"About a year ago I decided it was time to start my own thing and help other people bring their creative ideas to life" Entrepreneurs often find inspiration in past employment experiences, and so it was with Jason Rhein, whose talent in recording music and other performances led him to launch a music and video production house called Elephant Quilt Productions LLC. Rhein recently received national exposure when one of his videos landed a long-time client a show on the Food Network. Over the years s has produced videos for the family-owned Shed BBQ and Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.The sizzle reel, also know as a demo reel or a promo, created at Elephant Quilt grabbed the attention of Mandt Bros. Productions and the Food Network which landed the Orrison family their own TV series, The Shed! Throughout the summer, Rhein worked with the Food Network as Co-producer on the series which now airs on Food Network each Monday at 10pm/9c. Before achiving national exposure Rhein, graduate of the University of New Orleans film department worked as a producer on such programs as National Public Radio's "American Routes" music series, and a concert tour and Disney video series by children's musical comedy group Imagination Movers. "About a year ago I decided it was time to start my own thing and help other people bring their creative ideas to life," Rhein says.
But having made that decision, Rhein faced what many creative people come up against as they seek to become entrepreneurs: He lacked business planning and management experience. Recognizing that he "didn't know the first thing about the business side of things," Rhein sought the help of Louisiana Small Business Development Center. One of the first people he met was Carmen Sunda, director of the LSBDC Greater New Orleans Region. Rhein says Sunda took him "under her wing," teaching him about business basics ranging from startup financing options to forecasting expenses and managing cash flow. "Carmen helped me learn to think about how money goes in and out, and what it takes to have a successful business model," he says. He also tapped into the expertise of LSBDC consultant Albert Overman, who helped Rhein draw up a lease agreement for office-studio space, create other legal documents and develop a business strategy. Eventually, Rhein got to know LSBDC consultant Christian Galvin, who helped him develop a user-friendly business website that quickly shows potential clients how Elephant Quilt Productions can help them put their best image forward. "Jason had always been on the production side of the business, so dealing with customers was new to him," Galvin says. "We helped him understand how he needed to position himself, what he needed to know about proposals, pricing and billing, and the customer experience."
In an unusually helpful move, the counselors engaged Rhein to produce a series of informational videos about the Louisiana SBDC. "Through that process, he had the opportunity to understand how to interact with customers and also how to manage his own work process," Galvin says. The videos not only became useful tools for the LSBDC, but also reside on Rhein's website – elephantquilt.com – providing prospective clients with examples of what Elephant Quilt Productions can do. Rhein, who is running his business largely as a one-person shop, says he has to scramble to cover all his bases. Though he has three part-time interns, he finds that such basics as billing, accounting and tax records take him away from his creative pursuits. That has prompted him to search for time-saving business software that makes documentation of cash flow and other records simpler. "The SBDC gave me enough guidance on some of those things to help me find solutions that don't take a lot of my time but still maintain accurate records for tax purposes," he says. Rhein has become comfortable with the early-growth stage of his business, but says he likely will seek further help from the LSBDC.
"I'd like to get another level of advice from them on how to build on what I've started," he says. "They've been a great resource to have in my corner. Galvin notes that Rhein's work on the startup has brought him another benefit that didn't necessarily show up in his original business plan. "Jason has a family and wanted to spend more time with them," Galvin says. "His new company allows him to take his child to work."