I graduated high school in June of 2013 from a small school in southeastern Virginia called Poquoson High School. I didn’t apply myself nearly as much as I should have in High School, but there was one thing that I gave 110% to – music. I’ve been playing the drums and percussion in general since I was 10 years old. In high school I was involved with just about every single music ensemble available. Jazz Band, Pep Band, Marching Band, Concert Band, Symphonic Band and even in the PIT for the show choir. I was the captain of my high school’s drumline my junior and senior year. As a junior, I was a member of Christopher Newport University’s indoor drumline, “Phoenix Blue Percussion,” and my senior year a member of another indoor drumline based out of Richmond, “innoVation Indoor.” I made the all-district band all four years of high school as well. In short – if there was a musical group that involved percussion instruments, I was involved in some way.

This involvement and passion for percussion initally led me to believe that I needed to pursue a career in Music Education and pass down the knowledge that had been given to me to the following generation of young musicians. So, I eagerly committed to Western Kentucky University’s Music Education degree program on a music scholarship.

Remember that thing I said about being involved in any and every musical ensemble possible? Yeah.. that was still the case. As I was a member of the drumline for WKU’s Big Red Marching Band, the WKU Steel Band, Pep Band, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Concert Band, and the WKU Percussion Ensemble. As a member of the Marching Band, I had the incredible opportunity to march in the halftime show of the Miami Beach Bowl in Marlins Stadium.

After a year of realizing that not teaching isn’t for everyone, I decided to call it what it was – a love for performing music. So I decided to (just like every college kid,) switch my degree program after my Freshman year.

I made the switch to a degree Marketing with a concentration in Social Media (I kept a minor in music so I could continue being involved in ensembles.)  Now you may be wondering… wow, a switch from Music to Marketing, that’s a complete 180. It was. But, I made this switch (with the guidance from my father) because I had been exposed to Social Media since the dawn of AIM. I knew that Digital was the next big thing and wanted to get onboard so that I could grow with the ever-changing digital landscape.

You might also be wondering, “well if you loved music so much, why didn’t you get a degree in Music Business?” The answer to that is simple… WKU doesn’t offer Music Business, so I figured that if I got a business degree with a music minor that it would, in a sense, offset the lack of that opportunity, and create my own opportunity. I will later explain how I began testing the waters with this idea and how it paid off.

During my time at college, I was a proud member, and re-founding father of the Kentucky Eta chapter of Phi Delta Theta. This organization really helped shape me and allowed me to grow as an individual, gave me an outlet to continue playing sports, as well as social and philanthropic opportunities. As an active member of the chapter, I was the Homecoming chairman, Greek Week Chairman (2 times,) Recruitment Chairman, and the Webmaster (bookmark this position for later, it plays a significant role in my journey to my current career.)

Being involved with these positions really gave me a sense of responsibility, organization and leadership. It allowed me to lead, learn and grow. But also, presented an opportunity for me to meet one of the chapter’s outstanding alumni, Mr. Jason Heflin.

Jason is a business partner of a Bowling Green based Digital Marketing Agency, CrowdSouth. And, after my junior year, was where I landed an AWESOME internship as the Social Media/SEO Intern.

My time at CrowdSouth was full of rich learning opportunities in which I grew like a weed. During the course of my 1 year, 9 month internship, I was given the chance to learn the ins and outs of the industry, gain hands-on experience managing the social media presence of businesses small and large, and helped guide me in the direction of what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best internship I could have ever hoped and dreamed of having.

The Hillside Drum Co.

Earlier on the page I mentioned how I had the goal of creating my own opportunity to integrate my Marketing degree with my passion for music? Here we go.

My Senior year of college I acquired an interest in woodworking. To gauge my interest, I asked my father to help me build a nightstand for my girlfriend at the time, (now my Fiance,) Kennady. So we built the nightstand and it turned out great. However, during the building process, I realized that if I could build a nightstand, then I could easily build a Cajon Drum. So I built a Cajon Drum and it turned out great. I later posted a video on Facebook of me playing my Cajon Drum. Here’s the part in the story where things get spicy.

Almost immediately after posting that video, I began having fellow drummer friends send me private messages asking how much I would charge to build them one. So I built a few drums for friends and they turned out great. They posted pictures on their Facebook pages saying “Thanks for the cool, custom Cajon Drum Eric… if any of my friends need one he’s the guy to go to!” (see also: influencer marketing.)

I decided it was an appropriate time to start a Facebook business page to post pictures, videos, receive orders, etc.

This is when things got really serious and I pounced on a cool learning opportunity. I realized that if I wanted to take this idea of my own little business to the next level, then I needed a website. But I didn’t have any marketing budget! So I had to build it myself (something that I now encourage my clients to not do lol…) Luckily, I was interning at an awesome Digital Marketing Agency that specialized in Web Design. So the awesome folks at CrowdSouth helped set me up with the framework for a website for me to build my Hillside Drum Company website on.

There is still an on-going joke that they own 10% of the business.

So yeah, this is how I learned how to develop websites!

But having a great looking website wasn’t quite enough for me to sell more product… I needed website traffic to accomplish this! And this is how I got started learning about this terribly troublesome, grueling, and awesome thing called Search Engine Optimization.

I’m not going to tell the entire story about how I optimized my content because I’m not going to give you all my secrets, but what I will tell you is that within 6 months I had the entire market cornered and was ranking top 3 on Google for every keyword I was optimizing for.

I wanted to learn about link building, so I built another website called buildyourowncajon.com (I think it’s gone from the internet now sorry). This website was all-things DIY Cajon Building. It was the complete online guide for anyone who wanted to build one. This brought much joy to my life as I had the chance to help people from all around the world build their very own cajon drum. I even got this website ranking in the top of SERPs for just about every single search phrase that had to do with DIY Cajon stuff. At one point in time, this site was receiving almost 1,000 visitors a day from Search Engines every. single. day.

So yeah, that’s the story of how I wanted to learn more about Marketing and Music and ended up having a strong-hold on the entire Latin Percussion market.

More stuff coming soon…. I’ll keep you all updated as my life unfolds.