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Interview with Kapil Srivastava

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Kapil Srivastava, founder of Guitarmonk India. He is an international, multicultural musicologist, and a guitarist who is bridging the gap between nations through the universal language of music. Kapil coined the brand name “Guitarmonk” and pioneered a number of creative milestones under the same label. He runs India’s largest chain of guitar centres along with a publication and record-label. Seeing a need for community involvement as well as culture and heritage preservation, Kapil also established Guitarmonk Social, the CSR division that promotes awareness on various socio-health issues and involves charitable activities across India through promotion of music for health and leisure and culture enrichment. Guitarmonk learners are spread across 150 Indian cities and in more than 28 countries while Guitarmonk technical and production teams are rolled out in over 50 nations around the globe. 

Kapil also won notable awards and wrote for several publications including government magazines. Honoured by all three government ministries and several MNCs, Kapil also created music for Bollywood movie and collaborated with various celebrities including Grammy Winner Pt. VM Bhatt, Padam Bhushan Ustad Sultan Khan and many others etc. 

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I fell in love with guitar at first sight. When I was around 10 years old, I got exposed to a guitarist doing a live performance playing Bollywood tunes that really struck me. I got fascinated by the sweetness and uniqueness of this instrument. The desire of knowing more of  this mystery of creating sounds and learning this art paved the way which later on evolved into what and who I am today as Guitarmonk. 

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

It is very difficult to pick one or two but I can share with you the philosophy behind our name. When we formally launched the company in 2005, there were lots of unmatched brand names that came up, which were very attractive but not deep enough to represent who I was or who we really are. And then a very interesting thought came into my mind and that was the idea of the fusion of the guitar and a monk passionate about music. Hence, the name Guitarmonk came into fruition. It was the perfect representation and image for me and the company.

I have always visualized Guitarmonk as a character. A musical character, with a guitar in hand, the character with reason, passion and a mission. I see Guitarmonk as a talent with power to overcome difficulties in life, which today came out as a solution provider concept. Guitarmonk was more of a personality, a lifestyle or a life spirit than a mere firm or company name to me. In the heart of Guitarmonk is a merger of western and eastern world, cultures & genres, materialism and spirituality. As you can see, almost 15 years down the line, and we are still on track naturally to the same philosophy and spiritual path.  

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? 

This has been the funniest, so far.  We were the first music brand in India to have a franchise model in 2008. And we invested a lot of money and time in designing the project. It was a matter of both pride and honour to achieve this milestone and we’re excited to head for our first franchise event. It was the first biggest business exhibition that we conducted in a 5 star hotel for 2 days. It was also the most expensive event we did that cost us Rs. 1,00,000 a day. Previously, we used to conduct International and City book fairs for our publications, which were actually a lot easier and economical. As there was a lot at stake, so I carefully guided my team to make use of this event at all cost. We all have to be there in our suits and ties. We have to entertain every visitor (basically a non-musical investor). I even made sure that select staff will reach there on time with business plans and start entertaining the clients. It was a paid event and 2000 investors were expected in 2 days. We were expecting somewhere around 200 pax to visit our booth. And each one of them needs to be counselled & assisted effectively. The first day we had a marvellous battle and we captured 150 leads for both national and international. The second day, all my staff felt like army generals and they were completely overwhelmed as the crowd was huge and the booth was jam-packed. There was a long list of people on waiting area who were all eager to hear what we have to say. All entrance passes were with my staff and I was waiting outside the gate so they can escort me inside. The long waiting time was beginning to get on my nerves and I felt like breaking in through the gates, I believe I waited for 2 hours until one of them missed my presence and called me up. When I entered I had no time to question them simply because there was no time for it. The war was on. And I was up for the game. My learning with this is that we are the best person to take responsibility and accountability for ourselves instead of relying too much to others. 

