Jon Kim is the 25-year-old CEO and founder of University of Rock, the fast-growing music school for a concentration on rock and roll music performance, guitar, music theory, and history. Starting with a passion for music and very little capital in 2009, Jon has since then, single-handedly expanded University of Rock into Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, Phoenix, Denver, and Korea. He launched his first summer camp programs in Denver and Los Angeles this year and will be throwing their 3rd RockShow for his students on December 22nd. Read on to learn from his music background, business instincts, and advice on how to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Did you always know that you wanted to own your own business?
I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. I always knew I wanted to make money but that’s because I attached a lot of pain with not having money growing up. Anytime my family fought, it was always because someone mismanaged money, spent it recklessly, borrowed too much, or didn’t have enough. My parents almost got a divorce because of financial hardship- I remember my mom running away from the house a few times. Me and my sister never knew what would happen. I just hated that and always remembered that if money causes this many issues, I definitely don’t want to be in that situation when I’m older. 60% of marriages fail because of money! Money doesn’t guarantee happiness, but it definitely is important.
What really changed my life, though, was a book my friend gave me when I was 18. It was senior year of high school. One of my best friends who now lives in NYC, introduced me to Tony Robbins and his book, “Awaken the Giant Within”. After reading his book, it opened up my mind to all these possibilities. Before that, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I was would go to college, get by, and get a computer science degree or something. I always tell people that even if you don’t know what you want to do before, one little thing can change the direction of your life. For me, it was that book- it showed me that anyone who achieved something notable in their life just started with an idea and a passion. You don’t have to be special- you just have to want it and have a passion and work hard for it. Even if you don’t come from a wealthy family, you can still do it. That book changed my life. After that I started going to seminars and reading other books about entrepreneurship, and I decided to study guitar at Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
Any other books you’d highly recommend?
How did your family initially react to your decisions to pursue your own path?
My family didn’t support me AT ALL when I decided I wanted to go to a music school. During this time, I was very resentful towards them because I felt like they didn’t support me in what I ultimately wanted to do. They constantly compared me to other kids who were a lot smarter than me (lawyers, doctors, etc) and it eventually took three years to get them to support me. Now, I have a great relationship with them. They see that it’s actually working and they support the hell out of me.
What kinds of challenges did you face when you started building URock?
To be an entrepreneur, you have to be really strong on an emotional level. There are some times when you just hit rock bottom and you feel so alone and helpless. When I first started, it got really overwhelming and I felt really anxious about a lot of things. For example, during URock’s first year in 2009, I was completely broke. I was teaching guitar and finishing up school, but couldn’t make enough money to make it through. I was constantly borrowing money and eventually I got evicted out of my apartment and even lost my car. I just felt like I was in such a hole. I think one of the worst times for me was when I got like 3 overdraft fees one night and couldn’t pay for dinner when I was out with my girlfriend at the time. It was pretty embarrassing and pathetic.
What helped you pull through these challenges?
One thing that helped me get through those times was reading autobiographies of people who have been able to push through even worse situations and challenges. I loved reading Donald Trump’s books. It made me feel less alone and it gave me perspective. You just have to have the right mindset and be optimistic. Never throw in the towel. The reason why only 5% of businesses actually make it is because it’s tough. It’s 80% psychology and 20% mechanics.
My dad always told me that you don’t own a business; your business owns you. What do you do to balance your life so you feel refreshed and focused when you work.
Last year, I was a workaholic. My health was shit and I became bloated and fat. This year, I definitely struck more balance-I eat right and I work out regularly. Also, I try and take a mini-trip about once a month- I’ve found that it’s what works best for me. For example, last year, I would work for 4-6 months straight until I hit rock bottom, and then finally take a break. But now, I’ll go on random trips to Denver, Arizona, New York, San Diego or wherever. The best part is that my whole business is mobile so I can work from wherever that has wifi.
The saying goes that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. What qualities do you value in your closest friends and family while you run a business?
It’s funny-I was just talking about this with my good buddy. I was telling him how I’ve gotten really picky over the years. The saying becomes truer the older you get! You sometimes don’t even notice it but then you step back and you realize “damn, that is not really working” or certain things are not in alignment with what you want to do. Overall, I have a lot of acquaintances, but I have very few friends that I hang out with and talk to on a regular basis. I mean, we’re young- we’re 25. A lot of people our age are into the normal 25 year-old activities- working a regular job, dating, going out/partying etc. And he asked me “do you feel like you’re missing out on your 20s?” And I thought about it and I said “I do think about that a lot. But I look back and I see how much I’ve been able to do for my business these past couple years. When I first started URock I was a lot more isolated but now that URock is more systematized I get to have a lot more fun. This year for sure has been my most fulfilling year yet so I feel like it’s only going to get better from this point.
It goes back to that quote “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” For example, I can hire someone part time to manage my business right now and could live very comfortably without having to work. I don’t say this to brag but I say this because business can ultimately give you total freedom if you work hard at it. I would never stop working though because I genuinely love what I do and you have to if you want to succeed in the long-run.
But going back to friends, I would say that I’m pretty picky. My friends don’t all need to be a workaholic like me because you need those friends who go out 4 nights a week and keep things light-hearted and fun. But they do need to have the same values and have ambition. You need that positive energy and support from your good friends!
We’ve spoken about how important it is to have mentors. Any advice on how to find a good mentor as an entrepreneur?
Having the right mentor can hyper accelerate your growth as an entrepreneur. When I was first starting out my mentors were all in books, Donald Trump, Robert Kiyosaki, T Harv Eker to name a few. I would read all their books and listen to interviews of them all day. They really helped me gain a good foundation on what it takes to be in business for yourself and create financial freedom. Now I have a mentor that I see on a weekly basis to discuss specific strategies for growth in my own business. The advantage to having this type of mentor is that you get advice that relates directly to your specific business and goals.
For advice on finding a mentor, I’d recommend you start with learning from people like Robert Kiyosaki, Donald Trump, and T Harv Eker. Read their books and get the fundamentals down then as your business progresses you can start seeking a mentor to meet with in your local town/city. I met my current mentor through a speaking club I’m a part of in Los Angeles called Toastmasters. I’d recommend getting involved in clubs like these where you meet like-minded people and just network. My mentor came about naturally and he has really helped me take my business to the next level.
You’ve also done lectures for conferences and universities. It’s great that you are driven to share your experiences and knowledge with others. What overall message do you strive to convey to those taking your lectures?
This is one of my favorite things to do. I would say my overall message is to just inspire people to start their own business and to keep at it when the going gets tough. I started with no money, car, and support in 2009 and was able to grow URock very organically with very little money spent on advertising. If my story can help people in any way then it makes it all worth it. I’m very open with my struggles in my lectures and I think that’s important because it just makes everything more real. Business is a tough sport and if you have the right mindset and tenacity you can succeed.
Where can people sign up for classes or to be instructors of URock?
What is the best way to support you and your company?
Original link: http://revolutionspermind.com/jon-kim/