This story is based on Dan Levy, who I admire what’ he is doing and very jealous of him. Dan owns a site called 609design.com and has own podcast: On the DL with Dan Levy. He is also a graphic designer for Rutgers University. If you notice the big R on the football field and the basketball court, that’s his design. This is my attempt to be in his shoes…in fictional form.
Reed Stevens was your typical college frat boy at George Mason. He wanted to have fun and throw parties around campus. He never came to George Mason to get an education; he wanted fame, fortune, and notoriety. Reed majored in communications. A communications degree at George Mason is similar of buying a Ph.D degree at a Wal-Mart for $15.99, except that Reed spent $40,000 for four years to get a communications degree. Reed has a blog for fun and a Facebook profile filled with pictures that are not safe for work.
Reed wanted to be a star and take shortcuts to make it to the top. He would take easy classes from Communications 100, English 100, and tennis class. The only real hard part from college was Reed doing his own college radio show he did every Tuesday night. He wanted to make an effort to entertain his listeners and the crowd surrounded the radio studio to make the best show possible. Reed was influence from shock jock radio while growing up listening to Howard Stern and Don and Mike and decided he wanted to be on radio. Reed wanted to have that type of show because it will bring all the attention to him and hopefully, someone will pick him up for a show. Reed’s radio show was a hit around campus, and was starting to feel his time was now.
Reed was not technologically advanced, so he would not know how to podcast his show through the computer. All of his friends were frat boys who have nothing to do but work a summer job. In Reed’s case, he wanted to have fun for his job. So during summer break, he interned at his favorite station at WBHO-FM, which is a couple miles from the George Mason campus. He interned on several shows, including The Sports Addicts, The Jim O’Malley Show, and the Tom Boumgartner Show. From these shows he interned, he learned three things: get the ladies, be bombastic, and have a dirty mind. Right there, he knew he wanted to be a shock jock.
After graduating at George Mason, Reed pitches his show to several radio stations. Reed was anticipating calls that his show would at least get picked up for a trial run on the weekends. Reed never received those calls and felt dejected. A week later after settling his emotions, Reed called the several stations he applied for. In most cases, he got a generic answer:
“Thank you for sending your tapes. However, we feel that you are talented; we have selected shows that are a better fit to our station. Thank you and good luck on future success.”
Reed had many rejection letters, but the one that hurt him was the call he got from his hometown station WBHO-FM. Reed made a call to WBHO-FM and wanted to contact a producer. Instead, he was forwarded to Tom Boumgartner, where he got a tongue-lashing. Boumgartner yelled at the phone saying.
“You sir, are an utter piece of @#$!. Your shows blows dick. You just ramble on @#$! And yapping INCOHERENTLY. NO WONDER KIDS LOVE YOU…YOU TALK LIKE THEM. A BUNCH OF DRUNKS THINK RADIO IS EASY. IF SO, THEN I GOT NEWS FOR YOU…theRE is NO ROOM OF THIS CLUSTER @#$! OF A SHOW ON THIS STATION AND YOUR SHOW JUST HIT THE @#$! ON THE FAN. YOU’RE NOT WORKING IN THIS TOWN AGAIN.”
After the call, Reed stayed silent for about 5 minutes. It was the first time someone made him speechless. Reed then thought about his future saying to himself,
A week later, Reed was searching for a job…any job. Luckily, his apartment is in the middle of the city, where there are tons of shops and restaurants. He applied to numerous jobs, but found a job next door…Thursdays Bar and Restaurant. Reed was waiting tables to customers. Although he was making money, he wasn’t very comfortable at his new role as a secondary person. For the next few months, he had the same routine. Then, he had something in mind.
After a long day at work, Reed came home, ate dinner, and checking his email. On his email, he received one from Colorado. His name was Don and both Reed and Don were internet friends. They always had a good talk, but never met face-to-face. Don wrote Reed this email:
I hope everything is well. Hey, just want to let you know that I started my own design clothing company in Denver called “Don-a-Design.” I wanted to have my own clothing store after saving up all this money. The store has been kicking ass. I guess I hit a nerve on attracting people. I hope you become a radio star. I heard great things about it and congrats on graduating. You will become a star one day.
