Chicago Mobile DJ Pivots, Finds Surprising Growth Opportunity
Chicago—It happened in 1988, while studying architecture at Northern Illinois University, when KC Kokoruz and his Theta Chi fraternity brothers were all working for a local mobile DJ company, lugging gear, setting up, breaking down.
“It” was Kokoruz falling in love with DJing, so hard that he dropped out of college to pursue a career in it. He’s been DJing for a living ever since.
“The market back then was so new that people didn’t know what to expect from a DJ,” says Kokoruz, who opened Spinnin’ Discs Entertainment with a partner. “Fortunately, they liked what I was doing and I was able to build a company out of it.”
Today, people know a lot more of what to expect from a DJ, as the industry has gone through seismic changes. Back in 1988, one of KC’s selling points was his music database. “Being able to have and show a client a music database along with a well-organized music library was a marketable selling point, for sure,” he says. “Today, it is simply a given. The equipment has come down both in size and in price, allowing more people to also come into the industry easier. This leads to the increased competition we’ve seen in the industry, into every market across the country.”
What he did not see coming was when, in November of 2009, his business partner asked him to leave the company Kokoruz had founded and ran for almost 20 years. And it gets worse.
“When my relationship ended with my partner at Spinnin’ Discs, I was told by the local bridal show promoter that I was not welcome at his bridal shows with my new company,” he recalls.
But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and Kokoruz re-established himself as The Keith Christopher Entertainment Group. “I had been the name and the face of Spinnin’ Discs since I started it,” he says. “It was the most logical choice for me to name it after myself.”
More importantly, he saw an opportunity to provide Chicago wedding vendors as well as brides with a choice. The local bridal show promoter had a monopoly on producing shows in Chicago, so, says Kokoruz, “It was either be in his shows or no shows at all.”
So he decided to start his own. “For my first show, Mary Ann Kenmotsu, the director of catering at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare hotel at the time, a longtime friend who also believed in me and my passion for marketing, knew I could fill her hotel with brides,” he says. “Diane Thaete with The Knot also believed in me, and I signed her company as a sponsor. Peter Abruzzo and Gerry Avi were also longtime friends who had sold their chain of tuxedo stores to David’s Bridal who eventually sold them to Men’s Wearhouse. They helped open doors with David’s Bridal and Men’s Wearhouse. We now had our anchor sponsors—the biggest companies in the business at one of the nicest hotels in Chicago.”
Next, Kokoruz called and e-mailed every person in the industry that he had ever done business with or had known. “I just kept calling and e-mailing until I had sold out every booth in the show.”
The Windy City Wedding Show was born. “The biggest challenge was getting people to trust me with their advertising dollars,” he says. “I had never done this before. I had essentially lost my original DJ company less than a year before and now I was pitching vendors the idea of going up against a very well-established bridal show company. I was not only going up against them, but I was also telling the vendors that I would have more brides at my show than had ever been at a Chicago bridal show before.”
It pulled over 1,500 brides over the course of two days, and Kokoruz was so encouraged that he added two more shows that year. In 2012, Kokoruz produced five bridal shows in Chicago. In 2013, he produced 15 shows and expanded into Wisconsin with shows in Madison and Milwaukee. In 2014, 15 shows are scheduled in Chicago, two in Madison, and three in Milwaukee. He plans to add St Louis and Indianapolis in 2014.
You get the picture: Growth.
“The bridal-show company has grown faster and larger because I have so much less competition in that space,” says Kokoruz. “I have been very blessed that staff from my former DJ company chose to come over to my new one. I also reconnected with other DJs that liked the business model I created at KCE, so we have an awesome roster of amazing DJs, MCs, dancers, and administrative staff. We just moved into a 3,000-square-foot office/showroom that will allow us room to grow as well as demonstrate our services to clients.”
What gets Kokoruz excited about growing his bridal show company is its attractiveness to a potential buyer. “I would like to continue to produce more shows in more cities throughout the United States, “he says. “I don’t see why in five years we won’t be producing bridal shows in at least 10 states. I believe in the concept of trying to work on my business, as opposed to working in my business. I personally love the sales and marketing part of business, and I love making the phone ring as much as I love filling the dancefloor.”
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