My life as an entrepreneur in the music business began when a friend’s flight was delayed in Miami, and to kill time his driver took him to visit a pal’s CD plant (basically a garage). I was an investment banker at the time, and thought a CD was a certificate of deposit! Several months later we bought the company. Why? I had a vision, and spent the next five years re-imagining supply chain logistics for music, and formulating an acquisition strategy that transformed our segment of the industry…turning my vision into reality, or thought into action.
When I was asked to participate in Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) program, I figured I was being tapped for my business experience. The program’s goal is to align budding entrepreneurs with alumni mentors who can provide insights and guidance, and help students avoid the common mistakes entrepreneurs make. I figured there would be business plans, presentations, the usual stuff…and that I could do this for a year (ho hum) and move on. Fast forward three years, and I am still mentoring.
What has captured my attention is that TIA students work on a wide range of projects that extend well beyond how to commercialize a product or design a more efficient service. Indeed, many TIA students do that. But others are trying to actualize a different kind of vision – for instance, how to promote sustainability in upstate NY or turn waste into bio-fuel in Sub-Saharan Africa. Jeff Herbst, President of Colgate University, described this to me as “social entrepreneurialism.” Very different, but very cool.
Colgate’s TIA program has been a great experience for me. I have gotten much more out of it than I have given. As a mentor I know my role and advice can help shape outcomes in ways I never imagined. I can also “play hard” within my comfort zone. I’ve taken a liking to a particular TIA project in the music business, and have been mentoring the students post-grad from Colgate. I realize how dated I have become, but on the other hand I can see these guys have a vision and passion not unlike the one I had, which inspires me. I am pushing them hard to re-examine their plan and encouraging them to take chances and make mistakes. With a little bit of capital (I’ve decided to invest), hard work, and perhaps a touch of good luck, I think we may be on to something. Stay tuned.
Anil Narang ’85 was co-founder and a principal equity sponsor of Alliance Entertainment Corp in 1990. Alliance was the largest independent music company in the United States. From 1990 through 1995, Narang served in a variety of executive capacities at Alliance including CFO, COO, Vice-Chairman and President. The company, which Narang and his partners sold to Wasserstein Perella in 1996, is currently a $2 billion (revenue) business and is controlled by the Yucaipa Companies. See how Anil thinks about Entrepreneurship below.