Lo-Key Entertainment owner Daron Henderson has ambitious expansion plans. The $10,000 grand prize he won at a pitch competition will help pay for new equipment so he can take on more contracts.
The entertainment services company won the top prize at the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program pitch event Dec. 4, held by JumpStart Inc.
, in Valley View, focuses primarily on the wedding industry, including services such as DJs, uplighting, photo booths and promotional printing.
, a nonprofit venture development organization in Cleveland, provides valuable services and investments to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.
“The overall mission of JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland Impact Program
is to ensure the participating businesses have a positive impact on the city and its surrounding neighborhoods,” says Lorne Novick, a senior partner at JumpStart. “It is about helping good high-growth businesses looking to make an impact in the city. One business receives $10,000, and four others receive $2,500.”
Before the pitch event, each of the five companies pitching must go through a 12-week intensive business assistance program.
“All of the five businesses that graduate from the program will continue to receive one-on-one business assistance for the extended future,” Novick says.
So far, JumpStart has a number of highly successful entrepreneurs in the Core City: Cleveland Impact Program, and 40 graduates have received grant capital, money they can spend without paying it back. Overall, more than 90% of the companies served by the Core City: Cleveland program are led by African-Americans.
Lo-Key Entertainment’s overall goal is expansion, Henderson says. “With the prize money, we will be buying more equipment. We need additional equipment to take on more contracts. We are launching Lo-Key Entertainment music academy, which is an eight-week course to teach high school individuals the art of entertaining in front of the stage and behind the stage.”
Henderson has been in love with the entertainment industry since his youth and has been buying turntables and going around to gigs since he was a high school sophomore. He runs the company by himself.
“I love people. That is the biggest thing about entertainment,” Henderson says. “I wanted to be an educator to help kids be in a constantly changing environment.”
The most important aspects Henderson carries are his entrepreneurial mind-set and drive to succeed.
“If you are an entrepreneur, you must carry yourself well in public. Someone is always watching you. It can be difficult, but in the fourth quarter, I am comfortable taking a shot,” Henderson says. “Having a partner, I don’t know If I would be able to live with the decisions. Win or lose, I am comfortable.”
Henderson, who attended Kent State University, has some advice for upcoming entrepreneurs, such as finding a mentor who has experience in your industry.
“First things first, you do not know everything,” Henderson says. “If I knew everything, I wouldn’t have gone to college. No one is good at everything. You may not know financial aspects, you may not know marketing. Find people who can help you to avoid pitfalls.”
JumpStart has begun accepting applications for the pitch competition’s next cohort. Applications are due Jan. 17.