Three years ago, James Craig started a business called Envision Entertainment, the culmination of years of experience working independently, but for another company. We’ll find out how he made the transition from working for someone else to working mainly for himself.
James has a different story about his DJ origins than many of our ProDJFile subjects, who often describe “sliding” into DJing gradually. James simply answered a classified ad!
James also shares a tragic experience that nonetheless reveals how he radiates a passion for doing what he loves the most: entertaining.
We pick up with James as he tells his story…
James Craig: I saw an ad in the paper saying “Make anywhere between $15 to $30 an hour,” and I needed a second job because I had a child coming along. So I answered the ad and I went into an interview with a gentleman who ran a company called Infinity Entertainment, and which I still get booked by to this day.
During that meeting he asked me several questions, some silly. Like one was, why a manhole is round. I never understood why he asked that question. I guess the reason why, I found out, was that he wanted to see how creative I was. There was no right or wrong answer. He also asked me to name 30 classic rock bands. I drew a blank and I just couldn’t name them right off the top of my head.
I went home; of course, did my research. I sent him an email saying, “I might not have had the answer for you right then, but I will have the answer for you within 24 hours.” I think that’s one of the things that got me the job. And from then on I just loved it.
Mobile Beat: Tell us about how Envision came into being.
J C: Well, I started having a lot of fun at my events and started taking this job very seriously and knew this is what I wanted to do.
I then saw how much you could make and how much I was making. I was an independent contractor with Infinity. I saw how much I was doing. I was handling the client from the beginning all the way down to the last dance, and I saw how much money there was involved in that. So I said to myself, “I’m going to go on my own.” I then started my own business.
So I went out and got a trade name and started learning as I moved along, because I had no knowledge in starting up a business at all.
M B: Can you say more about your inspiration to head out on your own? What made you feel that you really needed to do it?
J C: I kept on getting feedback from—I’d get it every event, every day, from people I didn’t know. And by this time I’d already hosted karaoke at some places and done bar mitzvahs and corporate events and holiday parties.
I then came to a point where everyone was saying, “James, you’re awesome; James, you’ve got a good voice, you’ve got this, get into radio, you need to do this, you need to do that.” And that’s what I took it as and I ran with it…
M B: Please describe your current primary focus, what kind of events you enjoy most doing and what you’re best at. Also, where are you based the territory you cover?
J C: I’m based out of Phoenix, Arizona. I travel to California, to Chicago, to a lot of next-door states to Arizona. But I am based in Phoenix.
What I’m good at… A lot of people have said even before I became a DJ, “You have a silver tongue; the gift of gab; you’re able to flow with the words; to know when it’s funny and when it isn’t.” And basically, entertainment and showing people a good time—keeping a good “flow.” We set ourselves apart with interactive events and group activities. Because not everyone comes to dance, so how do we keep that entertainment flowing.
So now I almost don’t even like to call myself a DJ. I like to call myself an entertainer. It’s how long you’re going to take on an interactive event. As the saying goes, you can please many people, so many times, but you can’t please all the people all the time; but you do your best. And that’s kind of what I do.
M B: Do you go out completely solo, or do you bring someone along with you?
J C: I’ve done this solo from the get-go. It’s very that I bring someone with me. Say, New Year’s Eve, I have friends that are a little bit more on the turntable side and a little bit more into the music. Maybe I’ll bring them with me. On bigger events, such as bar mitzvahs, where you need a lot of energy to entertain so many children, I try to bring help with that. But mostly all by myself.
M B: In your original email, you mentioned something deeply emotional about your little brother, something he said to you. We know it’s tough, but can you give us a little bit of that story?
J C: All right… So back on the night of November 11th of 2012, my youngest brother—he was 23 years old—was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. He didn’t pass away that night, but the next day.
He had been a little bit of a troublesome kid. But he was 23 years old, and he was making that move to do something better with his life.
Shortly before him passing away he said to me, “Jimmy, why don’t you teach me to do what you do?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I want to do exactly what you do, because you seem to be doing all right.”
I said, “Well, come with me on an event.” And he did. He came with me and he helped out. He helped set up and pack up the equipment.