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As Guitarmonk, we wanted to build a concept and a model that would eliminate the limitation on this industry. It would set a new perspective and new way of looking into the guitar, music or arts. There are millions of Guitar Teacher, Guitar Institutes and Guitar Players in the world and most of them are struggling. This struggle is not only limited to Guitar but most of the art-forms be it fine arts or performing arts. There is not much we can do by being in such framework and boundaries. As music is regarded a lifestyle and only comes as a second priority, after our survival. It’s not a cup of tea for people with survival lifestyle. It is important that we extend our boundaries of functions and perception and break away from conservative approaches. At Guitarmonk, we no longer choose to be in the same rat-race cycle to survive. We are determined to move beyond the regular functions and to strengthen our capacity to be a successful platform rather than just be a platform seeker. We decided to build our enterprise and own our infrastructures and expand our boundaries. We created work for national awarded artists, celebrities and talents worldwide. Guitarmonk as a company have implemented several verticals to make that possible, to grow the perception of people of seeing us beyond the regular impression as an institute, teachers or guitar players to a concept and a cause that creates a difference in the lives of people in so many ways. 

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not get “burn out”?

Playing good guitar and getting financially stable via guitar are two different things; they are not two sides of the one coin. They are not by-product of each other. They are different facets. You definitely need to be a good guitarist to maintain a good career but not vice versa. It doesn’t mean your career is going to be stable and good if you are a good guitarist alone.  If you want to make money and grow financially, you need to understand the market, the demographic opportunities. You also need to have a career and life coach or mentor apart from a technical adviser in music. A sound body and a sound mind is also your key towards success not just in career but in life in general.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person whom you are grateful to especially those who helped get you to where you are now? Can you share a story?

There is not just one person because every person I met both in person and professionally has helped shaped my lifeline. They inspired me, motivated me directly and indirectly to be where I am today. For example – My first teacher exposed me to his own live performances and I was like his intern or apprentice. I was not paid but it was a great exposure. My second teacher guided me about recording studios and the list goes on. My computer friends inspired me to learn computers and programming. I developed my first website on my own and edited the html coding. My business gurus showed me the ropes on how to have fun, freedom and power in being an entrepreneur. I got the opportunity to market, manage and lead the team. I am grateful to each and everyone who has become part of my journey.  

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?  

I have a different philosophy. I have learned that if we are doing well even without the intention of spreading goodness, we will still receive lots of good things in return. I believe that what goes around comes around. It’s a perspective. I never intended to spread goodness and yet a lot of people still mail us, saying they feel inspired and grateful for our presence and they appreciate the work we do. Success has the capability to inspire others but every human being also owe themselves the responsibility to be successful . Being Indian, with a spiritual upbringing and heritage, I am inclined on raising self-consciousness and achieving spiritual growth. 

Do you have a favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how it is relevant to your life? 

I wrote one quote that says, “If I can let a terrorist hold a guitar instead of a weapon, we will win the war. Music or any art is a way to include beauty, emotions and gratefulness in one’s life. We can transfer these values to our surroundings by sharing and teaching them. Art is not just a popularity contest; it is indispensable to personality growth, peace of mind and way to ameliorate life.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each. 

If I can turn back the time, I would really appreciate if someone will give me the following tips:

  1. The best investment that you can make is in yourself; invest for self-growth and development and everything else will follow.
  2. Compensate your time and efforts invested in the business by giving yourself a salary.
  3. Make your health a priority. Sometimes we sacrifice our health to gain wealth only to later on spend our wealth to regain good health. Our health is our asset and an investment so we can run the business with a sound mind and body.
  4. Find gurus and mentors to guide you with your business plan and strategy as well as to help empower you as you grow emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially
  5. Take time out to enjoy your personal life. Do not forget that you still have a life outside the company premises.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We can apply music in our lives in so many creative ways. More than entertainment, music is a great tool for healing depression and relieving stress. It can be a formal engagement for school-age kids and adults in corporate via employee engagement. Also, a great mental training for restless minds, a good vehicle for emotional ventilation, and brings endless fun and joy to our daily lives. We can inspire, empower and communicate many things through music. It is also an effective marketing tool. At Guitarmonk, we use music in all different ways. Besides entertainment and education, we are applying music not just commercially but socially and therapeutically too. 

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with me through facebook.com/kapilguitarist and visit our website www.guitarmonk.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Anthony Delgado (born February 6, 1986) is an American software developer and internet entrepreneur widely known as a professional hacker in the developer community. Anthony Delgado has won numerous hackathons sponsored by Fortune 500 tech companies like Google, IBM, Intel, Facebook and Microsoft and hosted by organizations including Rutgers University, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the AT&T Developer Summit in New York City.

