Chicago DJ Jazmine Gonzalez's H.Y.P.E. Productions
Lynwood, Ill. — It’s a not-so-uncommon story. Jazmine Gonzalez realized she had a knack for the MC/DJ “thing” in the sixth grade, when a DJ at her school dance in Chicago was unable to get the kids onto the dancefloor. So she did what any Type A would do: She asked for the microphone and got a break-dancing circle going.
“At the end of the dance, the DJ gave me five bucks and said thanks,” says Gonzalez, now the president of multi-op H.Y.P.E. Productions. “Little did I know, years later, the payoff wouldn’t just be financial, but the real success is loving my career.”
She started out in the business while in college, as a “Party Favor Girl,” handing out glasses, hats and light ups at Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. Then, as she tells it, opportunity knocked. “To fill in for a dancer,” she says. “I quickly became one of the most requested dancers.”
And then opportunity knocked again. “To fill in for an MC,” she says. “It was my first time running a Mitzvah, and at the end of the night, a guest said, ‘Great job! I’ve never seen a female MC.’”
That, as they say, was “it.”
“I knew I was going to crush that stigma and be the first female MC in Chicago,” she says. Continuing to MC/DJ throughout college, she had her eye on a career in broadcasting upon graduation—until a few event planners hunted her down and encouraged her to start her own company.
“It wasn’t until a few of the other companies in the industry started offering me jobs that I realized I had made an impact,” she says. “So I decided to buy some equipment and maybe do one event a month for extra money. From the start, I had an amazing relationship with event planners, venues and clients as a ‘team player’ and I made the details a priority.”
So her company, H.Y.P.E. Productions, began in earnest.
Living an hour and a half from most of her clients made driving house to house for meetings a challenge. “I could only do a few meetings in a day because I would have to leave drive time from house to house,” she says. But after they got an office in the Northshore Area, “sales went up tremendously.”
There were other challenges: learning accounting, payroll, taxes, insurance. “I am a bit OCD and I like things done a certain way,” she says. “It was tough to delegate early on when the business was growing. And going from a solo-op to a multi-op in one year had my head spinning. I knew what my business goals were, but wasn’t quite sure how to get there while running the back office, front office and performing.”
How did she solve her problems? She took a few classes with the Small Business Administration, where she met an amazing accountant, who still, 17 years later, is handling her company’s finances.
She also began attending the DJ Expo in Atlantic City. “Meeting some amazing people in our industry at DJ Expo really helped,” she says. “Hearing the stories of their experiences and how they got through it is such a value. I hope I am able to now share my experiences, and give back to the industry. Statistics show that brides, corporate planners and Mitzvah families all rate the entertainment as the piece of the puzzle that makes or breaks their celebration. I want to help continue the growth and knowledge of performers so as a whole, we are raising the bar and the results of our industry.”
These experiences have helped her evolve to where she can wear many business-side hats at H.Y.P.E.—president, head of sales, marketing director, visionary and, her favorite role, “Head Coach”—while still able to fulfill her passion for being an entertainer. “Whether I am hired as the MC, DJ or dancer, I look forward to every event and helping families put their personal stamp on it,” she says. “It is amazing to be a part of their event behind the scenes throughout the planning process and then be the performer to execute the details, get the crowd rocking and make it all come to fruition.”
For H.Y.P.E., “fruition” means 50-percent of their bookings are Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, 35-percent weddings (the division has tripled in the last year), and 15-percent corporate, schools and charity galas. H.Y.P.E. produces its own Mitzvah showcase, the largest independent show in the Tri-State area. “It allows us to introduce our newest entertainment options and performers,” says Gonzalez. “We now have other show producers asking us to be the exclusive entertainment for their shows.”
Such kudos is not rare, of course. Winning the “DJ of the Year” competition at DJ Expo in 2008 and 2013 has opened the door for H.Y.P.E. on a national level. “It has also given us the opportunity to explain to our clients how H.Y.P.E. shares our ideas to better our industry. Being a finalist, let alone the winner several times, shows that we are the real deal and always hungry to learn, get better and give back,” she says, noting that her team has also won the “Best Dancers” and “Best Choreography” categories in 2008 and 2013. “While I may have won the title twice, I did it both times by having an amazing team with me.”
And in five years? “On a business level, I would like to see that our team has grown and I have the opportunity to offer full-time employment to others who are as passionate as I am about our craft,” she says. “On the performance side, I would like to continue to learn, create and implement different ways to stay innovative and keep the guests rockin’!”