Finding Your Sound

The North Star we’re all chasing.

AT THE FRONT // BY Cornelius MCGrath

Dearest Reader,

I hope 2022 is off to a great start for you and yours. 

I am relieved to see winter and the worst of the pandemic in the rearview. With a new visa in hand and antibodies to boot, I’m excited for the open road that is Q2.

That said, Q1 and the winter season weren’t all bad. I clocked 18,000 miles bouncing between the U.K., Illinois, Tennessee, Indiana, New York, Colorado, Florida and Texas. I spent ten days in the Sunshine State between our Q1 Retreat (XII) to Miami and a week-long vacation in the Keys. I also had the opportunity to speak at my alma mater and catch my first gig since the pandemic.

Call me old fashioned, but I’ve just been laser-focused on changing lives. That’s the only forever business in my book.

Everyday Entrepreneur (EE), the publisher and parent company of 1727, celebrated its 3rd anniversary in February. I’m admittedly terrible at reflecting on growth.

However, this letter is forcing me to take a moment to see how far I and we as a business have come. Excuse me while I get the traditional metrics out of the way. 

EE’s bootstrapped and has been profitable since Day 1. Half a million dollars in revenue has been generated to date. We have no investors, board members or employees. No paid marketing, affiliates, sponsors, and (barely any) social media. I, the founder, have not featured on any major list nor spent time espousing life advice via LinkedIn in between attempts to make viral TikTok videos. 

Over Christmas, my childhood barber told me I’d be their most successful customer ever. Mad how that’ll always mean more than any list ever could.

Call me old fashioned, but I’ve just been laser-focused on changing lives. That’s the only forever business in my book.

What started as a fresh take on an agency is now an influential storytelling collective. What began as an idea is now a world. 

EE has birthed four new brands since its inception — Breakouts, The School, 1727 and The Saturday ClubWhat started as a fresh take on an agency is now an influential storytelling collective. What began as an idea is now a world. 

I describe EE today as the space where a modern-day university and social club meets a media company. We’re home to a lifestyle accelerator, fellowship, magazine, podcast and dining club. Each is a conversation-first brand, and we think about transformation through the lens of content, community, education and experience.

We’ve travelled the world, worked with some fantastic brands, told some incredible stories, and put money into the pockets of the creatives, trainers, restaurants and hospitality groups we believed in, even when nobody else was. 

Breakouts has over 100 graduates with a 93% course completion rate, which is utterly unheard of in online education. We’ve hosted 12 retreats, 16 wine tastings, and 40 chef’s table dinners. We’ve recorded 40+ NPR-level podcast episodes and published 4 digital editions of this magazine.

EE has 250+ members worldwide. A roving community of tastemakers committed to building the lives they’ve always dreamed of. I feel like a proud parent watching our first crop of School Fellows begin to flourish in new businesses, cities and domains.

We’ve also had our first company exit, which came from a cold email. This sh*t works.

I’ve lost deals, friends, relationships, business partners and plenty of sleep.

That’s the hindsight, 20-20 vision, retrospective.

I’d be lying if I said it’s been as easy as that was to read. It’s been f*cking hard at times.

I’ve lost deals, friends, relationships, business partners and plenty of sleep. I’m still a one-person shop. I don’t have a team nor a sexy valuation.

It’s still Day 1. For me, the community and the business. I am just starting to understand the power of our vision and the true value we bring to the table. I need to build systems that scale me and the impact of this incredible collective.

People can feel that we’re building something different, even if they might not fully comprehend the total value proposition just yet.

We’re becoming a fixture in the social calendar in cities worldwide. Michelin star chefs are taking notes. Hospitality groups and cutting-edge travel platforms are lining up for a slice of the action. Billion-dollar unicorns are buying up our talent and ideas.

Three years in, the world is starting to take notice.

A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.

What am I bringing into our next 3 years?

Main character energy. Normalising the idea of being your own pre-seed. All the fun, none of the turbulence.

