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Alex Oana had run out of credit. She had spent the last dollar she received from a second $ 150,000 mortgage on her house in Los Angeles, California, and used up her credit cards. All the money had gone to his new company Audio Test Kitchen (ATK), which he recently founded with their co-founder Ian Hlatky.
Their goal: to create a consumer reports website for the music and audio instrument industry worth $ 17 billion and to become the world’s first impartial online showroom for professional audio devices. In this virtual room, musicians and sound engineers can listen to and compare the sound of professional audio devices before buying.
Audio artists chose their devices without being able to listen to them beforehand. For Oana and Hlatky, this seemed to be asking online shoppers to pay for a shirt without first seeing what they were buying.
During her 30-year career as an audio engineer and producer, Oana’s mission was “to make the world a better sounding place”. But why risk everything to make this dream come true?
Oana’s father passed away in 2015 while Oana worked in professional audio sales and marketing to support her daughter Veta and son Orion. “Every time I called a sales representative, I had my father’s death in mind. I felt that my time on earth was limited. I couldn’t stand spending another minute doing a job where I didn’t take full advantage of my presents. “
In search of more promising job opportunities, he was at a dead end. Finally he wondered, “If I don’t risk it, why should I expect someone else to do it?”
Oana officially co-founded Audio test kitchen 2017 in Los Angeles, introduction of the concept, building the team and raising $ 270,000 in a financing round for the company “Friends and Family”. But his passion for music started long before.
Oana grew up in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and remembers playing music as a child in her local church where her mother played the organ. When she wasn’t looking, she often crawled on the organ’s bass pedals and gave a little drama during the pastor’s sermon.
It wasn’t just her mother’s love of music that influenced Oana. She also had an entrepreneurial spirit and led innovative projects in the hospitals where she worked. Talking to her about these projects as an adult helped promote Oana’s own interest in entrepreneurship.
Alex Oana and Ian Hlatky / Image: Courtesy of Audio Test Kitchen
But when she grew up, Oana’s dream was to be like one of the great producers she admired, the guys who appeared in the credits for hits and best-selling albums. “I wanted to be a household name as a music engineer and producer,” he recalls.
Oana first tested the audio equipment industry at St. Olaf College, Minnesota. As a newcomer, she watched some students pack up the sound equipment after a rock concert in the gym. He asked who they were working for and found that his job on campus was to be on the sound team. He replied, “You mean you get paid for it?”
After much friendly persistence, Oana got a job on the sound system the following year. For the next three years he led the campus club sound team for concerts and events. “That meant that for the first time I learned how to set up microphones and run them on a mixer,” said Oana. “This gave me access to the equipment as if I had the keys to the kingdom.”
After graduating from college, Oana had her first opportunity to get involved in her twenties when she founded her own CityCabin recording studio in Minneapolis. He has made hundreds of recordings and won 11 Minnesota Music Awards, including Producer of the Year, Best Independent Recording and Best Pop Recording. Although he achieved a lot in his years as a director of CityCabin, his first dreams of becoming a renowned producer have never been fully realized. But like in his early days when he was trying to find a job on the St. Olaf sound team, he persisted and continued to pursue the vocation that he thought was right. This search eventually led him to launch Audio Test Kitchen in 2017.
In the two years since, Oana has experienced the ups and downs of a startup. Along with significant financial risks, he and Hlatky have encountered the headaches that startups often experience, such as: B. Product software errors. But Oana made it very easy to overcome obstacles.
“It’s really easy to be defeated,” he says. “Being an entrepreneur is a very emotional experience. You have to be ready to be vulnerable. “
Oana says that if she can’t solve a particular problem on her own, she has to be ready to say, “I don’t know.” You should see the obstacle as an opportunity to enroll those you trust to help solve the problem at hand. Oana has discovered that this type of open collaboration brings her own rewards.
“The genius lies in the relationship between the two people who work together to generate ideas and create something new together. Relationships are the most important thing, ”he says. “You can’t just get them out of the blue. Audio Test Kitchen is made possible by the network we’ve built over the course of a 30-year career in this industry.”
From October 2019, Audio Test Kitchen was finally launched after two years of hard work. The first signs indicate that the company will be a sustainable company, says Oana. Regardless of the outcome, Oana has remained steadfast in pursuing her dreams and set a positive example for her two children.
Image: Courtesy of Audio Test Kitchen