Reed was taken aback that someone actually like his radio show from college. However, Reed saw a different picture. In his spare time, Reed did drawings on an assortment of things. He would draw sarcastic pictures of his heroes, enemies, family, celebrities, anyone was fair game. Reed founded a couple of vendors who can use his drawings as clothing apparel. It did not cost Reed a penny to startup an online shop for this site. After Reed forwarded his drawings for selling, he went to work on promoting his site. Reed promotes it on his blog and on his Facebook page. However, he got little traction from it. Reed tried other social networking sites from LinkedIn, Last.FM, Bebo, and others. Those sites gave a little boost to sales, but not that much. Then, someone forward him a link to Twitter. Reed had never heard of it and at first glance, was not impress with its 140 characters. Reed needed the publicity, so he tried it. Reed’s first update was:
Hello, you can have a piece of my drawings by buying my merchandise. Please click on my site to purchase and hope you enjoy them.
After that update, ten people started to follow Reed. Reed did not know how to use Twitter, but was impressed of the responses. Reed also realizes he can’t act as a spokesperson for his company; he needs to be personal about his company. He replied to his followers and re-tweet what is of interest to him. Reed only follows people around the DC area by using a Twitter directory and most have followed back. Reed also followed a few celebrities just to get notice and publicity. Reed reposted his first update to the new people and a few more followers came. ThenReed figured out how to integrate his Twitter account to other sites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, his blog, and his shopping site. What Reed did not know was how much he would make in his first month.
A month has passed and by not knowing the figures, Reed felt confident he would get good numbers. Reed also realizes that his persona is back from his college, but felt he is mature and is really making an effort to succeed by having real conversations through the internet. What Reed would not know is if the economy would affect his sales. On Friday, Reed received his first paycheck from the vendor. Reed opens the envelope and saw a check.
The check read…$25,350.
Including Reed’s earnings from waitering in Thursdays Bar and Restaurant, he is making around $27,000. Reed thought of spending money on clothes or getting a new car, but he had bigger plans.
For the next 6 months, Reed was doing double duty as artist/salesman, and a waiter. He was steady as a waiter at Thursdays, but his design merchandise business is booming. So far, combining his earnings, he has made over $100,000 over these 6 months. Reed decided that he wants to setup shop to sell his merchandise to the local people in Fairfax. He quit as a waiter at Thursdays and moved on to his business. The next few weeks, Reed went to register his new business through the city and state and find a location to place his store. While scouting his location for shop, he spotted one that he remembers fondly.
Reed does not read the news. He only follows sports and rates women he sees on a ten point scale. While Reed was driving scouring for a location, he saw a “For Sale” sign over the building where WBHO-FM does their shows. There were no cars, no logos, and no people around the building. Reed drives home and did a search on why WBHO-FM is gone. What happen was after a month when Reed got rejected by WBHO-FM, the station switched to the Portable People Meter (PPM) because the station that owned it, VMI Media, agreed with the other competitors to measure the audience that way. In the old system, WBHO-FM was a hit on all demographics in the DC area. The station usually rates in the top 5. The PPM now shows WBHO-FM had a 0.1 rating and their top shows don’t crack the top 25. The economy and terrible ratings forced VMI Media to cut the station, remove the personalities, and move all the stations to one area in Lanham, Maryland. This leads to WBHO-FM building on sale. Reed decided that the building from his childhood radio station growing up will be the place for his new store. The problem is he does not have enough money to lease the building. Reed was going to snap but had someone in mind to help get the store open.
Dreston Pavis was Reed’s best friend since pre-school. Dreston and Reed discuss about sports, women, video games, and every Seinfeld and Simpsons episode to mankind. After both graduated high school, Dreston went to Ferrum College in Roanoke, Virginia, while Reed stayed home at George Mason. The two still talked to each other over instant messaging (IM), talking about the same thing. After Dreston graduated at Ferrum, he moved to Chantilly to help out his family business. The Pavises were interior designers who started the business in 1995. Their business was steady in the first 5 years, and then exploded when the housing boom came in Northern Virginia. The family made a lot of money and still their business is thriving. Dreston was the account executive trying to find new clients. The job helps him having a big bank account.