I’m here to find my sound and help others perfect their melody. 

The chorus you’ll hear in Issue 4 is what I’ve dubbed the Sound of New America. A phrase first used to describe the genius of J Dilla in Dilla Time and the music he inspired from Detroit but now something well suited to describe the cacophony of the modern-day zeitgeist.

I have long suspected that artists had something we, as professionals, needed. What else could explain my envy? At first, I thought it was their mixtapes — how I longed for such a clear and neat, defined body of work that people would spend hours trawling over. Now I realise what I truly envied was their sound — an immediately recognisable identity that traverses the physical medium. Something so distinct that you can just close your eyes and feel it. 

A unique sound is a prerequisite for any breakout artist. Take Aretha Franklin, for example. She landed her first record deal at Colombia Records in New York City at age 18. However, Aretha didn’t have a hit single for 4+ years. She was writing songs for others to sing, typically gospel tracks that would please her father. Much to her husband’s manager’s reluctance, it took her leaving New York for Alabama to play with Muscle Shoals to find her sound. 

The output was I Never Loved A Man The Way I Loved You, Aretha’s first hit that debuted at 9 on the Billboard and became the lead single of Franklin’s breakthrough album. The raw power that made her famous was unleashed, and the rest is history. Amazing Grace was the best performing gospel album of all time until 2017. Aretha became the youngest person ever to receive Kennedy Centre honours, and she was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

My studio is the dinner table, my MPC-3000 is conversation and my record collection is the entire repository of talks I’ve had in my 26 years of life.

That’s the upside of finding your sound. But ask yourself: if it’s a prerequisite for somebody of Aretha’s talent, then what does that mean for us? Can our lives have a sound? If so, how do we find it? And then make it distinguishable in the noisiest global environment ever? 

These are just a handful of the questions that our contributors — Othman O’Malley, Mateo Price, Caitlin Thompson and Daniel Ross — tackle in this issue. Their sounds are visual, physical, and even somewhat invisible. Some exist in entirely different languages. Some are just beginning to bear fruit. All are distinct but connected and should undoubtedly help you start to hone yours.

Like Dilla, I realize I’m the “musician’s musician’s musician.” I break rules to make the beats that entrepreneurs long for, and in turn, can help them find their true sound. 

My studio is the dinner table, my MPC-3000 is conversation and my record collection is the entire repository of talks I’ve had in my 26 years of life.

You’ll never find your sound if you’re not having the right conversations. And you can’t have the right conversations if you’ve got the wrong middles at your table.

Who doesn’t want to find their true sound? Life’s a form of torture until we do. 

I believe conversation is the way we, professionals, can find our sound. But I admit it’s been harder than I’d anticipated getting people to believe (and commit to) that. 

Conversation and dinner are two things every human on the planet does every day. They are existential and universal activities that can (technically) be had by anyone at any time or place. 

But just because anybody can theoretically do it doesn’t mean it’s any good. 

We know what a world-class conversation feels like. And we certainly know a terrible conversation when we’re in one. How many of each have you had recently?

In my experience working day-in and day-out with some of the most talented people, brands, and cities globally, the latter happens far more often than the former.

You’ll never find your sound if you’re not having the right conversations. And you can’t have the right conversations if you’ve got the wrong middles at your table (read: life).

 

That’s why we’re so good at helping people find their sound here at EE. Our products pull a unique cast of characters together, exert pressure on them, and then let the force of that pressure push them out in as many different directions. In the words of Larry from Curb Your Enthusiasm, we’re a collective full of tremendous middlers.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I hope to see you IRL for a great conversation or two over the coming months. Catch us in London for Retreat XIII from June 16-19 or in cities across the United States throughout Q2 for some unforgettable dinners and tastings.

If we don’t intersect, email me, and we’ll do our best to make it to your city with some delicious natural vino in hand.

Cheers — and thank you for your support.

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