Audio grew up in PG County, Maryland with his parents and younger sister. Culturally, his upbringing was just a little bit different from his friends and peers at the time. “I have Asian parents, which means they were very strict, and I grew up under their laws. Very different than the average American family,” he told me. Yet, despite the restrictions, Audio always had aspirations of success for himself. He confided, “Being the Asian kid in a predominantly African American community, It was never hard to stand out growing up.” Years later, Audio is still standing out. This time on a greater level.
Audio and I sat down in Richmond, VA. Him and I both have a passion for branding, so the energy was high from the start. Audio is most commonly known as the most popular Hampton DJ in recent years. He positioned himself as a popular DJ, promoter, and marketing strategist during his years at HU. Since graduating with his MBA, Audio has started his on marketing company called “The O Agency” which has been making major strides. His biggest project to date is “The Body by Bakari” fitness tour. He has also done work for well-known pro athletes and entertainers. Audio’s ambition and drive separate him from the pack. He said, “My whole manta of marketing is being innovative, standing out. What makes you different?” Find out what makes Audio different in this week’s #ShineHard conversation.
What is your passion and when did you realize?
Audio: I’m going to keep it simple. My passion is to make a lot of money and giving it away. I’m a very determined and strong-willed man, but at the end of the day I understand what’s really important. You know, God gave me this talent, and skill to do this, so I am going to help the world with it. I realized my last year in college. I went for my master’s right away, but to me, it wasn’t really just one thing. It was a multitude of circumstance and events that kind of molded me into who I am. It was the fifth year of MBA program that everything just clicked for me. I knew what I wanted to do and what I was good at.
If you could do anything for free for the rest of your life what would it be?
Audio: Help other people make money.
Who did you look up to as a kid and at HU?
Audio: Ha, I mean just like everybody else I looked up to Micheal Jordan. I wanted to be an NBA player. I guess it got to the point where I realized what I wanted to do and I started looking up to the people in college. Marc Barnes, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk. I learned so much just studying these people. Entrepreneurial minds.
So where did you get started as an entrepreneur?
Audio: Well my first business at Hampton was being a barber in James Hall. My dad used to cut hair back in the day, so I had all the equipment. My philosophy was to save money and keep things in house. Bakari was my roommate and I cut his hair. I put a sign and logo on my door and next thing you know I was cutting 10 plus heads a day. Making money for campus expenses, and Holland parties, and really just connecting with people. That was my first experience as a successful entrepreneur my freshmen year.
Tell me about AudioThaDJ?
Audio: I wasn’t a DJ before I came to college. I saw Tay James doing his thing. Went up to him and was like, “Yo I can do this too! What’s good?” I don’t think he took it too seriously, but that’s ok. I went back and started reading and watching Youtubes. I started to invest the money from cutting hair into buying DJ equipment. Next thing you know my first event was the 2008 Presidential Inauguration. It was an amazing memory! DJ’ing taught a lot about business. Negotiating, business transactions, and how shady the entertainment industry can be. I made money and I lost money, too.
What inspires you to succeed?
Audio: It’s legacy. In my mind it’s, “What legacy do you leave on the world?” Not only just my name, but everybody that I represent. My family, Hampton University, the 5-year MBA program. It’s the legacy, “When you die, how are you remembered?” When I’m going after something, I’m going after it full force. To accomplish it and to leave an impact on every single person that sees it.
Tell me what The O Agency is all about?
Audio: The O Agency is everything I’ve done for the past five years combined together. I went to Hampton, I was a business major. Always interested in marketing and branding. I branded myself as a barber, then even larger as a DJ all over the 757. The summer of 2013 is when I told Bakari, “Hey, let me see if I can brand you and turn this into something bigger than yourself.” So we sat down and went through different strategies, mapped things out and that’s how the “Body By Bakari“ boot camps came about. That let me know I’m pretty good at what I’m doing.
It took me months to create this company. Marketing is tricky because anyone can do it. Essentially, all it is is services. So what I did was, I bought out a printing company and that gave me access to some premium equipment. This way I’m able to do everything in house. I can formulate a campaign and produce the materials myself. I’m saving the client a ridiculous amount of money. I can offer the client a greater value than any competition. Everyone is trying to do it, you just gotta do it better. That’s why our slogan is “Better than Better.”
What frustrates you the most about today’s culture?
Audio: People playing games in their younger years. They’re out doing what everybody else is doing and they’re not trying to gain knowledge in their twenties. They’re trying to “enjoy” their younger life, and that’s the difference. People aren’t actively pursuing their dreams. They aren’t thinking 5, 10 years ahead. People don’t realize until their 30’s and then they can’t even pursue that passion because they’re tied down by so many responsibilities. Our culture just loves to live in the moment looking for that instant gratification.
What’s been your biggest challenge thus far?
Audio: I ended up at Hampton because I was supposed to be in Pharmacy School. My parents wanted me to be a pharmacist or a doctor. I went there and failed almost every single class and I knew it wasn’t me, but my parents were so adamant. I switched majors, I didn’t even tell them and by the time they found out they were like, “You’re on your own.” I was at a crossroads. I ended up joining the Marines to help pay for school and then ultimately used DJ’ing to keep me afloat. That was one of the toughest times for me, but it all worked out.
What is the #1 factor to success in your life?
Audio: The underlying secret to my success is very simple. If you study successful people you will see they all say the same things. For me, it’s the craziest, undeniably, strong work ethic. I’m willing to do whatever it takes in pursuit of my passion. It’s that simple.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Audio: Being able to brand and market myself as a premier DJ for the Hampton Roads area during my years. At Hampton, I wasn’t just a DJ, I positioned myself to be THE Hampton DJ. Whenever other schools wanted to connect with the HU community they knew I was the person to come to. I am also very happy with what we did with Bakari. Started his brand off in a garage and taking it all the way to an east coast tour was huge. I’m proud of building an amazing team because that’s one of the hardest things to do. It’s one thing to have your vision, but to convince other people to come on board and buy into that vision is a totally different story. It feels good going into 2015.
What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs trying to build a marketing brand?
Audio: The biggest advice I would give them is that it is very very possible to turn your brand or passion into a business. The only problem is that most people want it, but they don’t want it bad enough. It takes a tremendous amount of work ethic, a tremendous amount of sacrifice. Don’t follow your passion unless you are willing to put the work ethic behind it to make it a reality.
Johnny: Absolutely. It seems like everybody wants it until they find out what it takes to get it. Audio, you’re ahead of your years. Keep #Shining! Welcome to the Family. #ShineHard.
Interested in learning more or connecting with Audio?