We were very excited to interview Shawn Morey, CEO and Founder of Paid to Play Media. Morey started his business ventures while working to obtain an education, so time management was a constant issue. The Santa Barbara native moved to the Los Angeles area to attend school at Woodbury University for his undergraduate degree in Business Finance with an emphasis in Real Estate. While attending Woodbury, he started a few small companies along with working on numerous real estate investing and development projects. He has shared with us his experiences as an entrepreneur and student.
Founded in 2010, Paid To Play Media Group is a nightlife and event business established during my education. While living in Santa Barbara, I was involved in many aspects of the nightlife and club scene, ranging from bouncing, to promoting, and special event planning. When I moved down to Los Angeles, I quickly noticed that there was a great market for it, especially with Universities.
We quickly became an all around nightlife company. We plan and produce special events including nightclub events, fashion shows, networking mixers, record release parties and college events. We also have other divisions of our company that entail graphic/web design, flyer printing, ATM machine placement, and consulting for nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
Q: What inspired you to start Paid to Play Media?
Essentially, the design of nightlife venues; it has always amazed me. This passion for the design and helping people have a good time is what drove me towards nightlife. I wanted to create a safe environment where people could escape from everyday life. Where they could socialize with friends and have a good time.
One of my goals is to develop and own nightclubs and restaurants. Being in the everyday life and seeing the inner workings of these nightclubs has given me a great advantage when looking at the design, concept, and planning of a new venue.
Q: Where did this company lead you and what are you working on now?
During my last year at the university my old mixed martial arts trainer from Santa Barbara, Anthony Arria, approached me with a new idea for events. Anthony has been in the MMA world for years, working with legends like Chuck Liddell, and he owns a fight league called California Fight Syndicate. He had seen what we were doing with nightclubs and special events, and he knew that we had the connections down in Los Angeles. We partnered up for an event in Santa Monica, and it was a huge success. We have since become full partners in California Fight Syndicate, producing sell-out shows in Santa Monica, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. We are also in the middle of launching Fight Syndicate Clothing, a fight gear company.
Q: Did you write a business plan? If so, did it help?
I have created various business plans while planning and running these companies. I have never been a fan of the big, strict business plan, but I feel that you need a general plan, and structure of the business. You can always change the plan and update your goals as you go along, but if you do not have a general business plan in place you will not know where you are going. I can’t tell you how many times our business plans have changed or been outright scrapped while working on new projects.
Q: How did you balance your education and your business ventures?
There were many sleepless nights, and living off of energy drinks. One of the greatest things to happen was eventually being sponsored by an energy drink company. You will also notice that there are a lot of things overlapping in your business and school. You will be able to use your business for projects, get teacher and student feedback, and test it without losing money. You will also start to realize how you can apply the lessons from a book or a class to your company. I feel that starting even a small business is the best idea while in school, you are able to get so much more out of your education because you are actually experiencing it in real life at the same time.
Q: How did you get your business funded?
There was no funding for our companies, everything that we did was bootstrapped and funded by VCs (Visa Cards). I did this on purpose because I wanted to have complete control of my companies, and not owe anyone money. This tactic is not for everyone, or every company. In real estate there is no real way to bootstrap deals, and you have to bring on investors and leverage your debt. But with these companies that I started in school, I was able to build them on my own, and just keep putting the money earned back into them.
Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned being a student and an entrepreneur?
Time management is the biggest thing that I learned. You also have to learn to delegate work and to work with partners that you can trust. You can not grow a business on your own. Letting go, delegating work, and letting others do things is one of the hardest parts.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a college student who wants to open their own business?
DO IT NOW! There is no better time than now. You have unlimited resources at your school that you won’t have when you graduate. Your teachers and mentors will be willing to review your business or help you launch it, you can bring on interns from the school, and you can network with alumni. These are all things that will cost a ton of money once you are graduated. You will be paying hundreds of dollars an hour for a consultant, when your teachers will help you for free. You have a legal, or entity question? Ask your business law teacher instead of hiring a lawyer. A payroll question? Ask your accounting teacher. These are priceless resources that you have because you are a student. Everyone is willing to help you.
Please share any other questions you may have for Shawn and we will do our best to get them answered.