So anyways, so November 11th, 2012, he was involved in a hit-and-run. I got a text from him at 2:20 in the morning. This all happened at 3:00 in the morning…
This is really difficult because my mother raised five boys on her own. Losing just one of them, him being the youngest, this has been the hardest thing ever to have to deal with. Not only dealing with my best friend and youngest brother just being gone in a flash, but also that I could have possibly done something about it, because he did text me at 2:20 in the morning. I didn’t read it because I had just left my event and I was tired. I was going to bed, and I didn’t think it was that important. It just kind of said, “Hey, what you doing?” Then the next morning he’s gone.
M B: When he said “Why don’t you teach me how to do what you do,” it’s clear that he saw the passion in you and decided he wanted some of it. He saw that you love what you do. Tell us about how that passion comes out when you’re working with a couple on their big day.
J C: Well, first off, I couldn’t be more grateful for the job that I have. They say that you never work a day in your life as long as you love your job, and that’s how it felt since I’ve been doing this.
To be a part of someone’s special moment, such as the father-daughter dance or the mother-son dance… I almost get kind of teary-eyed and choked up, because I’m part of the creation of that moment. I like to stay humble in what I do, of course, but to make people happy, I go above and beyond to meet or exceed their expectations.
Right before they’ll go on and I’m talking with them, I hand them an Altoids and say “Hey, you’re going to need this because you’re going to be kissing soon.” It’s right after dinner, you know? I check with them: “Hey, do you guys need anything? You need any drinks or anything else?” I’m not just a DJ. If the food’s not coming out in time, you bet I will be back there in the kitchen saying, “Hey, guys, need a hand with food?” During dinner and cocktail hour I’m not the busiest. I always like to say my job is to make sure you’re smiling at all times.
M B: How do people hear about Envision Entertainment and about you personally? How do you get the word out?
J C: A lot of social networking, of course; big time word of mouth; and a lot of vendor networking, as much as I possibly can. Small bridal shows and hopefully getting into big bridal shows. Also providing my surveys to these vendors and stuff like that.
I have many goals to help these things happen in the future, but right now it’s mostly referral-based, clients and vendors, really.
M B: What are some of your other future plans?
J C: Well, I can’t be an entertainer forever and I eventually would like to teach exactly what I do, exactly what I know to somebody else.
When I got into this job, I was an open book, and I’m looking for those people that are open books; literally I knew nothing about this business. People tell me all the time, “I can’t do what you do.” My answer to that is “That’s exactly why you can’t, because whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”
I would eventually like to get into having some independent contractors, also…
M B: Give us an example of one of those events where you feel you hit your goals, you did exactly what you wanted to do.
J C: Okay. First, I mean, every event I could do something different. That’s why when I leave my event, literally my mind goes into working on what could I have done differently. It’s never perfect. There’s always something I could have done better.
Actually, I have an event coming up that I’m literally succeeding at right now… It’s a New Year’s Eve wedding going on at the Ritz-Carlton. They not only have their wedding, but they also want to transition into a New Year’s Eve party. So do the wedding and then stop it at a certain time and then kind of focus more on New Year’s Eve.
And I guess they have a fireworks display that’s going on just for themselves… They booked the rooftop of the Ritz and there’s going to be something like a romantic moment for the bride and groom. And she mentioned in the meeting, “Oh, we don’t have music.”So of course.
I’m not one to tag on extra cost and say, you need a microphone, it’s a little extra cost; you need this, it’s an extra cost… I said, “I’ll go ahead and provide you equipment at the rooftop and we’ll just set it on automatic and we’ll take care of you that way.”
Not only that, but I’m also going to be dressing up in tails and a top hat… When they come out for dinner they put on the song, “Puttin’ On The Ritz” and stuff like that. So I want to cater to that.
M B: Any advice for new DJs? We know you haven’t been on your own that long, but maybe advice for those also thinking about going out on their own?
J C: In anything you do, you have to know that that’s what you want to do, because this is not a job you can be late for; this is not a job you can be sick for. No matter what, you have to be there. You have to treat it like your own personal event…the event has to happen. And you’re only as good as your last event.
M B: How can people find out more about your company, and maybe talk to you about your philosophy on business and service?
J C: Yeah. Look up www.EnvisionDJ.net. My contact number is (602) 246-9101. Of course, I’m basically open 24 hours; if not, leave a message and I’ll get back to you in 24 hours.
You can also find me on Facebook on EnvisionEntertainment, as well as Pinterest; I’m on LinkedIn; I’m on Google+, James Craig. Basically just do a search on Envision Entertainment.
Filed Under: Issue #152, Personal Development, Profiles
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