Decision Dialogues
Decision Dialogues

Episode 31 · 7 months ago

If at First You Don't Succeed...

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

On episode 31 of Decision Dialogues, Mark Willoughby and Mindy Neira speak to Christian Meneses, owner of Blanc Noir Event Group. Christian founded Blanc Noir in 2011 as an extension of his skills in DJing, and he did so after two previous failed entertainment ventures. He discusses his willingness to fail, pick himself back up, and try again, and also his connection to the special needs community, as he also does work as a speech / language pathologist.

Get the full show notes and more resources at ModeraWealth.com/DecisionDialogues

Are you paving the way for the life you want facing decisions that may affect you personally and financially? The decision dialogs podcast, brought to you by Modera Wealth Management, presents personal stories about navigating through life's pivotal moments, narratives that we hope will inspire you as you create your own story. You'll learn what influence their next steps and gain insights that could help you with your own critical choices. Welcome to decision dialogs. Thanks for joining us on decision dialogs. We're thrilled to have you along. My name is Mark Willoughby and I'm a principle and wealth manager at Madera Wealth Management Elsie. Today, my colleague, Mindi Neira, who's also a principle and wealth manager at Madeira, will be chatting with Christian Menessus of Blong Noir Event Group. Blong no air specializes in bespoke event experiences for each and every client. Christian, I hope I have pronounced the name of your company correctly. I tried to use my best French accent there in describing it. I like will hand over to Mendy to take it from here. Great thanks, Mark. Hi, Christian, good to have you today. Hey, Mandy, how are you? As everything? It's good and I'm excited to have a conversation in here. You Know Your Path and journey through being an entrepreneur, but you are not a a business owner. You have two jobs, so I want to start there. Tell us what you do. Yes, I have two different lives, I guess you could say, but they somehow meet along the way. Other than being a DJ and business owner and the entertainment business, I am also a school based speech language pathologists. That's great. And so how did that happen? Well, it's funny because when I first started going to school I knew I...

...wanted to work with people. I've always had that personality, treat of being the patient person in the room, I guess you could say, even with my younger cousins that would beat me up or whatever. I was always the quiet, patient child and I guess as I grew up I always had that characteristic. But then I didn't know where I wanted to go. I went to college undecided. During that time I had a cousin who is actually develop mentally deleted. I have no idea what that really men at the time, but I do come from a Colombian background, where most of my family is is immigrating to this country. So I'm a first generation. So I was helping my aunt and my uncle translate a lot of things because they didn't know what was going on. They were completely lost and I was the closest thing they had to somebody who's some what educated and to help them out. My cousin started getting earlier intervention and all these magnets, magnetisent thing started happening with this speech and language development. I'm like, wow, this is school. Somebody just helped my cousin, who didn't say one word. Now it's communicating all these things. I started doing some of my own research, due diligence, observations, like contacted some speech therapist in the area. Said Hey, can I just come see what you do? I don't need any signatures or any hours. This is unofficial, off the books from people said Yes, I did some observation hours and the restless history. I enrolled into this program, which was a very challenging program and competitive because the class sizes are always so small, and I was able to finish my bachelors and speech and hearing sciences with a minor in psychology and then attain my master's degree in speech language pethology. But during that time is also when the DJ stuff evolved, because it was my college job, something that kind of was getting me through and something that I did for fun, which ended up turning to a bigger business. But you know, I don't know if we're going to get into that...

...at this moment. Yeah, we'll definitely get into that because that's a big stuff. So that's that's great. So your Dj in college, you are pursuing your speech pathology future career and I know when we've talked you didn't think that the Djing side of things would continue. Will come back to the speech pathology, as you mentioned earlier. Store of those roads Cross and in a lot of ways now. But tell us a little bit about how the Djing side of things continued to get to where you are now. Sure, so the DJ and thing was a job that I acquired from just being the guy carrying the equipment. It was the Roadi. I was started off as a Roadi. Before that, I always had a passion for music. I always had a passion for playing music. I actually fun fact that some people don't really know this about me. Would Save my lunch money to buy music. So I wasn't the normal kid saving his lunch money to buy toys or other things. I would literally buy records, cassettes, CDs. Sometimes, if I couldn't afford the full album, I buy the single because the singles were cheaper than the full albums. I don't know if you guys remember any of that, but and I note we're on a podcast and you can't see the visuals, but even right now in my background neck, those are all real vinyl records on my walls like and I have tons of them. And so that was always a passion of mine and then I got this opportunity to just kind of get my foot in the door with with the DJENTERTAINMENT company, learn the ropes and kind of see what they did, and I just worked my way up, like almost saying I'm working my way up a corporate ladder. Wow, the guy carrying the equipment, then the guy who got promoted to doing the TV's and the audio visual and then up and up and then finally I got the opportunity to DJ. They gave me a chance and I started djying and just really started going really well and the parties went well and I also kind of just started doing some things on my own on the side.

