The “gig economy” works well when you can find enough demand for your special skillset. Sometimes, other opportunities arise offering more promise. That’s how Alexander “Skinny” Winkler got his start in the event production business – first doing gigs as a musician, then becoming a full-fledged event producer. His ability to understand the demands of both helped Skinny grow his sound, lighting and mobile stage business successfully over the last decade.
“It happened organically,” Skinny recalls. “I didn’t specifically try to start my own business. I just saw the chance to do more than perform.” He wrote a business plan to support his vision and took it to his local bank to get a loan which didn’t happen. “I wasn’t asking for enough money,” remembered Skinny. ”Plus, I didn’t fit their profile of businesses they typically financed. It was tough.”
Skinny eventually met a Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) staff member at an event he was working. He applied for a CEF loan and got the money he needed to buy his first mobile stage that allowed him to expand his business, SSS Productions, across the Front Range.
“That first stage made me lots of money which I used to buy a larger mobile stage to support larger events.” He also utilized CEF’s Business Acceleration Services (BAS) team of consultants to help him keep track of all that money using QuickBooks.
Skinny now owns four different-sized mobile stages (plus five more through city partnerships), all of which he rents out complete with technical staff support and equipment including cargo trailers and generators. Despite the seasonality of his business which kicks off on Memorial Day weekend and winds down by Halloween, Skinny is generating over $1 million a year thanks to lean overhead and word-of-mouth referrals. “Every year it’s gotten easier. I have long-term employees, can work from home and take regular vacations,” said Skinny.
Made possible in part by his small business loan from CEF. “I found that banks do a poor job fitting everyone into a box,” Skinny remarked. “CEF cares more about the actual business. We’re the largest mobile stage company by far in the state because of that.”