This post is sponsored by Special Guest App but all opinions are entirely my own.
Hey, you guys! Wow, I have been SUPER slacking in the blog department lately. And I’m not ashamed. I’ve eaten my way through boxes of cookies, had more coffee than any sane person should ever drink, have spent countless hours in pajamas reading books I love, catching up with family, getting pedicures and brunches with friends, and slowly powering through the emails. Friday night I saw Phish at the Garden (more on that to come), and just last night Bryan and I rang in the New Year with his family. I’m starting to get very excited about all that 2019 has to bring and can’t remember ever feeling so optimistic about a New Year.
Today I’d like to introduce you to someone who has carved a special niche for himself as an entrepreneur in the entertainment space. Meet Kris Jones, CEO of Special Guest App. The premise of the app is simple: what if you could hire talent for a special event? And not just any talent, but burgeoning DJs, musicians, circus acts, actors, comedians, impersonators, and so much more. Kris teamed up with Damon Wayans for Apple TV’s first original content series Planet of the Apps, and raised more than 1.5 million in venture capital (click here for more info and the stunning roster of talent they enlisted!).
Today, I’m sitting down with Kris to discuss a few things about the app itself and also his career trajectory. Because I dunno about you, but I always love to hear from someone who has made a name for himself in the talent biz. So grab a cup of Joe and join me!
Hi Kris, and welcome to My Pixie Blog! How old were you when you decided a 9-5 career wasn’t your true calling in life? Sometime around my mid to late teen years I realized I was a high achiever. No matter what I decided to focus on, I went all-in. So the idea of a 9-5 never really crossed my mind. After undergraduate (Penn State) and graduate school (Villanova) I even decided to go to law school (Albany) and get this – I didn’t even want to be an attorney! So I’m all about high achievement and doing whatever I can to grow and improve in everything I do personally and professionally. BTW – that attitude has led me on a really remarkable journey over these last 20 years or so, particularly on the entrepreneurial side of my success. That includes Special Guest App!
Personally, I’ve always been afraid of public speaking, and wonder if imagining your audience in their underwear actually works. Did you have any coping mechanisms to get through your pitch to a panel of celebrity judges? Ha! I’ve been a professional speaker for about 15 years or so so I was as cool as a cucumber, but pitching alongside my partners and celebrities Damon Wayans Jr and Will.i.am was definitely a thrill! In terms of advice for public speaking – I’d recommend speaking about things you are passionate or otherwise deeply knowledgeable about. Stay within your zone and believe that what you have to say matters. Early in my speaking career (and even most recently when I spoke in front of 10,000 pediatricians in Orlando) I remind myself that the opportunity to speak and engage / inform / entertain an audience is much bigger than me. People get nervous when they think about how the audience may perceive them. I think about it differently. If I was invited to speak, people must want to hear what I have to share. So I take that responsibility very seriously and I show up to deliver on why they invited me. I’ve gotten myself to almost zero nerves when public speaking as long as I’m chatting about a topic I’m passionate about or have a lot of subject matter expertise.
Tell me about a mistake you made that taught you the most about business. This answer is a bit of insider baseball, but one of the biggest mistakes I made earlier in my career is a lack of appreciation of proper cash flow management. In my case the company that I was CEO of had about $2.5M in receivables (money that was owed to us) at the time. Turns out there is something referred to as “aging” when you are thinking about the risk associated with receivables. In other words, just because someone owes you money that doesn’t mean you are going to get it. And the longer someone hasn’t paid the less likely you are to get it. This problem is exacerbated if you are raising investment capital or selling your business. Let’s just say that I learned the hard way the importance of properly managing cash flow and honestly from that time until now it’s been one of the areas I’m most disciplined. Boring stuff, right?! Maybe the fact that I care about this stuff is why I’ve has so much success as an entrepreneur. 🙂
The concept behind Special Guest App is fascinating—when did you first think idea this could take off? A mutual friend (actress Christina Milian) introduced Damon and I back in 2016. He had an idea for an app and at that time I was an investor and also someone with success building apps and businesses. After my first call with Damon I knew there was something there, but after I did my initial due diligence I realized that the idea to build a platform that made it easier for talent people to get discovered and paid was big. I also knew that we were a unique partnership because Damon has grown up in the entertainment industry (his dad and uncles have achieved significant success and fame in the comedy and entertainment business) and I have extensive experience building successful businesses. So it just made sense from the get-go and has only been confirmed as we’ve continued to grow Special Guest.
Tell me about an experience with a celebrity that surprised you (good or bad!). Great question! About four years ago or so my wife Robyn and I had the opportunity to spend several days with the Kardashians (Kim, Mom Kris Jenner, and Kourtney) in NYC around the 4th of July. After two days my wife and I were exhausted because the paparazzi follow the Kardashians everywhere we went. I realized quickly that having that level of fame is just crazy. For instance, I went shopping with Kim, Kourtney, and Kris (along w/ our mutual friends JR and Loren Ridinger) and because of all the fuss the store literally had to shut down so the Kardashians could shop. We had the store to ourselves for about 45 minutes while flocks of people just gathered around outside to take pictures and yell weird things about how they love Kim and Kourtney. The point is that being a celebrity (or being around them) is not normal – it can be terribly exhausting and honestly isn’t worth the fame.
And there you have it! Thank you, Kris, for your time, and for stopping by the blog! Wishing everyone all the best for a very happy and sweet 2019 🙂