It was fun, but it also something that I needed because I needed money to get through buying some books and getting gas money, and unfortunately my parents financially couldn't help me with a lot of those things and they supporting me and saying, Hey, go to college and do something with your life, but I was it. That's as much as support as that they could give me. Obviously I appreciated that and so I had to find my way not to get a little bit more. But you know, even with the DJ and thing was enough. I have many times in my since I started working, I've always had two to three jobs for multiple sources of income going on, because when I dj I was also working on campus, very involved in and helping transfer students and new incoming students with with things there, and then I also was a cashier at shop right. So wow. So the hustle has never really stopped for me. Even from my early years, I've always had multiple things going on. Wow. So you've worked very hard to get to where you are and and along the way, even as you come to block no, are and now here, you are with a well established event group, which is amazing. And, by the way, I didn't mention the beginning of a Christian was a DJ at my wedding, which we've gone through a lot together in the past few years, a pandemic and rescheduling, so he is amazing. Thank you. You know, you've really come a long way, it sounds like, but I know that that didn't just happen. So tell us about the try else and tribulations. You did try to start your own company a couple times before you got to this point. Is that right that? This is very true, Mandy, and this is something that when people comment of the luck and of the fortunate moments that you might have now, it's really a moment that I always reflect back on and I'd say to myself, because sometimes I'm not going to sit spend there and tell you my entire life story. But yeah, I filled not once but twice in...

...starting my own business and the entertainment world. I first started with the One business. It's the name is is actually pretty funny, but whatever, we're all having a conversation here right we called it brilliant beats entertainment. So brilliant beat and I was really over the creative and talent in the company. And then my friend just thought that Djing would bring him girls and other stuff. So he was like Hey, man, I want in, and his investment into the company was business cards. That's it. Bought the business cards and that was buying. And looking back at it, I'm like, wow, what if this big really took off, you would have got off really easy. And it didn't work out. You know, it just wasn't the right, I guess you could say, fit and just back to the drawing board, right. And then I started Meness's entertainment, which is just soul manessas on Dremi, and I'm gonna try to do this thing on my own, and that didn't work out each either. And so there was a lot going on in my life. I was also in school and I was busy and whatever the case may be, and why these things didn't work out, you know, I could kind of try to dissect it apart, but what I do know is that that fire still was inside of me, that I couldn't give up. When you're working towards something, it's crazy how things just kind of start finding themselves your way, almost like that concept of your attracting things and around that time when I was working still very hard and trying to build what I was doing and still create a name for myself, and then back then it was making mixtapes and handing out CDs, believe it or not, got me clients like people were remember those CDs that you know, my Dj name is DJ menace, Dj Menace, gave for free few years back. And then when they were getting married they would say, Hey, I remember your mixes were so awesome. I want you to Dj my wedding, and...

...that just kind of kept coming around. FACEBOOK came around to I'm dating myself, but earliers and facebook came around and I reconnected with an old childhood of friends who was also djs. We lived in totally separate areas. We had lost communication because this is also before cell phones, and we kind of went back and forth a little bit and one day we sat down in his mother's dining room and said, hey, you want to do things our way? We are kind of tired of just being the higher gun for other companies and almost just settling and certain ways of how we would like to do our own thing, and we just went for it and in my mind. Obviously, after failing a couple times, was like, okay, this is hopefully it for me, but I'm going to give it a good try. I'm not gonna let my past failures determine what my future is going to look like. I'm just going to give it a good shot and see where it goes. And that was late two thousand and eleven, and now it is two thousand and twenty two, and bloc more has grown, as you guys already might know, and the feel that you guys working with in the financial and business side of things that life expectancies for for small businesses start to decrease as the years go on. Three years, five years, and now my company has been around for ten plus years. So I feel like that is a success. Not Going to say that those ten years were easy either. Even when we were we've been building in the the tons of mistakes and obstacles that we have to overcome, but I am very grateful that a passion of mine, because I still have that passion of music and connecting with people and communicating through music, as I call it, because I'm not really talking very much on the microphone when I do events. I let the music do more of the talking. Is definitely something to me that's amazing, because I saw something the other day. It's like, if you can't stop thinking about something, don't...

