In 2016, James Adams and his wife, Mona Cabler, took their love of music to the next level when they started hosting public concerts at their home. Adams and Cabler married these events with their love of community giving to create their own nonprofit, Pearland House Concerts.
They've since hosted musicians such as Bill Carter, Emily Scott Robinson, and Gary Nicholson in an intimate setting that gives concert attendees an up-close and personal experience. Each event benefits a charity near and dear to the community's heart, like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Life Skills House, and Rescued Pets Movement.
We caught up with James to chat about what it’s like to run a nonprofit, so read on to learn about challenges, successes, and advice from a nonprofit guru!
Swyft Filings (SF): Tell us about your journey to becoming a nonprofit business owner, and what inspired you to start Pearland House Concerts.
James Adams (JA): Pearland House Concerts was formed out of a belief that everyone can and should do more to support local causes. In an effort to raise desperately-needed funds for a few local causes that my wife and I support, we decided to host a popular band at our home.
Our first attempt was quite successful so we did another. After two or three events, we realized the power of what we were doing and the need to formalize this into a real business.
SF: If there’s one thing you could go back and do differently when first starting Pearland House Concerts, what would it be?
JA: We’ve certainly learned a lot along the way and we continue to learn. When formalizing the business I took a top-down approach, starting with Swyft Filings at the Federal, then State level. What I know now is that there were also some local municipal regulations that we needed to address. Fortunately, when we learned of those issues, we were able to navigate the process and, because we had already laid a solid legal foundation with the Federal and State governments through Swyft, the process was much easier.
SF: What is something that you never thought you’d do, but have found yourself taking on as a business owner?
JA: I never expected to have to fight red tape to keep a good thing going. Fortunately, the government still works the way it is supposed to work. Our small business had been nothing but good for the community we live in, but the red tape of local bureaucracy nearly shut us down. But when we were able to address the city council directly, openly, and honestly—government worked.
(More details about this story can be found here.)
SF: What have you found to be the greatest challenge of owning a business in the nonprofit sector?
JA: The greatest challenge has been marketing. For our business, we run each “event” or concert as a Profit and Loss. Most of the event costs are fixed, so we know that the more people we have attend, the more money we raise for the non-profit we are supporting. With good business metrics, we now have solid measures and goals for each event.
By partnering with the band’s followers and the non-profit our concert supports, we collectively work to hit our attendance targets so that everyone wins.
SF: Where do you hope to see your business go in the next five years?
JA: We’ve been working and focusing on getting attendance at every concert to be greater than 50 people. We know that 50 people or more will provide a significant donation to the non-profit that we are supporting. In 2019 we came very close to this target and I expect that we will continue to raise that target until we reach maximum capacity, which is 100 attendees.
I suspect that once we reach an average of over 70 attendees we will begin to focus on a purpose-built facility for these events that has a larger capacity and is better suited for our guests.
SF: What advice do you have for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
JA: First, be in business before you are in business. I’m a fan of learning while doing. Once you know your business idea has legs and you are committed to making it a success it’s time to “Come Correct.” That means making sure you lay all the necessary legal, permit, and proper business structure to operate.
Having a partner like Swyft makes that part of starting your business easy and provides a level of comfort in navigating the state and federal filings. So if there are any issues with your filings, Swyft is on top of it and working with you to navigate solutions.
SF: What does your typical workday look like?
JA: Pearland House Concerts is a legal, formalized entity and structure that embodies the philanthropic work of my wife and me. I also have a full-time day job in the oil and gas industry that keeps the lights on. But on any given day with Pearland House Concerts, I’m trying to learn more about marketing through social media and identifying small local charities who are doing great work but need help financially to continue that work.
SF: What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
JA: Do it now or set up a reminder. There are so many things that compete for our time. As issues and projects pop up, I either take care of them right away or I create a reminder in my calendar to follow-up and finish it. I religiously rely on my electronic calendar to keep everything sorted and minimize things falling through the gaps.
Which is how this questionnaire got done.