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Interviews

How Carlos Redlich Went From Food Stamps to 6 Figures in 6 Months

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While a good number of entrepreneurs start their businesses with a few thousand dollars, Carlos Redlich did not. The man had nothing to his name and was almost begging for food at the time when the magical light bulb moment arrived. Like the 80 percent of businesses that fail during the initial stages, Redlich’s first efforts to rise out of the ashes with a martial arts school evaporated. There, however, was enough determination and zeal in the man to bring out the struggle that bred the success he enjoys today. I sat down with him to listen to his story and what I found out will most assuredly inspire you. Here’s why.

At One Point He was Paying $10,000 in Rent with Absolutely No Growth

Redlich’s introduction into the business world was quite an event to go by.  His journey began when he was just 25 years of age. At the time, he was running a martial arts school but without much to show for it other than a handful of clients and some formidable fighting skills. Expenses were on an all-time high as the premise cost them $10,000 a month in rent. It was not until him and his girlfriend discovered the book “The Four Hour Work Week” that everything started to change.

At first, Redlich’s outlook on the business started to change as he developed a profound interest in online businesses. What drove him was the desire to make as much money in the least amount of time possible so that he could match up with the entrepreneurs he was now beginning to learn from. Redlich recounts how his instructor introduced him into the world of copywriting and how he has since made a meaningful life out of it. Slowly, he found his way into copywriting and has from then built renowned resources on the subject like The Copywriting Domination Method where he shows other people how to replicate the process also. 

Making 100 Cold Calls to Get 4 Clients

Having never been into the online industry, Redlich did not have any idea of how to go about promoting his business. So he resulted in cold calling. In our interview, Redlich recalls how he used to make almost 100 cold calls a day to get four clients to sign a contract with him. Then he decided to change from making calls to writing emails. Out of the almost 150 first emails he sent out, six people called back and signed up for business. 

Getting six responses from 150 emails might sound ridiculous, but to Redlich, it was the direct opposite. He felt a bolt of excitement rush through him and gained just the right motivation he needed to push not only harder, but smarter. Ever since that first day, Redlich has been on an ever-rising growth curve. Within one year in the copywriting business, Redlich scaled his company to six figures.

Resisting the Urge to Give Up

No one has to be a genius to know that giving up in pursuit of dreams and goals is the single most significant impediment to success. Redlich knows this too well. He has had to resist the urge to give up more times than he can remember. There were days when he could not afford food and water for his girlfriend and himself. So he resulted to stealing water from their neighbor’s tap to at least have enough to drink, shower, and flush the toilet. 

At the time, Redlich was still at the martial arts school but not getting enough to pay his bills. To him, nothing was more discouraging than seeing his friends working and earning five-figure salaries every year, while he had to put up with a few hundred dollars he got as profit every month. Business at the gym was so bad that his business partner threw him out just days to Christmas. However, Redlich always found a reason not to give up. There was a fire still burning in him. He knew that somewhere along with the struggle, there had to be something he would do to break through the barriers. 

Breaking Through the First $10,000

While Redlich was always dreaming of the big deals that would bring in the big bucks, he was not quite ready for that. At least that is what he realized when his first big client in the copywriting business came along. After doing some emails for a client for just $60, the client flew to Miami to meet Redlich to sign a long term contract. On the way to meeting his client, Redlich knew their business meeting would either turn right or wrong, and the latter was more expected. 

Sitting down with his potential client with no special sales skills, Redlich couldn’t help but wonder how it would turn out. Then the big question came, “How much?” Without giving much thought to it, Redlich blurted out, “10,000 dollars a month.” It came as a surprise to him when his client smiled, reached out his hand, and said, “Deal, ten grand it is!” You can almost tell what ran through Redlich’s mind as he shook his first-ever client’s hand in disbelief. In our interview, Redlich said to me, “At that moment of shock, everything went blank. I then wondered why I hadn’t asked for 15,000 or 20,000, but I was glad anyhow, as I had never imagined closing a prospect for that much.”

You have undoubtedly read about success stories of how entrepreneurs rose from the ground up. However, Carlos Redlich’s story is unique in its way. I listened to Redlich as he said, “I was broke as a joke,” and I realized that I couldn’t exactly tell what he meant because he is now a different person. You can make that change too.