...stop working towards it, and so I can't stop thinking about music and about what I do all the time. I literally think about Djying and this side of thing all the time, to the fact that I have one whole room in my house dedicated to my music. I have my turn tables, I have my vinyl records, I have all this set up, because sometimes I just come here, turn on the the turntables, put my headphones on and for me it's an escape. It's also a therapy for me. So it's great that I'm able to kind of do something that I love to do and get people to pay me to do it. I mean, come on, it's not work right, Christian? Yeah, do you mind me bringing you back to the two failed ventures, because failure is not a waste of time right. It's probably some of the best learning opportunities for all of us. I think some people don't recognize that, but you know, when you feel the big thing is to learn from something, from it. Did you take any big learnings from from the failed ventures. was there anything that you came out of then? That said, I'm not doing that again. Yeah, I think the biggest lesson learned is that although I had some direction and, I guess, clarity and what I wanted to do to get from a more mental and personal level, I know that I didn't fully believe in myself and he and here's a little bit more to that. When you're building a bit this and saying, okay, I'm a creative that does this, but now I'm trying to organize it in the sense of getting people to trust me, to give me money, I have to deal with legalities of contracts and all these other things. To me it was so daunting that I was almost kind of like, how is anybody going to pay me this sum of money that I'm asking them to pay me when I'm just starting out? I don't necessarily...

...know all these other avenues of business. Thing. I'm a DJ. I wanted to play music, I wanted to make people dance, but when you start a business you start to realize it might not just be what your technical or, you know, talent is. It's a lot more to it and as I matured as a person, as I matured as a DJ and all these other aspects, I started to have more confidence in myself and I do feel like that confidence help me break through to that next level and that next step that I needed to get to to have more success in what I do. So am I hearing then, that maybe the timing of the launch of your first venture it may have been too soon? Maybe you could have worked somewhere else as a DJ first to kind of kick the tires and are in your craft and then launch yourself could be yeah, I mean I was, you know, still, like I said, working for a the companies and taking a lot in from what they were doing. I mean because most entrepreneurs, before they become one, some will mostly say they work for somebody else, they learn their ropes and they got some backend experience and whatever that might look like, and kind of help them to get where they need to go. Because I definitely took that opportunity. I used to work for a company that you had to put in the paper there are multimillion dollar event company. So they weren't small by any means and they were doing some high end stuff and also pumping out hundreds of parties and things that I was trying to take in everything from logistics to just organizing these events, to office stuff to it was a lot going on. So yes, I definitely try to take a lot of notes. But once again, when you get to yourself, even if you know, it's like I went to school to study this, but when you're your first day at work, you're like, okay, molling really...

...preparing me for all this? You know? That's that's kind of like what it felt like. So yeah, it was definitely a little bit of a mixture. So let's talk about finances. At the beginning of your you know, the beginning, the beginning stages of block noir versus now, when we've talked in the past, your perspective on, you know, what to do with profit and earnings is very different than as it is now. So I love to hear a little bit more about that. As far as the financial aspect ax of when the business started, most of the funding just self funded. Do was myself from my business partner, money out of our own pockets. We took out a small credit card, maybe like six thousand dollars, like nothing crazy, to just buy some equipment. We've always run a pretty lean company in the sense of not taking on debt, which I think has been good. However, the profit side of things, I would say, definitely weren't being managed properly. When I first started my company, I was twenty five years old and I was transitioning from moving out of my parents house trying to do things on my own, and I necessarily wasn't thinking about retirement or investments or any of that stuff. I also, to be honest, didn't really have guidance or people in my circle who would really talk about those things either. So it wasn't really something that came to mind. It was you work hard and you should enjoy it. That was the what was happening and that's what I was doing. I was working hard, I was waking making way more money than my peers at the time because, don't forget, at this time I was also getting some money from my speech mythology job. So I wanted something Nice, I would get it. If I needed to do something, I would do it. If I wanted a leaf car, that was nice because I liked it, I got it and I wasn't managing anything. You know, I was putting a really small amount, maybe like...

