Sharon West is the owner of Dusty Dreams Music, and a professional composer. Sharon hired me in October of 2006 to assist her with the marketing and sales of her music. Sharon currently has three CDs, as well as a new release, World Journey, which just came out this month. I recently sat down with Sharon to talk to her about her new CD, as well as her experiences with starting and running her own business.
Tell me about your company, Dusty Dreams Music.
I started Dusty Dreams Music in 2003, after 20 years in the corporate telecom world. I had always known I should write music, but also liked engineering so that’s what I ended up getting a degree in. I had played a number of instruments growing up including: piano, alto recorder, violin and alto saxophone, and had thought seriously about majoring in music, but it soon became a hobby once I started working after college. Life seemed to be going along so quickly that I finally decided that if I ever want to really do something with my music, I need to make it a priority in my life and go after what’s in my heart.
The name Dusty Dreams came from the idea, after talking to a number of people over the years, that many of us have these dreams that we had when we were younger to compose or write or paint or start our own business that have just somehow become “dusty” and forgotten in some part of our mind over the years. So I called my company Dusty Dreams Music so that it would inspire others to go after their dreams, even if they are old and dusty! I felt it was time to dust them off and go after them!
After I made that decision, I setup a music studio in my home, started taking online courses through the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and worked diligently for a couple years to really develop my own sound and style. Now, 5 years after leaving the corporate world, I have just finished my 4th album of instrumental music, and am starting to make some real headway into getting some visibility for my music in radio, potentially some film and TV placements, and even expanding my work to do custom music for meditation and other CDs needing background music, as well as theme music for companies.
You used to be a corporate employee. How did you make the transition from the corporate world to pursuing your dream of making music and running your own business?
Well, I think one of the most important things is to save as much money as you can while you are working so you’ll have sufficient capital to setup your business and sustain you for the first few years you are building it. Second, you need to have a good sense of what you really bring to the market, especially in really competitive fields. Also, learn as much as you can about basic business skills while you are working, everything from planning to accounting to marketing as they are going to be very valuable as you start your own business. If you need to, go back to school like I did to develop your skills even more and gain a lot of contacts while your expertise grows.
I was personally very lucky in working in telecom for a number of years at some great companies and able to save money and have stock options as well. But the biggest thing is thinking long-term and not spending a ton of money on your own personal items while you are working at other companies if you want sufficient capital to start your own business. That way you will have some time without a lot of stress to really hone your skills and figure out what niche or market you are targeting. You’ll also have time to build a product or service offering, which can be a challenge!
What advice would you give someone that is thinking about making the transition from working for someone else to doing their own thing?
Make sure you have plenty of cash reserves built-up first or at least are comfortable with dramatically changing your lifestyle if needed while you build your business, so that you can do so without a tremendous amount of undue stress. Learn as much as you can about your field, the competition, and what would make your product or service so unique or attractive that it will really stand out. Do a self-assessment and be honest about how you really like to work. For example, do you like to work with people but would you be working on your own a lot? Do you like constant feedback and praise? If so, some fields don’t provide anywhere near the same amount of these things working for yourself as when you are working in a corporate or small business setting. Just make sure you go into something you really love and believe in, then work hard but keep an open mind and be flexible to change things as you learn and grow.
What has been your biggest business challenge, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge has been working on my own a lot, especially when working as a composer. I like working with people and being part of a team, and had that all through my corporate career. Even on your own, over time you generally build your own team of people to work with and find ways to get the feedback and counsel you need. Also, I have a hard time with marketing on my own so now I work with various groups and hire companies as needed to help me with areas that aren’t my forte. For example, I have hired firms to do my web design, marketing and promotion companies for that aspect, and I even work with a you from a business coaching standpoint. Now it takes time to get all these things working together or even getting to a place that you can hire out for that, but I think going to experts when you need to and delegating is just smart business.
How has coaching helped you to achieve the success that you have had?
Coaching is an invaluable experience as it really helps you focus your energies, prioritize and take action. It is so easy to get overwhelmed with the vast amount of things you have to do running your own business, and having someone helping you sort through all that and making sure that you are doing the really important things, and even asking the big questions about what are you trying to accomplish and why, helps immensely.
Would you recommend coaching to others? Why?
I would definitely recommend coaching to others! The whole process is extremely focused on both the big picture and getting things done week over week, so you can start to see real progress with your business. You’ve been able to help me figure out what I’m trying to accomplish and what I really enjoy, and then you’ve helped get me there. Plus, you have so many contacts in so many areas. You have recommended a lot of great resources that immediately helped me jump-start my business. Now, that’s really valuable when life and time can seem so short!
I encourage you to check out Sharon’s website at www.dustydreamsmusic.com. You can learn more about Sharon, as well as listen and purchase her music there. You can also reach Sharon at (630) 969-2614.