OrigAudio: The Merican Dream
The state of financial crisis in the United States reached its peak in 2009. There was a threat of total collapse of financial institutions, banks were being bailed out by the national government, and stock markets were on a continuous downward spiral around the world.
Common words of the year included eviction, foreclosure, debt, over-leveraging, insecurity, and depression. With these descriptions being representative of the time, risk seemed to be the least popular idea in the United States. Many economists rank 2009 as the second worst economic condition in U.S. history since the great depression. Despite this horridly grim economic status, Jason Lucash and his partner Michael Szymczak decided to take a risk for something they believed in, and launched OrigAudio in 2009. OrigAudio has received some notable recognition in various media, has enjoyed tremendous success, and continues to progress with a great future ahead of itself. We wanted to know what drove Jason to reach these heights despite the inherent difficulties of starting, growing, and maintaining a company, especially during such harsh economic conditions.
Not to mention, Jason had a great corporate career going when he decided to take the leap and start OrigAudio. The question to be answered there is: Why take a risk when financial security is at stake? Besides that, we wanted to know who Jason Lucash is, and how he sees himself in an entrepreneurial context. To satisfy our curiosity, we headed over to his office in Costa Mesa, California. Upon entering the OrigAudio headquarters, it felt as if we’d stepped into an office building with the casual, retro feel of a surf shop. It was clear that things were getting done, but the creative design of the inside of the building was representative of the work hard, play hard philosophy that Jason believes in. Jason met with us wearing shorts and sandals, the usual comfortable attire for him. Over the course of our conversations, it became clear the kind of guy he was. Jason Lucash can be described as a relaxed, humble individual with an enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit.
Jason admits that he’s always been an “entrepreneur at heart.” Signs of genuine entrepreneurial spirit were apparent at a young age for him. It became evident that he had a knack for being a self-starter as he started his own candy stand when he was in the second grade. His family would buy candy in bulk from stores like Vons and Safeway. Jason would time his bike ride home from school to perfection, with the determination of a starving hawk swooping in to devour its prey, in order to get his candy stand out in the path of students as soon as school was over. He and his buddies would then hang out, eat candy, and sell it, making about 30 dollars a day.
There was something very exciting and liberating about that for Jason, and the notion of providing a service to people on his own terms has helped to guide his entrepreneurial mentality to where it is now. His Grandfather also had significant influence on him, as he would always push the idea of “being your own boss.” He would entice Jason by saying things like “Look, I can work in my bathrobe if I want to”. Jason joked that he loved that idea, not that he chooses to do so.
These passionate origins had to manifest into something greater as Jason got into college and was preparing for the future. The way Jason would do that is by looking for a demand that exists, and trying to see how he can provide services that fulfill that demand, without having to work for somebody else. In college, he did this by offering bartending and party services. Over a course of four years, he established some significant clientele and it even got to the point where he had some friends going out and doing the actual serving, while he got to act as an organizer and planner from home. He looks back at this venture as a “no risk, high reward” experience, just a bunch of young guys with nothing to lose and everything to gain. It was during these glory days that the idea of being an entrepreneur truly became validated in Jason’s mind as being the way he would want to live his life.
Right out of college, Major League Soccer offered him what he considers a “great opportunity” as an events manager, and ran the “Futbolito” event-marketing platform for the company, which he did for about ten months. Immediately afterwards, he began working for JanSport as a marketing coordinator, which allowed him the opportunity travel all over the world. During this time, he had tremendous success and lots of interesting experiences. But, something was missing. What ever happened to that burning passion to provide services to others on his own terms? What about the idea of being an independent self-starter, and of course, to be his own boss? Those values never left his mind. As soon as he thought of an idea that he felt was worth investing in, he took the leap.
Luckily for Jason, he came up with a great idea. Throughout his travels, he and his friends would always talk about how they wanted to find a way to be able to bring their music wherever they go and listen to it as a group. The idea he came up with was phenomenal. It is a small
portable tube that you can carry in your pocket, plug into any device with a standard 3.5 headphone jack, and it can then turn any surface into a speaker, using vibration technology. He had the opportunity to pitch his idea on ABC’s Shark Tank, a reality T.V. show in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a group of wealthy investors, including Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Many entrepreneurs leave this show empty handed with their tail between their legs, but not Jason and Michael. The sharks loved the idea and were making all sorts of offers, battling one another to strike up a deal with OrigAudio. But Jason and Michael had other ideas. They formed other partnerships afterwards in order to maintain 100% ownership of the company. Shark Tank provided them with some great exposure, but when it came down to it, they knew their company would grow to be much larger than the sharks could even imagine.
When we asked Jason what defined his entrepreneurial attitude and sense of accomplishment, Shark Tank was one of the first things he mentioned. Getting recognized by billionaire entrepreneurs was quite reaffirming for him and his company. Besides Shark Tank, he mentioned the fact that in 2009, Time Magazine named Origaudio’s Rock-it as one of the top 50 inventions of the year, which also served as an incredible accomplishment. His proudest achievement to date, however, is winning “Entrepreneur of the year” through Entrepreneur Magazine in 2012. He tells us that entrepreneurship is what he lives for. “I’m an entrepreneur,” he says. To be recognized for outstanding achievement in that aspect has been yet another defining moment for Jason.
None of these moments would have been possible without sacrifice, hard work, and perseverance. Jason discussed the risks, dangers, and fears involved in starting a business. For Jason, these fears stem from the uncertainty about forecasting demand, how much the business will grow, and attempting to maintain personal relationships at the same time. At the time of OrigAudio’s initial launch, in 2009, Jason’s girlfriend had been living in Florida, while he was working here in California. Trying to get a business off the ground is hard enough, but trying to start a business and manage to maintain a long distance relationship seemed near impossible to Jason. He explains his worries, saying “The business is your life, we’re married to the company.”
Thanks to his girlfriend’s fearless, undying support, things have worked out well for both company and relationship, and they’re now married. Jason stressed the importance of having that support, as it helps alleviate the fears that plague all entrepreneurs who are trying to maintain their sanity through the many struggles that accompany the hectic start-up lifestyle.
When we asked Jason what he’d recommend for potential entrepreneurs and start-ups, he mentioned that pleasing your customers is an essential element to success. He emphasizes that creating a great product and marketing it is only one part of the formula, and that those necessities should be immediately followed by excellent customer service in order to make sure that your customers are happy. OrigAudio hasn’t spent a dime on advertising, so word of mouth is everything. Another point he makes is that “Any press is good press”. He believes that any opportunity one has to gain exposure should be taken advantage of, whether it seems positive or negative. Jason expressed that he had always been a hustler, and that an entrepreneur should be a hustler, or else they won’t really get anywhere.
He states, “You should always be a step ahead, especially in technology. In technology, you should probably be two steps ahead because the technology is always changing.” As a personal touch, Jason described his own perspective on the importance of giving back to the community and always being creative and different. In terms of giving back, Jason has invested himself in supporting Chemo Duck, which is a unique educational program that supports children and families living with cancer. He also believes that defining yourself in a unique way is the only way to truly stand out, saying “I could make normal speakers all day, but I’d rather create something that is unique and gives the customers their own sense of individuality.” As we left his office, he pointed at his floor mat, which read “Merican Dream”, saying that it pretty much wraps up the company’s philosophy. Jason plans to continue growing his company, putting himself in new and challenging situations, and to lead a legacy of unique entrepreneurship practices.