Val’s Venture – and Words of Wisdom
By: Lise Amos
How many of us have had an idea, most likely based on a passion, thought the whole thing through with stunning clarity and vision, only to scrap it because we felt we didn’t have time, space, money or support? Note the word “felt.”
Now imagine loving music, loving it so much that all your friends and family members turn to you for advice on new bands, playlists for weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, baby showers, date nights, road trips, and vacation and team sports videos. What could you do to create a business out of that service? How could you benefit those close to you and help educate an enormous demographic – MidChix and baby boomers – on the coolest, hippest, best just-listen-to music without tapping into the obnoxious Top 20 list or your teenager’s latest post modern grunge-techno-Afro-hiphop-Celtic selections?
From a young age Val Haller possessed this very talent and passion, and in 2007 she turned it into an online enterprise, called Val’s List and hasn’t looked back once. Not that it has been completely easy, she says. We have to remember that at 50-something, she entered a business dominated by 18-24 year olds. How do you talk shop with someone whose mom could be your best friend? How do you stay low key when your own sons are mortally embarrassed for having a mom who knows more about music than they do? (You don’t show them up in front of their friends, she has learned.) But guess what? Those young artists really like being interviewed by someone who reminds them of mom – a very cool, knowledgeable mom at that, whose Midwest work ethic, humor and sweetness are such a breath of fresh air, that she often gets hugs after an interview.
With the advent of iTunes and satellite radio, the musical universe has grown, and so has Val’s music library – a collection of playlists you can find at her boutique music website. Is hers the only one? No. But it is the only one she knows of-and that we know of-that hits the very market where we MidChix live. We may not know the music, but once we do, we buy it – as opposed to the younger market which tends to get its music any way they can – without spending a cent. It was this selling point that created her affiliation with iTunes. Her second son, the one initially most opposed to Valslist.com, was the one to discover that iTunes had in fact an affiliate program. Val has been an entrepreneur her whole life, having small cottage businesses even as a young girl. She knew she wanted to do something with music, but the difficulty of developing a business model for selling music due to all the licensing issues was practically prohibitive. The iTunes affiliation was the perfect solution.
Val is such a normal gal. After graduating from Miami University (Oxford, OH) in 1979, she was an insurance broker for six years. With the birth of her first son she left the work force to be a stay-at-home mom (all the while dreaming of starting her own business). She lives in Winnetka, Illinois with her husband and four sons, ages 16-23, two in high school, two away at college. Talking with her is like talking to an old friend. I asked her some final questions, which brought us to a different level of sharing: What epiphanies has she had in the last couple of years? What lessons has she learned-about working, about the web, about women?
About working, she said she’s learned a lot about herself. She can be obsessive, but on the other hand has learned that her creative nature doesn’t always lend itself to getting things done. She states, “Creatives aren’t so good at managing time.” (Boy howdy, can many of us relate!) Her creative nature, however, is what helps her think through tangible impediments along the way. A certain stubbornness about doing things her own way led her husband to once declare good-naturedly, “It must be exhausting to be you.” Val also talks about the balancing act she has performed in this relatively short period of time: Work and family and home all take on new meaning. Each deserves and gets as much undivided attention as possible – otherwise her ability to work 24-7 could become an invigorating but dangerous reality. Val’s boys have learned a lot from her, too- work ethic and making a business out of something simple, something they love.
About the web Val says she has learned to be brief, witty and informal. She laughingly tells about delivering a 4-page proposal of serious facts and statistics about Val’s List to Steve Jobs. This was going to be her big break because the connection came through a high-powered individual who loved her idea. She surmises that Steve read one-half of one page and called it quits. Now, she is a big believer in the marketing magic that comes from working with Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In.
Finally, about women and epiphanies she says, “I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned. Women are really smart – they have people skills and quote-unquote business people tell me that they find my style and other women’s styles refreshing.” All these things-from the ability to work your passion, the internet, people’s willingness to think beyond the norm, and being a woman make her realize, “how lucky we are to have an idea in 2010.”
We are so excited to announce that Val Haller will be creating a playlist for MidChix! Each month we will be able to listen to a selection of 10-12 songs, buy them through iTunes if we so choose, and even see one of the recommended artists or bands play live in Denver. Look for the first playlist to post soon!