Today we’d like to introduce you to Sondra Brunone.
Sondra, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Audio DAWg is a personal positive born from a negative you hope never happens to you.
One day, my husband Mike (affectionately known as “Spunky” in music circles) came home with bad news: the 100-year old music company he’d worked for as head of the professional recording division (for 14 years) was filing for bankruptcy and relaunching as a small music instrument rental company. Our first reaction was, of course, panic; jobs in the music industry were (and still are) hard to come by. My video production company was doing well, but didn’t pay ALL of our bills. So, just playing out in clubs, etc. (he plays keyboards) was not an option for him. He needed a job.
So, what was next for us? As an entrepreneur, I’ll admit, I’d always felt more comfortable knowing that one of us had a “real job”. And now one of us didn’t. What happened next was so natural and occurred so quickly, that it almost felt too easy. We decided to launch our own professional audio recording sales company – and after a few glasses of wine, named it Audio DAWg (DAW stands for Digital Audio Workstation – the basis of any recording studio).
Honestly, I’d never thought of Spunky as an entrepreneur (translation: risk taker), even though, at my very core, I always will be. He doesn’t like change. He just doesn’t. But, it turns out he hardly noticed the difference. He’s an awesome sales person who genuinely loves what he sells. He already knew how to manage sales, inventory and purchasing. I have experience in marketing, advertising, creative writing and event production. And we already had a staff bookkeeper who could handle both companies easily. We are the perfect fit. But we weren’t 100% sure if his customers and suppliers would follow us into a new venture. Our fears were unfounded: When we announced our intention to open Audio DAWg, virtually all of his former customers and product suppliers immediately came on board. And, even the owner of the music company Spunky had worked for so long gave us the thumbs up.
Fast-forward 10+ years and much as happened: some good and some bad. We’re still here! And, we’re in the process of relaunching the Audio DAWg brand with a new look, an updated logo and, generally, a very robust new online presence. Our new Webstore is pretty cool and we’re investing in telling the world about us.
Why? Because industry we’re in certainly isn’t getting any easier. When we started out, there were no online retailers at all. Our competition was all brick-and-mortar based. Now, we’re one of the few places in the Dallas area where musicians and recording enthusiasts can still come and play with the high-end recording studio tools they need BEFORE they buy. And Spunky is just one of those guys everyone loves (and, yes, as the company’s marketer, I’m proudly exploiting him). He’s knowledgeable about what he sells and offers sound professional advice (something you can’t get online) to his (very loyal) customers. We definitely believe in going the extra mile for our customers – and they appreciate it.
Still, I’d be kidding you if I claimed we’re competing effectively with the giant online music retailers. We aren’t. But, we don’t need the biggest piece of the industry pie to thrive. We’ll never, ever give up our unique service ethic. Our online presence is growing quickly because we’re backing it up with a long-held tradition of caring, thoughtful, honest service. Turns out, people REALLY DO care about being treated well and LOVE knowing there are knowledgeable experts available to make sure they don’t make the wrong purchase. What we sell isn’t cheap – and audio professionals want value when they spend their hard earned dollars. We’ve been there. And our customers know we understand their concerns.
I finally sold my 15-year old video production company last year, and, just in time. Audio DAWg has become a full-time job for me and, thankfully, now I’m able to more fully utilize my own creative skills to promote and grow our (not so little, anymore) enterprise. I’m still freelancing as a producer, director and writer on video & TV projects – but it feels AWESOME to be able to dig in a little deeper at Audio DAWg – and to use my entrepreneurial skills to grow this business. It’s a fun time for both of us. We’re more of a team than ever now.
We’re also both avid travelers, hikers and love to spend time in our favorite place: Sedona, Arizona. Our goal is to eventually run the biz from there. Turns out we like small town life, beautiful scenery and nature right outside our window. I’m pretty sure our friends are getting sick of our Facebook & Instagram hiking posts. But WE never get tired of it, so too bad. ????
Has it been a smooth road?
Our biggest struggles over the years have been related to my lack of time to do my part in the business – during the periods when my other business (ImageMaker) was super busy. Spunky is great at what he does – but every business needs a strategy. When I was less focused, we sometimes missed opportunities for growth.
Of course, the growth of online music equipment retailers is by far our biggest challenge. We’re small and financing a gigantic online operation is impossible for us. So, we’ve had to focus on capturing a piece of the pie that makes sense and is profitable for US. Our competitive difference is service and knowledge. There was a period when customers seemed more enamored by online ease of purchase. That has shifted. We’ve all discovered that buying specialized products like we sell on line can really suck, when you need help, advice knowledge and follow up service. We provide that.
One of the most important and consequential things I’ve done recently to benefit our business is to enroll in and complete the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. It was challenging, demanding and provided an amazing “mini-MBA” experience that resulted in a 45-page business growth plan that we are now implementing for Audio DAWg.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Most people think about the east and west coast when they think about the music scene. But, in reality, the DFW area is a close third!
The jazz music school at the University of North Texas is one of the very finest in the country. So, our area attracts an outstanding group of talented musicians, recording engineers, etc. These individuals are our customers.
And there is a thriving House of Worship market here. Our church clients are some of our very best, and most loyal. These days, churches aren’t willing to settle for “okay” when it comes to a music program. Parishioners expect professional musicians and great sound on Sundays – and we know how to make that happen. So, working with churches comes naturally.
We’re passionate about music, of course, so we’re also passionate about music education. We work with schools and universities all the time, as they enhance their own music programs with cutting edge music recording boards, software, mics, keyboards, monitors, etc. UNT (Spunky’s alma mater) is one of our clients. As are many colleges and universities in the DFW area.
We also like to give back. We donated three music recording studio packages last year to a local radio station’s Christmas Wish effort and also are in the process of launching a program called DAWg Pack – to allow non-profits with music programs to benefit from the purchases of their supporters. With the support of future DAWg Pack members, we look forward to delivering free music recording studio gear to local churches and schools next year!
Well, we don’t have mountains or a beach in Dallas. ???? And it’s too damn hot in the summer. But, otherwise, DFW is an awesome place to live and work! And, since we’re right in the middle of the country, we can travel to our favorite escapes easily (which we do all the time).
Address: 2002 Academy Lane Ste 130
Farmers Branch, TX 75234
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