Memphis entrepreneur channels love of Memphis music into business

In 2011, local entrepreneur Elizabeth Cawein launched Signal Flow PR, a boutique media and marking firm that serves musicians and music businesses.

"This business happened to me rather accidentally," said Cawein. "I was working for the Memphis Music Foundation when my position was eliminated as the organization restructured following funding cuts. I knew if I wanted to continue to work in the music industry and live in Memphis, I was going to have to make it up myself. So that's what I did."

Working for the Memphis Music Foundation allowed Cawein to discover the work that inspires her and she built the relationships required to start Signal Flow on a steady foundation. "My first office was upstairs at Young Avenue Sound, thanks to my relationship with former Memphis Music Foundation coworker, Cameron Mann. He worked out a deal for me to use the office space in exchange for social media and marketing help for the studio. It can't be overstated how much having that office in a Midtown recording studio legitimized me from the jump." 
In October of 2012, Cawein moved Signal Flow to an office at Emerge Memphis, an organization that provides strategic support and office space to start-ups. Emerge Memphis' support helped Signal Flow thrive.

"I really loved being there, and the community was great. Again, I don’t think the value of a place and concept like Emerge can be understated for the Memphis entrepreneurial scene," said Cawein.

In 2014, Signal Flow moved to their current location in a space in the historic South Main neighborhood where they are able to showcase musicians during the monthly Trolley Nights. 
The success of Signal Flow has allowed Cawein to hire an assistant as well as occasional contractors. The business carries about 10 active clients at any given time, including labels such as Archer Records, artists, and music businesses or non-profits like the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.

As for future expansion, Cawein doesn't plan to expand beyond Signal Flow's current capacity. "I"m interested in a different kind of growth. Right now I'm investing in opportunities to grow my skill set and my media connections as well as opportunities to travel for work. In five years I would like Signal Flow to be landing more and better media placements for clients, and to be sending more clients to the U.K. for tours and exchange opportunities." 
Of her favorite experiences with Signal Flow, Cawein cites working four of the Memphis Music Hall of Fame inductions as high on her list. "That is always an incredibly special night that reminds me that first and foremost I am a fan and lover of Memphis Music. That's what I do what I do. The inductions are a celebration of our city's immeasurable impact on popular music."

Cawein also loves watching her clients perform live. "I can sit back and just be in awe of their talent... watching audiences respond to them makes me feel incredibly lucky to be able to be a part of their world and support their art in some way." 
She believes that that the musical talent in Memphis remains solid. "We may not have the infrastructure of an industry town like Nashville, but we have talent in droves. There is something in the water here, and that sentiment brings artists here from all over the country every week to record in our world class studios, trying to get some of our cool by osmosis." 
As for advice for potential entrepreneurs, Cawein says you have to love what you do. "I think you have to be a little bit crazy to take this leap, but for me the net appeared and I cannot imagine my life without Signal Flow. I think ultimately you must love it, and the love needs to come from a deep well. Because you're going to need to draw on it when things are tough. My well gets refilled at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame inductions, at client release shows, at conferences and festivals when I tell people I'm from Memphis and they are genuinely excited to meet me because Memphis is so undeniably the coolest place on earth. More practically, entrepreneurs should spend the money on a good CPA and a good attorney. It's worth it."   
Hear more from Elizabeth and other Memphis music entrepreneurs at Music in the City presented by High Ground News and the EPIcenter on February 23. For more information contact Amy Hoyt.

Read more articles by Amy Hoyt.

Amy Hoyt is High Ground News' Community Engagement Specialist, which suits her love of Memphis and its inhabitants. 

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