 

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What It Takes to Build a Business from $20 to $40 Million; The Case of Snow with Josh Elizetxe

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There is nothing quite like an entrepreneur’s determination when starting a business. That’s my original quote by the way (pun intended). Just the other day, I was scanning through some of my favorite Forbes articles and came across this particular one by Neil Patel. In his presentation, Patel observes that of all startups, only 10 percent survive. The article was published three years ago just when Josh was investing his first $20 into what is now a business worth more than $40 Million.

Looking back at Elizetxe’s journey, all I can say is that it takes more than just determination to build a business up from its infant days to sustaining it when it grows into a giant. In their article, The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail, CB Insights found the top three reasons to be; not the right team (23%), ran out of cash (29%), and no market need (42%). While these reasons are valid, you’ve got to ask yourself some questions. What if you don’t have a team? What if you only have $20 to begin with or nothing at all? What if the market you are venturing into is totally concentrated by oligopolistic giants? 

These are just some of the questions Elizetxe asked himself when he was laying down the initial plans for what is now Snow Teeth Whitening. At the time, there was as much free and paid advice on how to grow a business as there is now. What Elizetxe didn’t know, which is what I am telling you now, is that very few people will let you in on what exactly they had to do to get to where they are. The difference between Elizetxe and them, however, is that Elizetxe will tell you exactly what he has done and how he built Snow from just $20 to $40 Million. 

Take Advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

When Professor Klaus Schwab first coined the term Fourth Industrial Revolution, this is what he said of the opportunity presented to entrepreneurs by Industry 4.0 “The changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise or potential peril. My concern, however, is that decision-makers are too often caught in traditional, linear (and non-disruptive) thinking or too absorbed by immediate concerns to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.” 

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Schwab. That is why at Snow, Elizetxe knew that leveraging on the opportunity created by the technology of the connected devices would give Snow the leap needed not only to stay in business but also to compete with giants like Colgate. By launching their new teeth whitening system that has Bluetooth technology, a wireless mouthpiece, auto-shade detection, red light gum therapy, and much more, they were able to create a product that is in line with the technology that people want to be part of. 

Writing about lining up businesses with the Fourth Industrial Revolution on Forbes, Sean Hinton says, “One of the most immediate and impactful outcomes of technological evolution is the vast advancement in automation. Every day, more manual processes become automated, and as technology continues to accelerate, so will automation.” 

In whatever business you are in, there sure is an opportunity to slip in some form of automation. The best way to beat monopolistic and oligopolistic giants is not by grinding hard to outdo the competition. The trick, however, is in doing what they do differently and in a much better way. 

Disrupt the Common Market

No matter how much you consider your niche overcrowded, there has got to be somewhere for you in there. That is exactly what they did with Snow. Instead of concentrating on the general assumption that your industry is overcrowded, you must decide to create your own blue ocean within a vast and almost unsurvivable red ocean.

First, have a unique twist to your product or service. Second, employ a different and effective marketing strategy. To give you a practical example, Snow introduced a teeth whitening system with Bluetooth technology, a wireless mouthpiece, auto-shade detection, red light gum therapy, and much more. Snow then embarked on a journey to first serve celebrities with their ingenious product lineup. They knew that most people, including you, will listen to what important people say and take action. By getting a few popular people satisfied with our product, all we had to do is sit back and have them endorse Snow. 

Know the Right People and Get the Right People to Know You

If you didn’t know that who you know is as important as what you know, now you know. The fact that Elizetxe is an entrepreneur doesn’t mean that he had to come all the way by himself. From the very start, Elizetxe had mentors, peers, contacts, confidants, family, and friends. Borrowing from the fact that Elizetxe started out with just $20 clearly communicates that these people were not there to fund my initiative. Instead, they offered insights when Josh had to make tough decisions and support when everything seemed not to work out. However, before you can know the right people, you have to meet them, which brings us to the next point. Knowing the right people begins with meeting them the right way. Do not expect to meet the most instrumental business advisor on a late-night chat in your favorite social media platform. Take Elizetxe for instance. He has had to get on a plane just to have a 30-minute meeting with the right person to give his product an endorsement. That kind of sacrifice is actually backed by science. Here is proof that it works. In a study conducted by Great Business Schools, 95 percent of the people said that face-to-face meetings are essential for long term business relationships. Another important observation from the study was a general conclusion was that “people who got most results from their networking efforts participate more in ‘face-to-face’ casual contact networks.”  

