Love Local is an 8-week interview series featured on The Marketing Multi-tool blog. Each week, we’re serving up a dose of sage advice from a local company or charity that’s not only bad ass in their marketing, but helping to put Cambridge, Ontario on the map. This week, we're talking with the one, the only, local rock star Eric Bolton. Tune your ears and get ready to be inspired!

When I get to Monigram Coffee Roasters for my anticipated interview with Eric Bolton, he’s already there: completely immersed in conversation with someone who’s just handed him a copy of the latest issue of Neighbours of West Galt… and he’s on the cover.

Eric Bolton LogoIt’s not an unlikely scenario for Eric Bolton to add another title as cover model to his growing list of credentials that include (but are of course not limited to) musician, music teacher, photographer, community connector, and most notably owner of the Galt-based business, E-Bolt Music. Tell me a little something about what makes E-Bolt Music different than other businesses offering a similar service in town, I asked. “We definitely start from a place of optimism and a love of music,” Eric said. “We’re often met with kids and adults who have these horror stories of being told they’re bad at music. We think everyone is musical.” He also talked about giving people the space to find what’s right for them. “We even have an intro program so people can try a few different things and see where they really get excited.”

Building with Vision

In the midst of moving to a new location at 59 Main St this Friday, Eric still made time to talk to me about what’s next for the business. “The vision when we first opened the studio four years ago was suited to the space we were in. We had this big loft and were invested in building the atmosphere, so we hired teachers that fit that vibe.” Eric said the vision has evolved greatly since then, and now includes seven teachers on staff that teach mandolin, ukulele, violin, guitar, piano, drums, bass, voice lessons, and more. Eric talked about all the relationships that have been built through the studio, and having the chance to see students grow not only as musicians but as people, as one of his greatest successes. “Now, hiring teachers that are invested in and enthusiastic about our growth, and helping students to feel excited, is the vision we’re looking toward.” The new location will also offer opportunities for partnerships within the downtown core, like one for vinyl listening sessions Forch’s Records Store as well as the possibility for live music nights and a recording studio. Not bad for a 27 year-old entrepreneur, right?

Priorities in Perspective

With all of these commitments, it’s a wonder Eric ever sleeps. Seriously. How do you balance it all? Eric admitted, laughing, he’s definitely still learning that one. “As a musician, figuring out the business has been stressful, and I definitely learned some things the hard way. But now I know that I actually love the numbers and marketing side… and I know the areas where I could use some help.” He said it’s definitely been a lesson in prioritizing and offloading some tasks on a full-time staff member. “One of the biggest reasons I opened [the business] was to try and make music a career. The fact that I can do that for other people now feels like a big success to me.”

Spotlight on Social

Cruise through Eric’s social media and you’ll start to swoon over his community-focused business profile. Is it really working for you, I ask him? “I think of it like a gallery. You’re building a kind of accessibility in saying, here’s what Ericthe day-to- day looks like around here.” Eric said he’s definitely seen lots of people who have found them because of an ad they’ve seen on social. “But more than that, it’s as if they already feel a part of it when they come in.” Eric also talked about the advantages to the real-time way of connecting, especially with Snapchat. “We can quickly post these 10 second videos and say, this is live footage of lessons or music happening in the studio right now!”

PRO TIP: Eric recommends using Over a lot to make your posters look uber professional.

Branding: It’s Personal

“It’s definitely been bittersweet,” Eric said, talking about the cross-over between his brand and personal identity. “When people come to the studio and expect that I’ll be teaching them and it’s another teacher, we almost have to win them over again. Finding teachers that are really invested in helping to grow the vision, and not just follow instructions, has been a big part of building that trust.”

Bridging the Community

It’s obvious when Eric talks about his insane amount of commitments that the reason he’s able to handle it all is because he truly loves what he does. Like a refrain, as people came over to shaking Eric’s hand and share stories with him as we talked, Eric continued to come back to the importance of community. “The slogan of the business is Share Music, Share Life. For me, it’s been just as true in business as in songwriting: a piece of music doesn’t feel complete until its shared. You can’t tell if it’s the way you want until you try to convey it to someone else. In those connections… that’s when you go through the real discovering of who you are.”

Hashtags and Art Crawls

Far too humble to catalogue the list of initiatives he’s spearheaded (such as the Backlot Sessions at Monigram Coffee Roasters, or community agencies he’s supported (like Idea Exchange), Eric did talk about his upcoming work with Galt Love. Originally, Eric created #galtlove as a hashtag campaign geared towards highlighting the great work happening in the community; but, after attending the Hamilton Art Crawl, he started to imagine a way he could do something similar here as an event to concentrate attention on the downtown core. The result? An evening stroll, with businesses open late, scheduled for July 8. “The hope is that businesses can use it as a chance to use each other’s networks, and get a lot of people supporting each other.”

Last words of wisdom for young entrepreneurs, listen up! “They’ll come a time when you find yourself in a room of more established business owners that are already out of debt, have figured out a lot of the mistakes you have yet to make, and you can become very aware of your age and the scope of your company. Let it be humbling to you that you’ve got a head start, and that you have a lot to be proud of.”

You can get more information about #galtlove on Twitter or Facebook. If you want to support kids having access to free programs and instruments at E-Bolt Music, you can donate to his sponsorship program on the E-Bolt Music website.


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