In early 2017, I had an idea: form a business to house all of the things I wanted to do. I’d be able to put all of my doings underneath it, and by forming an LLC, my liability would be limited to what was in the company.
I did my research and in mid-2017, I used Legalzoom to create my business, which I called Get After It. I talked to a lawyer about any legal implications, registered my business in Washington DC, and received my Basic Business License. Around the same time, I switched to a part-time schedule at work to spend more time writing and publishing my book, as well as write and produce music, engage more in my community, and see if any of my “business venture” ideas would take off. Here’s what happened:
My Book: Get After It: Seven Inspirational Stories to Find Your Inner Strength When It Matters Most
In mid-2017, I went to a part-time schedule so I could work towards accomplishing a goal I had for several years, writing my first book, Get After It: Seven Inspirational Stories to Find Your Inner Strength When It Matters Most. So on those two “off” days from my day job, I went through my journaling of the last 10 years and found the seven most impactful stories. Then I edited, and I wrote more, and I formatted, and I found a company I would use to help distribute it. I got it professionally edited, had a cover designed, and formatted into a paperback and e-book. And in August of 2018, a little more than a year after I went part-time, my book was published. Friends and family purchased it and gave me positive feedback. I even got more encouraging feedback from two review companies, as well as the New York Times Review of Books. I’ll definitely make some money on this, I thought.
Through my business, I spent money on marketing and advertising, and even a book launch party I held at a local arts center where I’ve volunteered for the last five years. All of the expenses were business deductions because I was in the business of trying to turn a profit. I hoped the 2018 holiday season would bring some more sales, but it didn’t. In 2019, things turned from a low simmer to barely any heat on the stove. I might have sold one copy of my book a month, if that.
My Music: Truth Assassin
In late 2016, I did something I had never done before: written and published my own original music under the name Truth Assassin. I published a five-song EP on January 20th, 2017, followed it up with a 10-song full-length album in August of that year. I published another three-song EP in early 2018. With almost 20 original songs, I thought I might be able to spread the word.
So I spent money marketing that, and some people listened to it, I gained some followers to my Facebook page, and even got some play on an Australian radio station, a local DC podcast, and a podcast in Canada. That was great, but I obviously wasn’t bringing in any money. People didn’t really buy music anymore, most revenue came from two sources: streaming and live performances. Some people streamed my music, but with the half of one cent that I would get for each song listen in Spotify, I needed people to listen to one of my songs twice to make a cent, 200 times to earn a dollar, 2,000 times to pull in a $10 bill, and 20,000 times to make a Benjamin. But it wasn’t happening.
Equally frustrating was my inability to play live music. I had done it plenty of times with various bands I was a part of, but the problem was that I was playing hardcore punk music, a cross between Bad Religion and Pennywise, as one listener put it (and thank you, that’s what I was going for). And I did everything for the music. I wrote and recorded the guitars, bass, drums, and vocals…it wasn’t something I could do live all at the same time. But I didn’t think trying to find other musicians to play the music live was worth it, as the punk music scene in DC, while great in the 1980s, turned to garbage in the 1990s. The music scene in DC is dull at best, rarely anyone listens to punk music, let alone a crowd that would go see a band in concert. So after two years of spending money trying to spread the word, I had spent 20-to-30 times more than I made. If you’re interested, you can check out Truth Assassin out on Spotify.
My Consulting: Communications, Leadership, and Public Presentation Courses
In 2017, I met a woman named Bettina Gregory, a well-known presentation coach who was a former reporter as well as Doctor of Psychology, through her course called Communicating with Impact. At the end of the course, she told me, “Parker, you could teach this.” So I took her advice and tried it. I developed a course from my own experiences as well as some tidbits I took from Bettina’s class and started to spread the word. After several months, if not a year or more, of trying, I had only been successful in getting in front of two groups, both student groups, and neither of them paid anything.
In late 2017, I had a good relationship with a company called NextJump, based in Manhattan, and regularly received updates from the co-CEOs. The updates were everything the company had done in the past month or two, and it was pretty exciting stuff. The problem was that the emails didn’t look great. They weren’t formatted properly, the pictures were of different sizes and resolutions, words were bolded when they shouldn’t have been, etc. So I went out on a limb and emailed the co-CEOs, providing them some feedback (which they were very big on and accepting) and offered to spruce up their email into something that would be more professional and appealing. As these updates were sent to CEOs of other companies, I thought it would benefit the company for it. They loved the idea, saying it would be a good way for them to see my skills, so I spent 10 hours during the next week and reformatted, edited, and designed their co-CEO update. I sent it away hoping that my communications skills might grow into something great, and that I might even get paid for it! A week went by and I didn’t hear anything, then it was a few weeks, then a few more weeks, then a few months. Each time I reached out, they told me it was on their to-do list and they’d get back to me. Then, they never did and the relationship went silent.
In early 2019, I was having a conversation with a friend at another side job I worked and was telling him about a leadership course I designed, developed, and taught at CIA called Using Cultural Initiatives to Shape Your Leadership Growth. To my surprise, he told me that he worked for a training company and that my course might be something that his boss would want to include in a week-long offsite that his company runs. Lo and behold, it came to fruition that his boss liked what I had put together, and I was both grateful and excited to present it to their training class in September of this year. And yes, I was paid (for once!).
As It Comes to a Close
After about two years of having my business, I had spent close to $10,000 (the majority of which was on my book), recouping very little in the end. Not everything I did was designed to make money, but some of it was. It just didn’t work that way in the end. So today, I called DC’s Department of Regulatory Affairs.
“Hi, I was calling to check on how to dissolve my business,” I told the associate.
“Sure, what’s the name of it?” I told him and he looked it up.
“Well, it’s in delinquent status because you never filled out a BR-25 form for 2018.” Whatever that meant… He continued. “You really don’t need to do anything because it’s not in active status anyway.”
“So what happens now?” I asked.
“Basically, both sides, you and DC, are looking at this and just walking away,” he responded.
I thanked him and disconnected the call. And that was it. Get After It, LLC faded away, one of the many “businesses” that don’t make it.
In the End
I’m glad I tried it. I learned a lot about operating a business in DC along the way. I learned how hard it is to form something and get it to succeed financially. I’m proud of what I’ve done, and as I tell my loved ones, as long as the internet exists (and I don’t think it’s going anywhere), my book and music will forever be available to the world. Just because Get After It, LLC is gone, it doesn’t mean I’ll stop getting after it…or that you should either.
Keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep getting after it, whatever your “it” is.