Reed came to Dreston’s apartment to have a nice get-together to talk about the old times and catching up. It was a nice 90 minute conversation, and then Reed spit out what he is there for…to ask Dreston to be a partner. Reed explains Dreston about his company. Dreston agrees under one condition: a lot of sports and lot of junk Dreston owns must be sold. Reed obliges to Dreston’s request and thus starts of a business. Immediately, they agreed on the new company: “Reed & Dreston”. They register their name to federal and state and were approved. The company went ahead to get materials for the stores like hangers, cash registers, credit card machines, displays, security systems, and counters. After a few weeks, the store is setup. Reed was designing the name and sign for the store and a new website. After all the hard work, “Reed & Dreston” is open…until it hit a snag.
After setting up the company’s website, Reed installed an email server with the address “@reedanddreston.com”. They got 2 emails already: One was a welcome from their host company, the other were the lawyers of Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen. They sent a notice to Reed and Dreston to change the name because it’s too close to Reid and Dreesen and people might be confused of the two duos.
Dreston asked: “Who are Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen?”
Reed said, “Tim is the father in Sister, Sister and Dreesen frequently comes to Letterman.”
Dreston asked another question, “Then why they are suing us?”
Reed follow-up, “I don’t know.”
Reed and Dreston search for Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen. Tim and Tom, as they were called, were a comedy duo in the 1960s. They were the first interracial comedy duo in history. The next search page, it showed Reed and Dreston’s company site, which Tim and Tom believed why they’re thinking of suing us. Dreston hatch up a plan and called the attorneys for Tim and Tom. Dreston asked the attorneys that we will not only drop the name, but we will sell Tim and Tom’s new book when their store opens and all proceeds will go to their charity of choice. The attorneys say they will have a decision in one day. Three hours later, the attorneys called back and agreed to Dreston’s terms. Crisis has been averted, but now they need a new name and pay for another sign.
There were two names Reed and Dreston came to conclude: “NOVARepresent” or “703Represent”. Reed did not like “NOVARepresent” because people from the show, NOVA, will sue us for stealing their name to sell. So, the both decided by default to go to “703Represent”. They re-did the signs, the website, everything. After a week, it was time to open shop. When they moved to the new building, the both discover an open space.
The open space contained microphone holders, a board, and bookshelves. Reed and Dreston just entered the old WBHO-FM studio. They looked around in astonishment that they’re in a studio of their idols. Reed thought up a plan, but hesitated.
Dreston asked “What’s the hold up?” Reed then tells Dreston of something he wanted to do:
“Let’s do a podcast together!”
Dreston love the idea, but he mention to Reed
“Do you know how to do a podcast?”
Reed shook his head sideways.
Reed wanted to do this podcast badly, but did not know how to do one. He wanted to do training online and take a class on podcasting, but he did not want to spend money just to learn more stuff. The both did remember they had a friend who does freelance audio.
His name was Steve, who was friends with Reed and Dreston for 10 years. He went to USC to go to film school, but it was a crowded field, so he went to audio engineering and headed back home. He was the audio engineer for several WBHO-FM stations until they moved to Lanham and Steve just stayed home and became a freelancer.
Steve showed the two how to do the podcast and how to run a show and get better quality. Reed and Dreston took a couple of trial runs and already there was chemistry on the air. A few adjustments on the audio and they founded their sound to podcast. The two discuss a variety of topics from sports and women. Dreston wanted to talk about politics that Reed had little knowledge with and Reed wanted to discuss pop culture that Dreston had no interest. The both agreed to make an attempt to cover each others’ topics. After a trial run, Reed and Dreston did their first podcast, one week before the store opens.
They put the podcast over through iTunes and their respective social media profiles. They also announce that they’re opening “703Represent” next week and will do daily podcasts two hours before the store opens. The tone of the show was two best friends talking anything that comes to mind and from listening to the show, you would know their best friends and you would come in to the conversation. After their first day of podcast, there were 15 emails telling them from liking the show to liking the show with some constructive criticism. In any case, “703Represent” had momentum leading up to the grand opening.
The store was setup like any other typical store, but each hanger had a station: There was the Liz Clarke section, the satire collection, the sports section, the sports formula (CFL, NFL, NCAA QB rating; The Duckworth Lewis formula) section, the pop culture section, and novelty items from hats with clapping hands, No. 1 Hats, Witty Saying hats, bobbleheads, beanie caps (Reed is closest knitter that no one knows about), a bunch pearl key chains Reed’s grandmother gave to him, used CD and books, and others. Ten AM hit and the store open. There was no line as expected since people were at work and they got a huge building to work with. The first customer came in was an elder 70 year old woman, walking down Main Street and just saw there’s a new store in the middle of Fairfax City. She felt unimpressed, so she left. Then during lunch, and a few more came by and actually bought stuff. A steady flow came by the store. After the first week, Reed and Dreston were happy about the result. The store, plus the online store means “703Represent” was a success.