...seventy five dollars a check or maybe a month to like a four hundred and three the account, which I mean I could have put way more. I really wasn't tackling my student loans, I wasn't doing any of it. I was just live in my life and it's changed drastically. The change is like I can't really look at that person and say I understood what they were doing, but almost kind of going back to what mark kind of says, Hey, you know, maybe the timing or you just weren't in there at the time, and those mistakes helped me make better decisions. And I believe that is very true, because the light bulb hit me one day and it really went from just not thinking that way to now that's on my mind all the time. I started investing more into that four hundred and three B I started doing some personal stocks in the side, investing into real estate and thinking about my future and a totally different sense, and now it's just an everyday thing. It's just something that I just need to have on top of mine. Not Saying that I want to go on a vacation, I'm not going to go, but there's some type of balance and there's some type of realization that you're eventually going to get to the point of your life where you might want us to go down, or your income might change, you might want to retire, and you might get there to this quote unquote, age, whatever that might be, sixty two, sixty five, sixty nine, whatever it is, and your might not be ready, and that to me pretty scary. When I speak to people and they're just going at it because they can't stop, not because they say want to necessarily be there or want to keep going to work, but they just didn't prepare the themselves or they financially weren't...

...making the decisions that they needed to make. And Look, as human beings, I feel like we're always learning, or you should be learning, and to this day I'm always trying to learn more and do more things to get myself in a better position financially, because there's a lot that I don't know. And whether it's listening to a podcast, reading a book, listening to Audio Book, whatever it is that I'm doing, I make time for it now, just like I make time for other things because it's that important, like if I make tend to work out, I make time to learn more about financial decisions, and things like that, because I'm also a person who comes from a family of immigrants who came to this country, who said to themselves, we can only do this much, and they surpassed that so much point to that point they were like, okay, this is it. Like what Christians doing right now is crazy. You know, when I talk to my father about investing in stocks or I just raise them out that I'm putting into my flour three B or I have a multi family and then another house, he doesn't he doesn't understand right Christian. It's very foreign. It's very foreign, you know. So I had to get out of that mindset. I had to get out of that you know, this is what should be doing, versus educating myself and saying, okay, this is what I think is the best fit for my lifestyle and my future. And although my parents did the best that they could, they were also, like I said, not really educated in that area, which is no fall of theirs. But then I had to figure out a way to kind of learn those things along the way and I'm still, like I said, I'm still literally learning. Was it one moment Christian, or was it a series of was it a growing realization that kind of got you more comfortable thinking about, you know, saving and building wealth and planning for the future. What I think it was...

...mark is is age, and I know we should have put the the the whole number on age and what society things on things, but I'm being honest here. I was hitting thirty. I started my company twenty five. I was hitting thirty and I really got to that day where that light bulb went off literally and I said to myself, man, I'm about to be thirty and I really have nothing to show for it. That's kind of like what what hit me. Like I I was I was renting a house with some roommates and just, like I said, living my life and not really worrying about any of these things to fully saying, like what is happening, and just everything switch flipped like completely from from literally like a date to or another. I started saving aggressively. That same year I bought up my first property. Like it just once that fire gets to me. Good luck trying to stop me, Christian. It also that also pay. Have you mentioned retirement right is as your longer term goal, but it also helped you. You know, we just kind of coming out of a recession here or still in it. So you know, how did it prepare you for that? I know we had a lot of conversations beginning of two thousand and twenty, not only because of my wedding problems, but also because of what was going on and you know, being a small business and it took a toll on you and your company. I imagine correct it was a extremely scary time, I think, for everybody. For my business, like really ninety something percent of events we do our wedding we do some corporate events, but we do mainly weddings. In the State of New Jersey. We were one of the first to have an aggressive shutdown and then one of the last to reopen. So the longevity of the situation was rough. We had countless amounts of postponements and...

...we still have a commercial lease because we do have an a storefront. We still have marketing contracts that we have with like Thena and some of these other wedding sites that a believe it or not, a lot of people are like, Hey, we still want our money. You know they who weren't. Hey, we're really sorry for what's going on, but you sign a contract and we still need to get paid and I was like, okay, we have to figure this out. And when Mindy called, I remember we were talking about some things going on and financial stood because she was trying to educate me about some programs that were coming up on the pipeline and that I was still kind of figuring out myself, and I said to her, O, Hey, I'm happy that. You know I live so certain extent below my means and I always have a security blanket, certain money allocated to if it hits the fan, whether you know, it's my business, or have to replace my roof tomorrow, which you know is not cheap, or whatever it else might come your way, what is going to help me get through? and Luckily I had that, and so I think that helped me breathe a little bit. But it was still stressful because we had no clue how long it's going to last and every time we thought we were coming up for some pre some air kept kind of extending. So yeah, I mean a lot of companies didn't make it and it was scary. When you start at seeing those things, you're like, am I going to be next? Like this is this is tough and I'm still feeling that to the day, and I feel like some people forget about that when it comes to some of these wedding vendors and what we do in our business. Like, for example, I have a wedding next month in April. That postponed twice. So I've been working with that client for three years and on their same date I said no to a bunch of other clients. So I'm not making any of that money up. And the same thing with with with men these day. You know,...

