Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in entertainment but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Kevin Cook, founder of Poison Waters & Friends, located in Portland, OR, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Poison Waters & Friends is your go-to virtual entertainment experience. After 30 years of providing in-person joy to countless audiences across the US, primarily in the PNW, Poison has turned the dreaded Zoom meeting into nonstop laughter and fun! With almost two years' worth of new customers joining the ranks of her returning clients, Poison's reach has spanned the globe answering the call to organizations of all sizes, nonprofits, Fortune 500 companies, colleges, and churches....every sector of our global Community needs light and laughter and whether it's Drag Queen Bingo, or Poison sharing Drag/Pride History or her own personal journey of resilience and self-discovery.
Tell us about yourself
Coming out in the late '80s at the height of the AIDS crisis was a scary time for any young gay man. Discovering the world of drag at an all-ages night club in downtown Portland provided the distraction and light I didn't realize I needed during those terribly dark days when I began losing all of my closest friends to the disease. I quickly discovered I had a knack for the microphone, making audiences laugh, even while we were all struggling to comprehend the dismal world around us. I never intended to make this my career. I always held jobs in retail, eventually working for the State for 12 years then moving to accounting with a local publishing company.
When groups would ask me to emcee their event, I was just so honored it never occurred to me to charge them. Soon into my getting steady bookings, fellow event folks helped get my mind around that I was providing a very valuable service, and my unique take on humor, mixed with smarts and heart, could not be replicated, and I should definitely look into making this my career. Each day I am so excited to meet and work with a new group and share with them the natural positivity and joy I possess. I've learned that everyone is struggling with something, be it personal or in business....no one wants to get on yet another Zoom call. So I make an effort to create a fun environment, welcoming, entertaining and distracting. Growing up, my family didn't have a lot. I remember clearly everyone who helped bring fun and love into my world and hope I can be that person for others, even if only through a 60-minute Zoom event.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment in creating Poison Waters & Friends is being able to provide an income source to my friends, fellow drag queens, POC, and LGBTQ folks. I've been provided so many wonderful opportunities; being able to share those with others is what I love to do.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The toughest part of running Poison Waters & Friends is not having enough hours in the day to please everyone. I always want to say yes, and almost always do.... the rare time I just can't fit someone into my schedule is just heartbreaking. Learning to save a little time for me has been a tough lesson to learn but allows me to bring my A-game to work each day.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
My suggestions to anyone considering starting a business today would first be GO FOR IT! If COVID-19 has taught us anything, the time is now, don't wait for "someday"....that day is today! Next, I'd say if you believe in it, it will succeed, but we all have had to be creative during these unprecedented times. So being open to thinking differently than you would have to say three years ago will be helpful in your journey. Flexibility and open-mindedness are key. Lastly, patience, Be patient with the process and your customer base. Overnight success is something you see in the movies or read about in books. Remember, this is real life, in the midst of a global pandemic!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I'm so very thankful for my success after 33 years in the local drag world. Showing appreciation is something that comes naturally to me. I love thanking people, it feels good, and I know it is appreciated.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email email@example.com; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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