During a routine day at “703Represent,” Ma Stevens came by to drop off lunch to her son, Reed. Reed was not home the past few days because of the new store. Ma made a basket of her famous egg rolls for her son. Dreston was in the background giggling behind Reed’s back. Ma never like the place because it was “too ugly”, but was happy that her son made money out of it. Ma left the store and Dreston busted out in laughter at Reed. Calmly, Reed asked Dreston if he wants an egg roll. Dreston tried one and said, “These egg rolls are dope. They’re Magical!!!” Reed looks at him awkwardly similar to a look when seeing a person dancing with only underwear. After salivating on the egg roll, Dreston hatch out a plan to sell egg rolls for $2. Reed felt uncomfortable because he did not want his mother to be a worker and is asking too much out of it, plus she’s stubborn. After the store closes, Reed called his mother if she can make more egg rolls. Ma was fine with it since she has money from her son. Ma told Reed they’re ready for the weekend. When the weekend arrived, Ma gave the egg rolls to her son and gave kisses and Dreston laughs and called Reed “Mama’s Boy.” The customers picked up and were buying merchandise. Then one of the customers, in her mid 30s, asked Reed to try one of the egg rolls. “It’s $2” Reed said. The customer gave Reed $2 and took the egg roll. She took a bite, and after the bite she moaned in excitement.
The customer then yelled, “HEY EVERYONE, YOU HAVE TO TRY THESE EGG ROLLS. THEY ARE THE BEST!!!”
Everyone ran to the register to get a hand on Ma’s Egg Rolls. Reed tried desperate to stray away the rabid customers and at the same time, give the egg rolls for people who have money. In five seconds, the basket was empty and everyone backed off and continue shopping. Reed felt pulverized from the ambush of people wanting their egg rolls. When the day ended, clothes were on the ground, some merchandise were ripped, and clean up will take a long time. Dreston helped out and told Reed, “I told you your Ma’s Egg Rolls were magical.” Reed complemented and thought about another great idea.
The “703Represent” building has two floors, and the store only covers the first floor. Reed asked Dreston to look at the lease of the contract. The lease mentions the building is occupied by Reed Stevens and Dreston Pavis. Notice they own the whole building; Reed had a much bigger plan.
A few months later, Reed asked his family (Ma, Pa, his two brothers) to come by to the store for a quick moment. The family came by and Reed blindfolded them. They took the elevator and when they came up; they unmasked and saw a dining area. In a goofy hat, Reed said, “Happy Birthday, Ma!” Ma looked shocked that he would build a whole restaurant for her birthday. That was one of two surprises. The other surprise…the restaurant is called “Cha Gio 88,” and it is now owned by Ma Stevens and family. Ma looked like she was going to kill someone and hugs everyone. Reed gave a tour to Ma’s new restaurant upstairs of where the dining, the bathrooms, and the kitchen is. Ma was fine with it, but she did not like the kitchen equipment here, so she asked Reed to get her equipment. Reed obliged. After that, the family headed down for their final surprise: the customers. The customers knew from the restaurant from Reed and Dreston’s podcast and promote it on the web. The family does not have internet access and were surprise to see that many customers. The customers went up and enjoy a full course meal from Ma. They enjoyed a plate of egg rolls, a bowl of Pho, and sticky rice with mango. Every customer was satisfied with not only the service, but the food that was given to them. At 9PM, “Cha Gio 88” and “703Represent” closed for the day.
Who would have thought a novelty store and a restaurant can go hand in hand. After the two stores open, The Stevens family had enough money to visit Saigon for the first time in 35 years to visit family and get new ideas for the restaurant. “Cha Gio 88” is a popular destination for not only the casual customers, but the harshest of food critics. Finally, Reed and Dreston have a stable business in Fairfax and are a niche hit over the internet with their online store and podcast. They also make yearly appearances in Celebrate Fairfax and the Fairfax Fall Festival, which they also do their podcast live. For the first time, Reed felt he earned his success. Reed wonders about the people in his past and what would change. Of course there were mistakes Reed wants to take back, but after knowing his conclusion, Reed had no regrets. Reed finally made it to the big time.