We had the good fortune of connecting with Sarah Shuel and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sarah, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking plays a huge role in my career and life recently. When I was younger, I definitely tended to avoid risk at all costs, but as I’ve grown as an individual and as a business person, calculated risk taking has become a much larger part of the overall picture. I’m not talking about taking safety risks or risks that could devastate me in any way – but risks that have the possibility of making a big difference in my life and the lives of others. The biggest risk I have taken was in August of 2019, when I decided to leave my full-time corporate job to put all of my energy and time into my own business – Sonder Music Management. It was a huge leap, leaving behind steady income and benefits to pursue my passion. Many people don’t chase their dreams because it’s just too darn scary, but in my heart of hearts, I knew I had to try. That same day, someone close to me told me “You’ll either sink or swim, and it’ll be ok either way.” This is what I have come to live by – as I swim. Even if this risk hadn’t paid off, I have an incredible support system around me that won’t let anything terrible happen if I should sink. Taking the risk to strike out on my own has paid back tenfold, as my business is starting to gain traction to be a viable source of income and a competing business in the music market. From the beginning of starting my own business, I knew risk would be a factor I’d need to deal with on a daily basis. I’m an anxious person by nature, plus I’m a control freak and I hate confrontation – so learning to cope with the every day risks in the entertainment industry has been a huge learning experience for me. There’s an old saying, “No risk: no reward.” I find this to be immensely true. In an industry that’s brimming with new talent, ovewhelmed by similar businesses, and made more complicated by the current pandemic conditions and political turmoil, the only way to make a difference or advance the business is by thinking outside the box and coming up with new and creative ways that make people take notice. For instance, in October 2020, I had the chance to organize a socially-distanced show with one of the bands I represent – Float Like a Buffalo – and Graham Good and The Painters at Red Rocks. This was a huge risk. The expenses were high, and the payoff relied on us being able to sell out the performance. I had to build the show from the ground up, providing literally every part of what was needed for a successful show – bands, lights, sound, video, photography, insurance, permits, ticket sales, marketing, etc – at one of the most iconic venues in the world. Standing at the front of this momentous task, I couldn’t imagine making it through. What if we failed? What if no one bought tickets? What if I couldn’t secure sponsorships and funding for the show? What if? What if? What if? But also… what if everything worked out and we succeeded? I put my nose to the grindstone and starting working, checking items off the list. Next thing I knew, we had sold out the show and added a second sold-out night at Red Rocks. It truly took a village, and I have many people to thank for their assistance in the process, but we pullled it off. The risk paid off tremendously. I guess what I’m trying to say is that risk is just a part of the process of reaching for ever-evasive greatness and success, and as long as you surround yourself with a wonderful and supportive community, you can take big risks that you wouldn’t be able to take on your own. Risks are a part of life, and it’s a good thing to take them as long as you understand and accept the consequences (negative and positive) and potential.
What should our readers know about your business?
I own several businesses, which I’ll describe below: Sonder Music Management is a Denver-based music management and media company. We represent Float Like a Buffalo, CITRA, and Grim & Darling. We also have a blog and are working on a podcast that will be released in the coming months. We take a different approach to music management, working around “no’s” to find creative ways to push our bands to the next level. We work on experience-based musical events with the goal of elevating local bands to the national level. Speakeasy 303 is a curated music, dining, and cocktail experience popping up at The Alley in historic downtown Littleton and Max Gill & Grill in Denver’s iconic Wash Park neighborhood. We partner with Breck Brewery, Devil’s Head Distillery, and ARISE Music Festival to create intimate experiences with nationally renowned artists, giving music lovers the chance to experience the music of these large artists in a more communal, personal way. We take pride in our mission of creating a completely Colorado local experience from top to bottom, highlighting local venues, local artists, local makers, local cocktail and liquor brands, and local food providers. Rocky Mountain Virtual (Co-Owned with Alyssa Montaño) is an online musical platform that leverages the power of social media to give a virtual stage to musicians throughout the pandemic. We have partnered with ARISE Music Festival to give both the performers and the viewers the best experience possible. What sets these businesses apart is that they are all creative in the way they look at their missions. We think outside of the box and focus on the expereience for the attendee or viewer. We seek to do things in a way that hasn’t been done before. Every “no” is actually an opportunity to find