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This Music Duo-Turned-Corporation Is an Inspiration to Small Businesses

Photos: Courtesy of Danilo Lewis

The Chainsmokers are balancing their work in music with helping out frontline workers get the PPE they need to combat the pandemic. 

The duo have donated 20,000 KN95 masks to hospitals in the United States. 10,000 went to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, and another 10,000 went to Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, two hospitals that are working hard to help keep people safe and healthy during this time. On top of that, they spoke to 59 army bases around the world during this turbulent time to boost the morale of the troops being deployed to the Middle East. They also joined Justin Bieber and Miguel in supporting the All IN Challenge COVID-19 Relief Campaign. The fundraiser provided “once in a lifetime experiences” for fans in order to raise funds to eliminate food insecurity during the pandemic.

But their philanthropic efforts go beyond the covid crisis. They’ve donated $50,000 to the ACLU in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the many Black Lives Matter protests happening across the world and $10,000 to the Victoria County Fire Authority after the devastating wildfires in Australia earlier this year.

As successful artists and businessmen, how are you able to find balance in your career?

That has always been and continues to be a tricky thing to manage. The most important thing we believe in is working on things you are truly passionate about, because then you are always working on things you love and it never feels like you are wasting energy and time. 

We also feel equally as strong about building a team of partners and employees that share that same vision. It is important to be able to rely on them to help maintain a balance and keep things moving forward in a positive way when we might have to shift our own focus. 

Lastly, it’s important to mention we never lose sight of the fact that music is the epicenter of everything we do. It is what allowed us to seek out and pursue all these other opportunities, so we place a huge amount of importance on making sure we give ourselves the time we need to be the artists we strive to be. 

What inspires you to create and dive into new projects, such as Kick the Habit Productions?

When we first started exploring other opportunities, be it brand deals, sponsorships, or investments, we definitely felt a learning curve. We had to learn the hard way about only doing things and working in areas that we felt were intrinsic to who we were as people and what we believed in. 

Over the years, we realized that one should never waste their time putting energy or money into something they aren’t fully behind or they don’t feel represents them. As we began to practice this, our decisions became much easier and the work more enjoyable and fulfilling. With Kick the Habit, our friend Dan Marcus, now COO, approached us and pitched us the idea, and it was a no-brainer — albeit, it was uncharted territory for us. We love and trusted Dan to represent us, but also we could not be more passionate about the role TV and film plays in our lives everyday. 

We are involved in the day-to-day operations in all aspects of the business, including picking projects, developing them, pitching them, and creative. It was an exciting opportunity to bridge music and our passion for film, and explore all sorts of other avenues within the industry. Since we began Kick the Habit a couple years back, we have certainly experienced our share of setbacks, but we have a number of very exciting projects in development and are thrilled at the progress we are making. It’s also important to mention that this venture, and getting the opportunity to explore a whole new avenue of creativity, fuels us with our music. So one hand sort of feeds the other. 

Many small business owners look to other people for guidance. Who do you turn to for advice as businessmen? There are so many people we turn to for guidance. In fact, that is something we feel very lucky to have: such a great support system. We like to think we have great business acumen and instincts; but, experience trumps all in many cases, and having people you can trust to advise you. To name a few people, and we are definitely going to leave a few out accidentally, our manager Adam Alpert, our business manager Josh Klein, our agent Mac Clark, our venture capital (VC) advisor Alysa Killeen, and many more. We also have to give a mention to our tight group of friends. They may not offer financial advice; but, when it comes to our musical decisions and confidence in that space, having a solid group of friends you can rely on to tell you things straight, with nothing to gain, is invaluable. 

Do you think music helped play a role in you trying different career paths, from partnering with JAJA Tequila to your work with Mantis?

Absolutely. We don’t know who reading this has been to one of our shows, but a huge goal of our live performance — be it a festival, in Vegas at the Wynn, or on tour in an arena around the world — is to create a feeling of togetherness. We want people at our shows to have a blast with us and feel like they are part of our family during that performance, and a big part of that togetherness is celebrating. Sharing a drink like some tequila, sharing a night out, hosting friends, making memories — these all help us create special moments between us and our fans through music. It was only natural that we wanted to build on that and create something of our own. JAJA (pronounced ha-ha) perfectly embodies the spirit of our music. We want it to be approachable, inclusive and fun, and also high quality and affordable. It was a perfect marriage between us and this tequila.

As for Mantis, our VC fund that focuses on media and entertainment and fintech/block chain sectors, it all started with a company called YellowHeart that we are a part of with a few brilliant creators. We had seen how our fans were getting ripped off by scalpers and that the technology for ticketing itself was archaic, and we wanted to try to create a way to solve this issue using block chain. We co-founded YellowHeart, a fully functioning ticketing platform on blockchain, that singlehandedly can solve the scalping issue and put control of tickets back into the hands of the fans, the promoters, the venues, and the artists as well as move the whole process into the 21st century. We are well under way with this business, but it was upon its creation that we were fascinated by other businesses that could create more transparency and fix issues in areas that directly related to things we experience. So, with Mantis we are looking to identify those businesses and invest in early seed and series-A round, and use our cultural assets and other advantages to help those businesses succeed and make change. 

As small business owners know, communication is key to running a company. How have you, Drew and Alex, worked as a team moving from project to project? 

Well, that’s something we have become better at over time, and gradually taking on more things and gaining that experience has proven very important. We definitely have a divide and conquer mentality, but we are lucky because we are both very likeminded. We are ambitious, we want to work and succeed, and are willing to do whatever is necessary time-wise to make that happen. 

Of course, with that said, we each have our strengths and weaknesses, and we play to them. When we wrote our song with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, the first thing he said to us was, “Never break up.” We never had any intention of doing that when he said that, but it’s stuck with us because there is magic between us and we should never lose sight of that. We always say the luckiest thing that ever happened to us both was meeting each other. Besides this, and we mentioned this earlier, but we have a great team and we are always (and I mean always) available. There are no real work hours for us. We are always working and trying to push things forward, and, with the help of our teams in our different businesses, we are able to do that. But, we have that trust with them and that in and of itself is comforting. It’s like a restaurant: you should never not be there, but you need to trust the people working with you to make the right decisions and be available to them. 

What advice would you give to a small business owner looking to be known globally as you both are?

We thought long and hard on this answer because it would be a dream to say something so profound and worthy that people pass it down and share it. But, the truth is, there isn’t some huge secret. You might have a crazy idea or business, but what’s important is you really believe in it. We mean really believe in it no matter what other people say, because eventually someone will see your conviction and dedication and recognize it. Then, they will believe in your vision and then another and so on. The road is never paved, you just have to go down it and not be scared to try things. And, when you do, you don’t need to have “yes people” around you; but, you should have people that support your vision, stay the course, and appreciate the little steps of progress. The only other thing we’d say is work your butt off. We’ve been 24/7 for eight years!

With all of the different projects you work on currently, what new projects do you see yourselves working on in the next few years?

That is hard to say, because if you asked us this 4 years ago I am not sure we would say a film and TV production company, a tequila, a VC fund, and a large number of other investments. But, I think something in fashion or food would be an interesting avenue to explore potentially. For us, when we make decisions now, we ask ourselves, are we passionate about this? Will this change people’s lives? Is this something someone else could just replicate? Depending on those answers is how we move forward. 

Do you have any small businesses that you would like to shout-out, perhaps from your hometowns?

Definitely have to shout out Waiakea Water, Madhappy, Get Equal Parts, and Bev Wine.

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