The Birth of The House Press – How Joe Dzwonnik is Living His Dream

Joe Dzwonnik

Editors note: I first had met Joe when I had the idea of a Beard and Mustache club here at NIU. After much consideration and other obligations, the club has taken a back seat for the moment, but regardless, Joe was one of the firsts to jump on board. From there I have always been in touch with Joe on some level, and once he launched his company here in DeKalb I knew it was a great opportunity to sit down with the young entrepreneur and pick his brain on the secrets of starting your own successful company. As you’re about to see, Joe has what it takes to get off the ground, and quickly make success. As always you can follow me on all social media @LOUIEZMICH and on Instagram @louie_zmich. From there give the NIUBusiness Instagram page a like as well! Let’s dive into Joe’s interview, enjoy!

As the title says, Joe Dzwonnik started his dream of owning his own custom clothing company on September 5th of this year right in downtown DeKalb. From there, his company really has never looked back. Starting with his roommate’s business making shirts in their basement, to then moving into The House Cafe. Joe started to make partnerships and acquaintances from all over town which really gave him an incredible advantage over others in the marketplace. Joe simply realized that there was a need for quality and good customer service in the custom clothing business and really took the opportunity head on. As we take a look at some of the questions I had for Joe, we will see just how much NIU helped him move forward professionally, and how being a Marketing graduate really helped with how he battled, and continues to avoid, challenges while overcoming them.

Everyone should take a chance to check out Joe’s incredible work on his Facebook page, and even reach out to him for anything custom printed that you need. As his motto states, he certainly delivers on quality at the best prices in town. I can say that those statements are accurate as many clubs on campus have already purchased t-shirts, banners, and sweats from Joe. I speak for everyone at CAUSE by saying the overall experience was fantastic. Now to the interview!

What was some of the history leading up to your business? How did you choose this path, and what inspired the name, “The House Press”?

This process came together through my parent’s intuition and my roommate, Jake Cronins’ own printing business. I had received mentoring from my mother who was an art and graphic design major, along with my father who was well versed in computer programming and website design. Those three really pushed me forward, and gave me the tools I needed to succeed. They really paved the road well for me. Brian, the owner of The House Cafe started to take and interest in me, as I had always come there to play shows or do stand up, and we eventually developed a professional relationship. From there, I started to become Brian’s promoter and marketing guy for bands and other shows that come in through The House Cafe. I actually put in a lot of work, and most of it was for free to really establish that I cared about his business. That ended up serving as an asset later in my career because when I brought up starting my own business, Brian offered me space in his basement in return for the marketing I had done for him in the past, and the current marketing and promoting I am doing for The House Cafe right now. The name, “The House Press” was really the least I could do when I was working underneath the Cafe. The name just made sense, and it didn’t cause people to misunderstand where I was located. My plan from here is to reintroduce The House Cafe as more of a music hub, and have The House Press be the promoter and supplier for all the gear that the bands usually provide themselves. From there we could be the provider of video editing, bookings, promotions, and live events. The first step of all that was the production of “The House Cafe Live.” It’s good to give yourself room to grow, and having future goals is something I feel will really take my business to the next level.

What made you decide to dive in head first into this business?

It really was a collection of the right opportunities at the right time to be honest. Kind of like the perfect storm if you will. I really wasn’t able to, “dip my toes in.” I had to either make the decision or not, and that really put the dog on my heels to keep running to my goals. I knew that if I just applied myself 100% that there was no way anything was going to stop me. I organized deals with a bunch of people to get the tools that I needed to push the business forward instead of going out and being in debt to others. I was able to trade my skills for the tools that I needed to run my business, it was as simple as that. With this model I was able to use the marketing knowledge that I had, to self promote the business on social media and really form connections and a clientele that knew who I was and everything that I brought to the table. I wanted to be as transparent as possible, and never let people think that the door was closed for them, everyone knew The House Press as Joe, and not some phony person.

How does someone start from ground zero like you did? How do you build a business from the ground up?

In my opinion you always have to be finishing one thing as you’re starting another. This way you’re never board of one project and the ideas are always fresh. When you start from zero, the door just gets swung wide open and you can choose how you enter. If I didn’t jump through that door, then I knew it was going to close in my face and I would be back to square one in an office, and that wasn’t something I wanted to do. I realized the opportunities I had, and I took them, simple as that. After moving on from the printing division in NIU’s design department, I knew that the thrill of being a business person was something that I had to do. I had a taste of what it was like to be an entrepreneur, and that feeling was something I could never give up. That feeling is what keeps me going, the same feeling that keeps me up until 3am then waking up at 7am to keep printing and making excellent products for people. It’s that entrepreneurial drive that you have to have to succeed. In my opinion everyone can be a business person, but you just need to find what you are good at and find ways to improve people’s lives with that skill. From there you’re not working, you’re using your passion to make people smile. That sounds so cheesy doesn’t it? But it’s true, you won’t work a day in your life if you’re just living your dream, this is my dream. The biggest piece of advice I can give here though, is to maximize your time to better yourself and your business. Your business is like a child that you created and need to tend to at all times. Everyday when you wake up, you’re continuing to bring your business to life. Anything and everything you do is making your brand, your company, and ultimately your career. Everything you say is a reflection on you, so make the best impression possible on people and you cannot fail.

