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Entrepreneur goes from backyard to ballroomLawn-care business helped fuel launch of entertainment company

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Klock Entertainment production manager Joe Cooper, left, also joins forces with owner Jason Klock in business development efforts to boost the appeal and expand services of the Dauphin County-based event entertainment company.
Klock Entertainment production manager Joe Cooper, left, also joins forces with owner Jason Klock in business development efforts to boost the appeal and expand services of the Dauphin County-based event entertainment company. - (Photo / )

How do you go from making a couple hundred bucks as a weekend DJ to running one of the largest event entertainment businesses in the Harrisburg area?

For some people, it starts in the backyard. That's where 28-year-old Jason Klock, owner of Susquehanna Township-based Klock Entertainment, got his first taste of the business world.

When he was 12 or 13, Klock asked his dad about getting a job. They ended up at Home Depot and left with a lawnmower.

The catch: He had to pay back the lawnmower's $250 cost.

During summer vacation, Klock cut grass for his neighbors. He used the money to pay back his dad and build his music collection.

“At the end of the summer, my dad handed me an envelope with every payment,” he said.

Instead of spending the money on hobbies, Klock went back to Home Depot. He added a leaf blower and a trimmer to his outdoor arsenal.

NOT JUST A DJ

Klock Entertainment has evolved into a full-service event entertainment and production company in recent years, with capabilities in sound, lighting and multimedia. They allow the company to offer broader packages or value-added services to events it’s not directly running.

Owner Jason Klock sees a lot of potential in the corporate business because of its boutique options.

About 70 percent of Klock Entertainment’s business comes from weddings and other social events. The rest are corporate functions.

He figured the additional equipment would enable him to charge more for his lawn services, which it did. In turn, he would have more money to pursue his musical interests.

Through high school, he ran the neighborhood lawn business and used the profits to slowly add DJ equipment.

If he didn't have enough to cover high-priced speakers or sound-mixing equipment that he wanted, his parents would help out with “loans,” he said. “I could get whatever I wanted, but I had to pay for it.”

Understanding the value of a dollar and learning how to diversify are lessons he would later apply to his entertainment business, which became a full-time gig in 2011.

That business now works about 550 events per year, all within a two-hour drive of Harrisburg. The total includes 350 weddings, with corporate events slowly making up a bigger piece of the pie as the company expands its production capabilities.

Not surprising

Klock Entertainment not only offers DJs and emcees, it also boasts a customizable package of lighting and design options, interactive photo booths and other multimedia services.

“He has an ability to understand what a host is trying to create and turn it into an experience. He's very good at that,” said Joe Massaro, general manager of the Hilton Harrisburg.

Massaro and other regional venue managers said they are not surprised by the growth of Klock Entertainment over the last few years. They credit it to the work ethic of the company's owner, who starts most days at 5 a.m. and wraps up around 11 p.m.

Several described Klock as extremely passionate about creating the best experience possible for every client.

That passion is evident in talking with Klock, who is constantly looking for ways to stay ahead of the curve, whether it's on the music side or through event technology.

“During the offseason, he has consistent monthly team-building activities with his staff. They go through the elementary steps of announcing people into the room. They practice that,” said Melissa Zimmerman, catering director for The Clubs at Colonial Ridge. “This is a full-time gig for their company. They are not weekend DJs.”

Because of the company's consistency and attention to detail, Klock Entertainment is a preferred vendor for several regional venues.

Keeping up on current trends and being able to work with other vendors also are big parts of that preferred status, Zimmerman said.

Evolution

But becoming a one-stop shop doesn't happen overnight, Klock said. He spent seven years building the business part time and saving wherever he could to avoid taking on debt or partners to grow the business.

“You can't do it over night,” he said.

When Klock started at age 16, his DJ business did one or two events per month. By his senior year of high school, he had an event every weekend. His first wedding was in October 2004.

“It was at the Linglestown Fire Hall, and I made $300,” Klock said.

A few hundred dollars made as DJ at a school dance, sweet 16 birthday party or anniversary celebration would go right back into music and equipment.

Then, after leaving college in 2008, he tried his hand at sales. He spent a year working under his dad. He met directly with clients, which he said forced him to grow his communication skills.

The beat goes on

The company, which now has 40 people, including five other full-time employees, is roughly a seven-figure business today. And Klock still takes the lead on 75 to 80 events per year, mostly weddings.

“Becoming an entrepreneur is on the level (of having a kid),” Klock said of the decision to quit his full-time sales job and pursue his passion.

Klock, who just had a new baby, said both situations are indescribable unless you've been through them. There's a lot of emotion and excitement, but it's also scary and motivating, he said.

Klock said he hopes to continue to grow the business by double digits each year and is already thinking about expanding the 3,750 square feet of space his company leases.

“There is much more room for growth,” he said.

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Jason Scott

Jason Scott

Jason Scott covers state government, real estate and construction, media and marketing, and Dauphin County. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at jscott@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JScottJournal. Circle Jason Scott on .

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