Using one of your passions to start a business is nothing new, but using creativity and recognizing an opportunity through your passion can turn into a recipe for success. If you are passionate about food – buying the rights to build several franchise locations may seem like a safe bet and a way to make a solid living. Although this is a great option for many, it doesn’t necessarily allow an entrepreneur to expand upon their creativity and use their passion to create a dominant advantage over what is currently offered in the marketplace.
Young entrepreneur Duncan Abdelnour is no stranger to the night life and enjoys a good time. As a young entrepreneur, he has a mindset where he is always looking for the next big thing. As he explains in the interview, a night at an electronic music concert turned into the idea for his now growing business.
Duncan was a recent competitor in the Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference (SEEC) Elevator Pitch Competition at the University of Tampa. The event is a regional conference of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO), which hosts the National Elevator Pitch Competition each fall.
Duncan may not have won the competition, but it is clear that he is headed on the right track as a young entrepreneur. The following is an interview with him about his past as an entrepreneur, his business Branded Lights, and what is next for him and the business.
General Business Information
Name: Branded Lights
Founders: Duncan Abdelnour, Aaron Musicaro, Matthew Castriotta
Founded: October 2012
Funding to Date: $1000 – Personal Seed Money, Bootstrapped everything else
Description of business: A Leading Night Life Promotional Products Supplier, importer of items from LED Foam Sticks, to giant LED Inflatables with a Company’s, DJ’s, Night Club‘s, Sponsor’s logo.
Michael Luchies: What was your first experience in entrepreneurship?
Duncan Abdelnour: Founded Paint and Air Sports, when I was 14. Started by buying and selling paintball guns online, obtained wholesale and distributor accounts and started a online store.
ML: How did you get the idea for Branded Lights?
DA: I was at an electronic music concert, and noticed everyone fighting over these really cool LED Foam Light sticks, and wondered why no one was branding them with the venues, sponsors, or DJ’s logos.
ML: What struggles with the business have you had to overcome?
DA: Working with overseas suppliers, and their various mishaps such as faulty products, not getting orders shipped on time, and of course Chinese New Year, which is putting all of our production on hold for the next 3 weeks.
ML: How do you balance being an entrepreneur and a student at the same time?
DA: I schedule my classes so that I have plenty of time during the day to make calls, do emails, deal with clients etc. I started learning how to do this in high school when I would sneak off to the library to hop on the computer and do research all day on whatever venture I had at the time.
ML: What has been your best experience as an entrepreneur?
DA: Anytime you see your efforts effecting and benefiting thousands of people in a better way. When I was 18, I put on a sold out concert with the artist Sammy Adams, 850 screaming kids, and I was able to DJ for him on stage. After the show there were girls lining up to take pictures with me, which was pretty cool. Aside from the experience, we made about $16,000 that night, which was nice to.
ML: How many failures did you experience before Branded Lights? Did you ever want to give up on being an entrepreneur?
DA: One time I lost $30,000 on a concert deal gone wrong, and I definitely learned the hard way that the most important part of business is the people you do business with. There have been a few times I’ve definitely wanted to give up and just be a regular kid, but then I think about spending the rest of my life working in a cubicle and immediately change my mind.
ML: What advice do you have for young aspiring or current entrepreneurs?
DA: Find an Idea that can actually make money. I see it all the time – people pitching great ideas but they have no idea how to actually monetize them. You need to have a crystal clear picture of who your customers will be, how much are they going to pay you for your product or service, and how much its going to cost you to produce it.
Also, don’t spend all your time looking for funding. Get creative and build a business with your own capital, the only thing worse then loosing your own money, is loosing someone else’s.
ML: What is next for Branded Lights?
DA: We will be spending the majority of our Spring and Summer on the road vending at music festivals across the country such as Ultra in Miami, Electric Daisy Carnival, and a few others. We are also expanding our product line every week, offering more and more products to reach a broader customer base.
It is clear that Duncan and his partners are succeeding because of a great idea coupled with their passion for the industry that they are involved in. Thanks to Branded Lights and Duncan for the interview and good luck in the future.
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