Building a business from scratch is indeed an uphill task. However, the success that comes in the end is worth every bit of the struggle involved. Even if you do not have enough money to pull through, you can employ the insights I have shared in this article to reach unimaginable heights. Remember, to live the reality of your dreams, you have to wake up first.

 

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Meet Elsy Guevara the 22-Year-Old Disrupting The Fashion Industry

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At the age of 22, Elsy Guevara has managed to disrupt the fashion industry by turning a hobby into a successful business. When Elsy was just 17 years old, unlike most teenagers her age, she started to brainstorm ways she could use social media and her love for fashion to launch an online business. As a hobby, she and her sisters, Beatriz Guevara, Jennifer Guevara, and Patricia Guevara, started creating and posting fashion layouts and taking full-body outfit pictures for social media. The fashion posts became so popular that it captured the attention of a very successful fashion brand, Fashion Nova. The company directly messaged Elsy and asked her if she could create content for them, which eventually lead to a full-time job in the company. While working at Fashion Nova, Elsy and her sisters worked on building their fashion brand, OOTDFash. OOTDFash began with one rack of clothing in their mother’s bedroom where the sisters would find places in their small apartment to take outfit pictures and promote the few styles they were selling. Fortunately, the outfit and fashion content were getting recognition on social media, which resulted in an unexpected sales growth for Elsy and her sisters. Although the business is continually growing and now considered quite successful, there were many challenges and obstacles that Elsy and her sisters had to face and learn to overcome.

Almost Quitting but Finding a Reason to Move On

Not only did the increase in social media following and incoming sales encouraged Elsy and her sisters to continue, but these small successes over time also discouraged them. With growing social media popularity also came constant criticism and negativity. Every new fashion post was followed by mostly positive comments, but critical commentators always made their presence known. Commentators compared the growing business to other competitors, and Elsy found that it fueled the tensions between the more experienced competition and OOTDFash. Launching a business with no experience was sometimes discouraging for the sisters because there were moments they felt lost and had to find the right ways to manage and run the business with their research. Going up against businesses with years of experience before them and assistance was a challenging mental battle that was fought daily, especially when social media always reminded them of who they were up against. Being constantly critiqued and compared was upsetting to Elsy because there was still that strong human nature desire to satisfy everyone. Although it was very discouraging to read some of the negative opinions, overtime the sisters started to understand that the negative comments were not a real reflection of their work and self.

While criticism was constantly testing Elsy’s patience, there were even tougher lessons Elsy learned the hard way. It was always in Elsy’s nature to immediately see the good in someone and gain people’s trust quickly. When meeting new people, intentions were never questioned, but unfortunately, she learned the hard way that not everyone walks into the business with the mindset to help. Welcoming the wrong people into the family business has lead to company money and ideas being stolen, but over the last couple of years, Elsy and her sisters have managed to look past their losses and learn from the experiences. They have accepted that they will always face setbacks as business owners and with these failures and negative experiences, come valuable lessons and personal growth.

Standing out from the Rest

In the fashion industry, there is and will always be competition. Standing out and setting the business apart from the rest is a challenge that never seems to go away due to the fast-changing industry the business is in. Creating styles that not only make the person feel amazing and comfortable but also believing in one’s fashion sense is how Elsy and her sister found themselves setting themselves apart from competition. Although OOTDFash is growing and gaining popularity, Elsy felt like she could use the lessons and experiences learned from starting a business with zero experience to help other young women with little to no experience start their ventures. She felt that she could do more than just sell to her audience, but instead also help those few that want to follow in her footsteps.

For this reason, she recently launched a wholesale fashion company, Galifornia Wholesale. Galifornia Wholesale sells styles to small new boutiques at affordable prices. The new wholesale business supports Elsy’s efforts to try and help other young women bring the latest styles to their own boutiques and help them get started in their sales growth. One may find helping other young women build businesses in the same industry Elsy competes in herself may hurt her business in the long run. However, Elsy does not view competition from a negative perspective. The unselfish and kind guidance Elsy hopes to give these young entrepreneurs is something that makes her stand out. Afterall she states that she does not measure success in the amount of money she makes, but instead the number of lives she positively impacts. The four sisters hope to continue their journey, along with helping others as they grow.

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