What are some the challenges you have ran into with your business? How did you combat these problems?

Everything that is common in business, people already know how to do. Most of it is common sense in some regard, but the biggest issue is your mind. My biggest challenge is keeping myself in one place at one time. I have my fingers in so many pies right now and it gets overwhelming sometimes. I just have to realize I have my self on my side, and that everything that I have ever really wanted to happen had happened. I just need to keep my head in the game and keep on trucking.

What did you learn from the College of Business that you use in your business today?

Well I think that the competitiveness in the College of Business is fantastic. Competition breeds success, there’s no other way to put it. When your back is up against the wall and you’re always trying to be your best, how can that not produce successful, smart people? The college really set me up with a skill set to branch out and be anything in the business world. I never thought I would mention this one, but looking back, UBUS 310 was really something special. Every decision I make in a given day involves; marketing, management,operations and finance. No kidding, I have to think about all four of those categories every single day. It’s insane! How much will it cost me to market my new design this way. Once I market the design, how am I going to manage my time to complete this operational task? It really gave me an aspect that I literally could not get anywhere else, and I’m grateful for that, no doubt. You’re going to have five different people coming to you in different angles all the time. The class was as close to small business as you can get without having your own small business. The last thing I will touch on, because I can go on for hours, is the marketing department at NIU. Literally every resource they offer, you should take advantage of. There was so many tools that really helped me market my company today. It taught me how to carry myself, act professional, and reach as many people as possible. My time here really was the best return on any investment I have made.

Joe’s story is really something that can relate to just about everyone. I think most people, some time or another, have dreamt about owning their own business. As you saw in this interview if you have the drive to move forward, you too can be your own boss and make all the decisions someday. It’s interesting to see how much drive a person can have when they REALLY want something. Drive and determination is what gets you up in the morning, and what makes you succeed. Joe, just like many other NIU alumni, had that ambition to push forward and make their dream a reality. I thank you Joe for your time with me and I wish you the best of luck in everything that you’re doing! I look forward to seeing The House Press logo all over campus eventually. Take the time to go check Joe out on Facebook and Instagram, and support his awesome cause!

Thank you everyone and as always, don’t forget to be awesome!

Louie

The World Collegiate Sales Open

The following guest post is written by Senior Marketing Major Abbey Vanderwoude. 

Last weekend was the culmination of a 9-month long sales competition, the World Collegiate Sales Open.  The WCSO was designed by the legendary Dr. Dan Weilbaker himself, and is unlike any other sales competition. Nick Kochetta, Nicole Weldon, and I were deemed finalists who joined the other 17 students from around the world for the final series of events: a voicemail, appointment call, two role plays, two elevator pitches, and reverse job fair.  I have competed in other sales competitions in the past, but the WCSO was an entirely new experience. I was pushed way past my comfort zone with unusual events like the elevator pitch and the reverse job fair. The competition was also unique because it incorporated a series of curve balls to keep us on our toes. While these curve balls made the events more difficult, the effect was that the combined events added up to a realistic portrayal of the sales professional’s journey to earn an account’s business.

Amidst the competitions events, we had the chance to mingle with the other contestants and learn about other sales programs around the world. The students each brought their own perspective to sales, and I know I learned a lot from them. When I walked out of my Final Four Role Play, I was down on myself for not “controlling the meeting,” and not running the call the way I planned. I spoke to another finalist at the Awards Banquet, who, interestingly enough, happened to be an accounting major, and his response was this: “It wasn’t your meeting.” He was absolutely right, and I am so glad to have learned that perspective from him. In addition to networking with other contestants, I really enjoyed networking with the competition sponsors and judges. Companies including White Lodging, ADP, McKesson, Bosch, Adobe, and Sure Payroll generously sponsored the WCSO, and all were eager to get to know the students.

One of my main takeaways from last weekend is that the NIU Professional Selling Program prepares its students extremely well for sales careers.  Although we were sitting in a room with students from the top sales programs around the world, our skills as NIU students stood out.  Our team was extremely grateful to be coached by the best, Dr. Peterson, and we know we would not have made it to the finals round without his guidance. From our experience in Marketing 350 and Marketing 450, we were able to overcome the curve balls thrown our way and, as Dr. Peterson would say, not let “the wheels come off.” It was an absolute honor to be a part of such an esteemed competition, but even more of an honor to represent the NIU Sales Program and make our peers proud.

 

Regional Sales Competition

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a sales competition for the AMA regional conference in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  I learned a lot about myself and my education in the process and feel compelled to share it with you all by way of this post.  But first, I should preface that with some information about the conference!

