I had the privilege of sitting down with Guns N' Roses lead guitarist DJ Ashba about what it's like for a celebrity. I was able to ask him about entrepreneurship and success beyond the music. We have all heard of the demise of the music industry but I wanted to ask a successful musician what it takes and what keeps driving him.
DJ recently launched a new e-commerce business that lets users to custom-make beanies. My overall impression is that what it takes to be successful as a musician and as an entrepreneur have a lot of similarities, passion for your fans/customers, making a product that they really want, and the drive and talent to make it happen.
Here are some of the questions:
What made you want to become a business owner?
In high school, they instill in your mind how important it is to have a 9-5 job in order to be successful. I noticed that everyone with a 9-5 job was also living from paycheck to paycheck and barely scraping by. On the contrary, I also noticed that everyone graduating from Harvard and colleges of that sort are taught completely the opposite, that it's better to create your own job than to work for someone else.
I took inspiration from my aunt and uncle, whom invented the technology for PAM cooking spray. Seeing them go outside the boundaries and with me also having my inventive and artist ambition, I chose that path less traveled. In doing this, I found that there's nothing more gratifying than planting the seed of an idea and watching it organically grow into something you can be proud of.
How can other artists like yourself learn from entrepreneurs across the world?
I've always looked up to successful people and learned from their mistakes as well as my own. They are obviously successful for a reason so learning from other entrepreneurs is the best way to succeed yourself. You can't be afraid of taking chances, risks, and purely following your gut instinct. Most of all you can not be afraid to fail because there is no success without failure.
Advice to all the kids out there that grow up in bad situations?
No matter what you've been through in life, you must remind yourself that this is YOUR life. There's nothing in life you can't have if you want it bad enough. You just have to be willing to work as hard as it takes to get it.
You have 2 choices. You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself, or you can get up, dust yourself off, and never lose focus on your goals. Don't ever let anyone discourage you and stand in your way. Use the negativity as motivation to fuel the fire inside you. Follow your heart, never doubt yourself, and always remember, the hardest part about reaching your dreams is never giving up.
Advice for all the young rockers for after the fame dies down?
My biggest advice is never look at yourself as just a musician. Never put all of your eggs in one basket, diversify. It's always important to create multiple revenue streams, regardless of how well your career is doing.
How can business owners pivot from fame to passion?
Once you're successful, now comes the fun part. Diversify. Now you have the pleasure of investing in projects that you are passionate about. Although you may work longer hours than any day job you've ever had in the past, something that you're truly passionate about should never feel like work.
What have you been able to translate from your music business to your other businesses?
One thing I've been able to transfer is knowledge, making a lot of mistakes but learning from them and apply that knowledge to new business ventures. At a young age, I was taught that learning how the music business works is every bit as important as learning your instrument. After all, they call a business for a reason. Always have a back-up plan, that's the smartest advice I can give you. Unfortunately, the reality is that very few bands will ever achieve success in this industry; even fewer will establish longevity. Knowing this is why it is very important to understand the business. Save your money and invest wisely.
What is the story behind your media business and what can others learn from that?
In 2003, I started a media company out of a one car garage, called ASHBA Media (ashbamedia.com), beating out 106 agencies to become Virgin megastore's agency of record. We were in charge of branding and marketing all Virgin megastores worldwide for 5 years until the economy started crashing and they began shutting their doors. In 2008 we moved our focus to the clothing industry and began building a line called ASHBA (ashbaclothing.com) To date, ASHBA has become and global brand. In 2012, I decided to moved the businesses in a warehouse facility in Las Vegas, Nevada where I both businesses under the umbrella of ASHBA Enterprises, Inc. Since then, we have developed solid relationships with clientele such as Cirque du Soleil, MGM Resorts International, Jeff Dunham, Inc.and many more being esteemed as a go to creative agency for virtually anything of the imagination. We specialize in 3D Themed Environments, Photo Op Displays, Special FX, Electrical/Non-Electrical Signage, Graphics, Conceptual Design, Digital Modeling, Photography, Videography etc.
Advice: Don't be afraid to take a chance. It's the ones to are too afraid to take a chance that will never be successful in life.
What business opportunities are you looking for next?
I am looking to step into the film/production industry next. My passions lies in scoring movies, script writing, directing, acting and producing. I also foresee opening an additional division of ASHBA Media in Los Angeles where we focus strictly on special FX for film and television.