Nathan Vander Stoep, Caroline H. Newhouse Business Grant Recipient
I first met CTFD in a centerfold of Dance Magazine while flipping to an article written about the principals in my company, Colorado Ballet. I was young and it didn’t feel relevant at the time, but the grant money caught my attention for the future. A few years later as I was becoming less enchanted with my career, and was beginning to think about moving on, I remembered the advertisement. I made my first call to the counselors in 2006, and as we began delving into options, it actually renewed my passion for dance while simultaneously highlighting the importance of thinking about life after dance. I ended up performing another three years while expanding my extracurricular activities.
I had played trombone from an early age and started taking amateur gigs. As I improved, I began getting professional gigs. However, I needed to know the music perfectly without rehearsals, so a good stereo system became imperative. As I put together the system, I realized the incredible difference that the wiring could make in the clarity and detail of what I could hear in the recordings. I did some research online and started building my own cables based on some ideas I formed from the information I had found. The results were fascinating, which became a topic in my next conversation with CTFD. The counselor mentioned that it could become a business, which hadn’t entered my mind at all. It was at this point when my relationship with CTFD became much more serious and instrumental in my future.
In general, I had never thought much of counseling; even in preliminary conversations with CTFD, I felt like the conversation wandered around a bit. That all changed now that I was interested in a specific topic. As a dancer, I knew nothing about business and suddenly I had a lot to learn. CTFD recommended finding a mentor through various channels, and this is probably the single most valuable prodding that I received. My counselor sent me a few websites to view, four of which were for local businesses and I could visit in-person. I had developed networking skills in the ballet world, so it was easy for me to start making connections with other business owners. I landed a mentorship in the HiFi Stereo industry while building my own business of designing cable products for home stereos, and over three years I learned the essential business practices particular to the industry. This was an absolutely invaluable experience and would not have happened without the guidance of the CTFD counselors.
During the counseling sessions, a frequent topic of discussion was how best to use the grant money. Education seemed like an enticing idea, especially since electricity was not something that I had ever studied beyond the university of Google. As my counselor and I discussed options, I also discussed it with my mentor, who ultimately made a suggestion with a result that still ceases to amaze me.
When I designed my products, I had focused on the quality of the product sonically as well as for durability. The results were a product that changed the sound of any system dramatically, and never failed, but they did not possess the jewelry-like cosmetics of my competitors. The cost of designing and manufacturing the parts needed were expensive and I didn’t see the point in extraneous parts that didn’t contribute to the sound. It was then that both my mentor and counselor pointed out my flawed logic.
My speaker cable sales were virtually dead; I had only sold three pairs over the previous year. I decided to design aluminum sleeves to cover the transition area on the cables. I used CTFD’s grant money, which covered enough parts for 30 cables, to get the parts into production.
That seed money completely changed the landscape of my business. Speaker cable sales increased immediately. As soon as the first sample cable was shown in the Japanese market, I had orders for 5 speaker cables within a week. At the end of a year’s time, I had sold over $26K in speaker cables alone, which allowed cosmetic development of the whole cable line. The company now has a distinctive look, and is growing rapidly.
With both the counseling and grants offered, CTFD has helped shape my life and formed a business that supports me in a way that I never imagined, and I am very thankful!