another route by which to reach that goal. It hasn’t been too easy to get where I am now. It took a ton of self-growth and lots of work on my self esteem and confidence. Challenges have been plentiful, especially over this last year. To overcome these challenges, I try to always think differently about them – come up with creative ideas that don’t go by the standard book. These days, with computers, cell phones, and the internet at the ready, the possibilities are endless. Over the years, I’ve learned that community and those you surround yourself with are the most important part of life and business. Treating others with respect and trying to create a high tide that raises all ships and benefits everyone is of the utmost important. None of us would be where we are without the relationships we’ve built, and having a strong, caring, and kind village beside you is essential.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Colorado is an incredible place to live and visit! If I had a close friend visiting from out of town, the number one stop would be Red Rocks for a show. There’s nothing like the magic of that place – you can feel it in the audience and in the rocks. I’d also love to take them to a ton of local shows at a variety of venues. Colorado has so much music to offer, and so many different musical experiences to take in. Of course, there’d be a few hikes on the itinerary – Mills Lake, Horsetooth Mountain, and Mount Falcon (to take in the view of Red Rocks). For eating and drinking, I’d love for them to experience the many different tastes that Colorado has to offer. We’d head to The Alley in downtown Littleton, Morrison Holiday Bar, Barcelona in RiNo, Tony Rigatoni’s in Morrison, North Italia in Cherry Creek, Cherry Creek Grille, Sauce on the Blue in Silverthorne, El Moro and Durango Diner in Durango, Pete’s Kitchen for some late night, post-concert eats, La Calle Taqueria for some bomb tacos, Meadowlark for some drinks and Jazz, Osaka for their incredible appetizers and ramen, and of course a breakfast stop at Stowaway Kitchen or Crema. There’d also be some day and overnight trips to the amazing moutain towns – Estes Park, Durango, Carbondale, Keystone, Evergreen, Glenwood Springs, and Steamboat Springs to name a few. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There is an endless list of people who have impacted me and helped me achieve the success I have. First, my fiancee and Float Like a Buffalo lead vocalist, Cory Pearman, has been instrumental in my journey growing my own business. He is often the one who keeps me going, day in and day out, when I feel like things are hopeless or like I should quit and go back to working in corporate America. He’s the one that constantly inspires me to reach higher and to keep doing what I do. I also have to thank all of the Float Like a Buffalo guys – Cory, Beef, Jason, Garrett, Luke, James, and Phil. These guys were the first to give me a chance to work in music, and they’re the reason I chose to pursue music as my career. They’ve transcended friendship and have become my family. I have to thank my family as well – my parents Cindy and Dale, my grandmother, my aunts, uncles, and cousins, and the adopted members of my family. They brought me up to believe in my dreams and with the belief that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to if I am willing to put in the hard work. Growing up, there was no ambition too large or far-fetched, as long as I had a plan on how to achieve my goals. My closest friends – Alyssa, Katie, and Katie – man, without these amazing women and their support, I’d have given up long ago. I want to shout out the entire music community, especially here in Colorado. Thank you to CITRA and Grim & Darling for trusting me with your vision and believing in what I’m capable of. Thank you to the people who have given me a shot when it counted the most – Danny Sax, Tony Mason, Kyle Hartman, Kori Hazel, Kyle Harris, Kori Stanton, Geoff Brent, The Campbells, Russ Dammer, Kevin Pritchard, and so many more. I want to shout out Joey Prather, my intern at Sonder Music Management for reaching out to me and for his creative thinking and hard work – he’s definitely bound to be a shining star in the Colorado music scene. Thank you to Shawn Eckels, Benny Bloom, Hazel Miller, Tom Amend, Allejandro Castano, Dana Marsh, and Dave Randon for taking a chance on Speakeasy 303. These major musicians saw and believed in the vision and gave us opportunities beyond our wildest imaginings. Thank you to Charla Harvey, Brandon Thrift, Kenna Ortiz, Nikolai Puc, Thomas Adams, Haley Lucero, and all of the other incredible photographers and videographers who have stood by me through everything and who have always been there. Shout out to all of the venue owners, not only in Colorado, but also in Nebraska and Wyoming, who continue to be a part of this journey. Thank you to everyone who continues to read and share The Sonder Blog. Thanks to Dan Barton for hopping on for future projects. Thank you to all of the musicians, promoters, bookers, managers, VJs, and studios who have become part of the Rocky Mountain Virtual family. Huge shout out to Shannon Bock and Luke Comer from ARISE Music Festival, who continue to be incredible partners with a vision of creating musical experiences for the community. I’m sure I’m forgetting so many here, but I am truly so thankful for the entire Colorado music community. This community has shown up, not only over the period of the pandemic, but overall, to save and support me and my endeavors.
Charla Harvey, Brandon Thrift, Cory Pearman, Thomas Adams