.
After the failure of his first production company, Errol continued to work in sports as a broadcaster for TV-20 in the City of Cleveland. He rubbed elbows in the suites at Cavaliers’ games and had the opportunity to interview Shaq and his wife. This ended when the city decided they weren’t covering national sports anymore. Next, Errol and Kenyon turned to an internet radio show, Radio 1, to host a sports show Unsportsmanlike Conduct. One day, unexpectedly, they arrived at the station to find it had gone out of business.
Their next investment was a step towards financial freedom. It came from Errol himself after he got into a car accident. He took $50,000 of his settlement and invested into radio equipment for what would become VoiceItRadio. When the station started in December of 2012, there were only 4 shows. However, Errol spent years making connections in Cleveland’s entertainment community and was able to have prominent names from the start. This included Basheer Jones, the youngest Black news host in the US at the time. Though they had local stars, it took almost 4 years for Errol to get his first “yes” from a sponsor. Sponsors wanted their products to be seen and heard and the station needed the numbers to support this. Errol would claim to have 1,000+ listeners and he did this until it was true.
The success of VoiceItRadio falls back to Errol’s network. He was advised by Lynn Toliver Jr., a broadcast legend who now has over 32 years of experience. To understand the technical side of the equipment, the owner of KAZ Radio showed them what to plug in and what software to use.
Due to Errol’s network bringing on well-known names and the rise of social media, little money was put into marketing in the beginning. Being an online radio station brought additional deductions in expenses. Unlike a terrestrial show, VoiceItRadio did not have to pay for a tower or yearly FCC fees. Yet, as the digital age matures, it is becoming increasingly more expensive to do things online. Everything VoiceItRadio uses that used to be free has incurred a cost for the company. This includes their broadcast platform, Mixlr, and the platform used to upload the recorded live show, Mix Cloud. This in addition to other costs like phone lines, Internet, and so many subscriptions.
As VoiceItRadio continues to grow with the times, they have developed unique programs to allow sponsors of all sizes to become their partners. Their co-advertising plan is “businesses helping businesses”. A big company with a large marketing budget will sponsor a 2 minute ad. Their ad will be played at the top and bottom of the ad space. In the middle ads for small businesses for 5, 15, or 30 seconds are played. The smaller companies are responsible for sending out a social media blast and bringing the big sponsors marketing merchandise into their office. This opportunity mirrors the opportunities that Errol has seen throughout his career. It takes multiple brands to build yours and it takes a community for success to happen.