As part of our Origin Stories series with social entrepreneurs, we talked to Junho Lee and Brian White of Apollo Talent. Junho, a Compass Fellow, and Brian manage Apollo Talent, a talent agency for student performers in the Washington, DC area. Be sure to subscribe to the Compass Blog for more Origin Stories and updates from Compass!
What does the word ‘social’ in ‘social entrepreneurship’ mean to you?
Junho: For us, the word ‘social’ in ‘social entrepreneurship’ means active. Social entrepreneurs are the energetic activists of our communities and they use business as a platform to help the cause that they believe in. Apollo Talent recognizes being social as being active promoters of music education.
Tell us about Apollo Talent. What do you guys do?
Brian: Apollo Talent acts as a talent agency for student performers in the Washington area. We develop relationships with local venues that provide paid gig opportunities for our performers. Apollo Talent takes a small commission from each gig and uses it to fund a music education program in DC Public Schools. As funding in the public education system gets cut, enrichment programs like music are often the first to fall. We want to make sure kids get the opportunity to experience music for themselves.
If you could recommend one activity that every aspiring entrepreneur take up, what would that activity be and why?
Junho: Reading. It sounds cliché and everyone has heard this at one point in his or her life, but reading books by and about the people you aspire to be, who do what you love, and who changed the course of history will allow you to adopt qualities of the greatest leaders in history. My entrepreneurship professor told me, “Success leaves clues.” If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, read a book about someone who has done it before and copy his or her model.
Brian: I would recommend taking up public speaking. In high school, competing with the speech team quickly got me over my fear of talking in front of people. Once you’re comfortable with speaking, you can effectively convey your thoughts and goals, and it’s easier to inspire people to achieve their goals.
What are some struggles you’ve faced as a young entrepreneur? Have you learned any surprising lessons along the way?
Brian: One of the biggest struggles of getting Apollo Talent off the ground is time management. Between classes and preparing to graduate in May, I’ve been running around like crazy all semester. Junho and I have found that it’s much easier to make progress when we hold each other accountable for specific goals. Surprisingly, the busier I have been, the more likely I am to get all my work done because I budget my time across all of my work. Balancing schoolwork with a company is difficult, but it is by no means impossible.
We speak about the ‘entrepreneurial mindset’, and we feel like you are a good example of someone with that mindset. What do you think makes you an entrepreneur?
Junho: I am an entrepreneur because I hate taking orders and listening to authority. The phrase “that’s just the way it is” both terrifies and angers me and for a while I thought that I would have to just put up with things for the rest of my life. After being in the Compass Fellowship and listening to people who have taken charge of their lives, going back to a life of orders and nonsensical structure seemed foolish. I am in the entrepreneurship game for the freedom to make my own money, to help the people that I want, and to eat ice cream for breakfast.
Brian: Entrepreneurship is all about filling a void you discover and filling it well. Junho and I are committed to providing enrichment to lives of young students in the DC area. More importantly, though, entrepreneurs can’t back down when they face adversity. Starting a new company is very challenging. Entrepreneurs learn from their mistakes and persevere until they achieve their goals.
What got you interested in music?
Junho: I have been playing music my whole life. I started out on piano when I was 4 years old and moved on to play trombone and sing also. Singing opera is a great passion of mine and currently, I sing in the Georgetown Chimes, an all-male a cappella group, with Brian.
Brian: I started learning piano and singing in a choir in first grade. My mother got me started in music, but I quickly grew to love it. Without her influence, I would not have discovered my interests in music. As a result, I want to make sure other kids get the chance to experience music and see if it’s something they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. I stopped taking piano lessons when I got to Georgetown, but I still enjoy singing as a member of the Georgetown Chimes.
How can people connect with you and help your venture move forward?