Sandbox Stories: Brendan Hughes

Author: Gene Stowe

Brendan HughesBrendan Hughes

Brendan Hughes came to ESTEEM with an undergraduate major in biology, a minor in entrepreneurship, and a side identity as DJ Lumba based on his flannel shirt, bushy beard, and long hair when he bought a beginner DJ board on a whim as a Stonehill College freshman. His gigs have grown from school parties to the Boston bar scene to weddings and other social events, and he’s upgraded to a four-deck NS7III system. He performed at an ESTEEM tailgate last fall under a huge banner with his logo.

Hughes’ capstone project involves helping the Serim Research Corporation launch its Pinnacle test trips, which indicate whether an Utrasonic washer/disinfector is fully cleaning instruments used in surgical environments, into new markets. He is applying to dental schools for his dual career plan – “dentist by day, DJ by night,” he says.

The entrepreneurial education boosts both. Accounting courses that will eventually help him run a dental office already enabled him to gauge the profitability of flying back East to DJ two weddings during last summer’s intensive immersion into ESTEEM.

“This definitely helps with the whole financing thing of it,” Hughes says. “With contracts for weddings, you have to make it financially worth it. (It was.) Getting your name out there, doing different contracts, getting social awareness – it definitely helps with that side of the business.

It’s kind of the perfect fit. I’m able to raise revenue. It fits perfectly into my time frame of doing classes – DJing is late at night and close to weekends when I have more free time, and it’s good compensation for the work. It’s never going to go away. If I am swamped for a month, I don’t have to DJ.”

In his spare time, Hughes works a flexible 20 hours a week as a manager at Rolfs Sports Recreation Center on campus and helps a six-person ESTEEM team led by Davis DeFontes prepare for the McCloskey Business Plan Competition. Their startup, Integrative Concussion Analytics, uses adaptive software to substantially decrease both risk and incidence of brain injuries for athletes and military personnel.

Managing the abundance of opportunities that ESTEEM presents in less than a year’s time is an education in entrepreneurial choices, Hughes says: “You pick the things that are, one, most interesting to you and, two, you think you can get the most out of in the time you have. You have to be able to designate your responsibilities – ‘yes, I need to this, this, and this by this date, and saying no when you can’t do something. Being able to say no is a good point.”

Being a DJ is also an entrepreneurial experience, even beyond the business aspects, says Hughes, who had no musical background and learned to keep a beat in his head so he would know how to mix a song with a fluid sound. “Now I’ve been doing it for so long, I can pretty much do it while carrying on conversations,” he says. “I think that applies well to entrepreneurship – being able to read the room, people who are in a sense your customers, and you have to keep them happy. The planning is a cool process. They call ahead and have things they need you to play for walking up the aisle or the father-daughter dance and the mother-son dance. They also have a Do Not Play list. You have to plan that ahead. The way I DJ is I kind of ad lib. I don’t have a set playlist usually. I think of other songs that will go well with that song. I do all the mixes off the top of my head. When you can create the perfect song list, everybody just goes crazy. That’s the best feeling in the world.”