NIU students take a quick pic at the AMA Regional Conference

The conference played host to phenomenal guest speakers and numerous networking opportunities.  What I really went for, however, was the sales competition.The competition had two rounds.  The first was an appointment call where we played the role of a sales rep for College Pro Painters (the sponsor of the competition).  On our call we were to speak with the owner of an event planning company who had submitted an estimate request online.

My call went very well and my judges gave excellent feedback.  My approach on the call felt so fluid.  I worked through objections, built solid rapport, and made the appointment to meet face to face with my prospect.   I had a quiet confidence about me in the role play and my judges reinforced this in their comments following my call.  It was very odd to hear such positive feedback, however, because up to this point my experiences in sales usually come up short of a “win”; especially in the NIU sales program.  I am bruised and bloodied in the sales track here but my goodness I’m proud to take the hits if this level of performance is the outcome.

I saw people from other schools walk out of the role play rooms complaining how the objections they received didn’t match the ones they expected based on their preparation.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  I have been groomed to expect the unexpected and with only an hour or so worth of preparation I was able to field any and all objections that were thrown at me.  I have been trained to think outside the box and understand the needs of the customer.  I know to listen before I speak and I understand that if a buyer has a problem that you NEED be the solution in order to make the sale.

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. -Alexander Graham Bell

Most people that know me well understand that I maintain an extreme and sometimes unhealthy level of modesty.  I must deviate from that on this post to help you understand how incredible our sales program is.  When it came time for results to be posted from round 1, I didn’t even feel the need to look.  I already knew I moved on.  I walked out of that room knowing that I nailed the call.  The only reason I even went to see the results sheet that they posted in the hall was to see what time my second round face to face appointment with the prospect was.  It was scheduled a few hours away and I needed to begin preparing.

I prepared until my scheduled time and walked into the room with confidence.  In this final round, I was meeting face to face with the business owner to close a deal to paint his business.  I used tools I had learned from professors here at NIU and I credit them alone to how well my entire experience at this regional conference went.  I felt like a sales “monster” in that final role play.  Not a single thing went wrong.  My judges were spellbound and had nothing to say when I invited them to give any constructive criticism.  They looked to each other and simply shook their heads.  They said they loved my process.  They said it was clean, consistent, and focused on the needs of the customer.  I believe that the judges thought the same about our other students who participated because the NIU AMA chapter ended up taking home two runner up prizes and one first place (which I’m proud to have accepted on behalf of our NIU chapter and the NIU College of Business).

Three of Six top prizes claimed by the NIU American Marketing Society!

I’ve gone through so much rejection, had so many missteps in MKTG 450 (the highest level sales course at NIU) but all the mistakes have been worth something.  It finally hit me at the competition, just how much I’ve learned in the past nine weeks.  The value of participating in MKTG 450 is undeniable.  It is no wonder why I hear recruiters consistently say that 450 alum are a cut above.  Up to this point I haven’t had anything to validate these claims and the competition really just opened my eyes.  When a single school takes home half of the cash prizes (each winner was a MKTG 450 student), there is something to be said about that schools program and its attention to detail.  I am sure that I’m not alone in my thinking and other 450 students and alum can attest to the growth they’ve seen in themselves;  both personally and professionally based on their experience in Advanced Professional Sales.

I feel that it is appropriate within the context of this blog post to take a moment to thank Dr. Weilbaker, the founder of our sales track here at NIU, for his exceptional work in making this program the powerhouse it is today.  I am certainly not alone in saying that I appreciate what he’s done.  Thank you for your years of service to this institution.  We wish you nothing but the best when this semester reaches its end.  2.0out

World Collegiate Sales Open: Part 1

Part 1: Thoughts Beforehand

(This part was written around 4 p.m. Thursday, February 23, 2012, the day before competition started. I just had a delay in posting it.)

It is the evening before the competition and I am extremely stressed. My nerves are running wild and I’m struggling to keep it under control. The NIU sales team has been told numerous times that this is the most intense sales competition there is, not just because it is a worldwide competition but because of the amount of events there are and having to complete them all back to back.

Additionally, the competition is hosted at the NIU College of Business and was founded by the head of our sales program. I feel like this adds more pressure because we want to excel in the name of our school and our program. At this point anything short of winning will feel like failure.

Professors, teachers, co-workers, friends and family all know how I’m feeling. Several of them have said no matter what happens, the marketing department is fully behind us and is proud of all we’ve accomplished in just making it to the finals. Another teacher, as well as my dad, said this should be a no pressure situation for me since I’ve already secured a job and my career isn’t riding on this competition. While the job aspect is true, I can’t shake the self-pressure. I know I shouldn’t be nervous, but the drive to do extraordinary in competition is what’s causing it.

Hopefully when the competition starts the jitters will go away and I can go into each event calm and relaxed like I need to be.

My final thought is how much I appreciate the support from all my professors and friends. I appreciate the recognition we’ve been given in the classroom this week, the wishes of luck thrown our way anytime we see someone, as well as any other words of advice and encouragement I’ve received. It’s very rewarding by itself seeing the pride others have in us as we go forward representing NIU in this international sales competition.