...she got married in a very popular month, which is October, and obviously we had our deal and we had our contract and then when I had to move their wedding, anybody else that came my way, I have to say no. So either way, you know, I'm still feeling a little bit of it because I'm still doing postpone events till the day that that money you can't really make up for. But luckily we always had a kind of lean way of running the company. But furthermore, the security blanket and just having the something happens, what are you going to do? You know, and I know for some people sometimes people think of it order three months worth in my expenses, six months or whatever. I feel like it's always gets to have something, you know, and I think we mindy when we're talking the other days also. It's like what helps you sleep at night too, because the reality is something can happen, and what are you going to do if it does? Getting yourself in a hole? It's probably not going to make the situation in any less stressful. Yeah, so, and thanks for sharing that, because I think that's, you know, it's really impactful. Had that, had this happened, you know, when you were twenty seven, maybe things sort of looked very differently for your for your company, and so those financial decisions and changes you made really paid off, even though it was still struck, you know, still a struggle to get through and you're still going through it right. Before we really wrap up, I wanted to change gears just a minute here and talk about the sort of overlap, the cross roads of your going back to your two businesses, so speech pathology and Djing, and you know, working with the special needs community is actually one of the reasons that drew me to you. You know that I'm involved in the specialties community as well, and I saw your autism awareness bracelet when we first met and after a conversation it was. You know, I knew we'd be working together. I knew that you were doing good things. So how have your too sort of careers collided and and work together? I'd love to...

...hear more about that. So I've been fortunate enough that my career as a speech pathologist has really been focused on working with children and young adults with moving with autism, and that's always been a passion of mine from the speech pathology side, something that I've dedicated literally the last fifteen years of my life too. When I first started working with especially these population, I started participating in like small events, like little dances, and I would Dj for a group of, you know, fifty kids or whatever. We have like a little dance, maybe an hour or two, because they didn't have these opportunities. They didn't have an opportunity to have a dance or to do any of these things, as they're typically developing peers. Somebody, you know, some people would say. And so I was like these kids, these kids party, these kids love to dance, these kids love music, and why not? So I would. I would do it all the time and then it started kind of growing from there and then I started doing like small proms over the years I've had the opportunity to like starticipate and be like Special Olympics coach. And even in April I work with this nonprofit and they're actually based out of north the Center for Autism. We're going to be doing an event where it's almost like an advocacy event for the community and we're going to have some music, but there's going to be some formalities at the beginning, and so I'm going to be participating that in April as well. So the last couple years things kind of died down with events, obviously because what's going on, but I was very excited to kind of get that call and and be a part of something again, because it's been a little while. But it's always tied in to the community and doing two things I love. I've said this is a couple people and I say, look, it's so hard to find something that you love to do and then be able to do it. I don't...

...mean to sound greedy, but I found two things that I really love to do and then I'm able to do them and it's it's pretty awesome. You know, they're very it really is. That's great. Yeah, and I'm sure those problems and dances are a lot of fun, a lot of fun. Absolutely, absolutely, they have those smiles. I mean it changed my perspective on life, to be honest. You know, when you're going through something and you're having a hard time and you see this child with a disability overcoming so many obstacles and they have a smile on their face, you're like what am I doing? You know, like why am I upset about, you know, the traffic that I hit on the way to work today? Like it was a new sense of perspective. They gave me that. The autism special needs community gave that to me. So it's almost kind of like what could I do to give something back to them now? Yeah, so this is been a great conversation. I have one last question for you and to wrap up. What is the last decision you made that was not financial related? The last decision I made that wasn't a financial decision was to not carry my my baby girl and pick her up because I know I'd get stuck downstairs, and instead I ran straight to my office to talk to you. So you need to get off of this call and go see your what I got. She was in a little chair with her hand thinking out, I mean I'm like, I can't do this, but do gets fuck here. So I ran up here. I was the last visit. It was a tough one. Okay, well, thanks very much to mindy and to Christian for letting US listen in on their conversation. We appreciate their time and perspectives, and thank you, our audience, for tuning in. We hope you'll join US next time on decision dialogs for more stories from successful business owners. So long for now. Thank you for listening to decision dialogs. We hope...

...you found today's stories helpful for your own decisionmaking. If you like to listen to more episodes, you can subscribe on your preferred podcasting APP or visit our website, where you'll also find show notes and important disclosures. Wwwollcom. Forward Slash decision dialogs. This has been a production of twin flames studios.

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