Welcome Visitor Sunday, May 26, 2024
Belmont University is hatching new ventures
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Kevin Jennings
Belmont University Senior Kevin Jennings, age 23, told me yesterday that "not starting sooner" is the only regret he has about his startup, soundAFX.

soundAFX is a marketing consultancy and audio-production resource for "sonic branding," which is all about developing distinctive sounds and musical themes that strengthen corporate brands and product identity.

After eight months in business – and despite Jennings' fulltime student status and spending 25 hours a week working in Asurion's local call center – he says soundAFX has served MTV and Dale Earnhardt Inc. and is near signing  Robin Martinelli, a high-profile private investigator in the Atlanta area.

In addition, earlier this month, Jennings won $5,000 for his soundAFX business plan in national competition conducted by DECA Inc.'s college division. (He and a Belmont student-partner also won $15,000 in related competition, with a "green" business concept that is still under wraps, and which they'll present later this year to the International Franchise Association.)

Belmont is becoming a watering-hole for such youthful entrepreneurs. Jeff Cornwall, the Belmont entrepreneurship professor and blogger, recently told a Nashville civic audience there are now more than 100 entrepreneurship majors enrolled at Belmont, plus 40 students minoring and more than 20 MBA candidates. Cornwall said some students are transferring from other universities solely to enroll in Belmont entrepreneurship. As a mark of enthusiasm for the program, 15 students have already signed up for Belmont's new "social entrepreneurship" track, which hasn't even been formally announced.

Reality pushed Jennings toward his dream. He explained yesterday that he realized during his third year at Belmont that his love of music (guitar, trumpet) was unlikely, by itself, to produce the income and standing he wanted as a songwriter and producer. An earlier venture with several other students -- MuziK Cellar Music -- didn't last. However, the lessons Jennings learned in that outing helped sharpen his judgment and his focus.

Determined to make a living in entertainment, he undertook double music-business and entrepreneurship majors and added a fifth year to his college career, which ends next month.

Cornwall's support and Belmont's Hatchery student-business incubator have been key success factors. Nearly 60 students use Belmont's Hatchery.

Jennings said that, in addition to his parents' encouragement, his uncle, Christopher Jennings -- who runs myMuze Inc. media and branding company in New York City -- has provided mentoring, hand-me-down technology and business tips. soundAFX's Nashville boosters also include local attorney Trippe Fried and the Franklin-based music producers at Incorporated Elements. Jennings said he may seek capital from myMuze and other potential investors later this year, after he's "comfortable" the company is ready.

This summer, Jennings will be joined in the business by cousin Kory Norwood, 25. Norwood, who has been a partner in soundAFX since its inception, is completing a degree at Tennessee State University. He earlier spent five years in the U.S. Navy. Both men will keep their part-time jobs until soundAFX revenue grows.

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Tags: Belmont Hatchery, Belmont University, Christopher Jennings, hatchery, Jeff Cornwall, Kevin Jennings, Kory Norwood, soundAFX, Tennessee State University, Trippe Fried

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