Chad Sawyer’s aspirations for becoming a DJ began in high school, inspired by early hip hop and breakdancing. He made his way into clubs and became a successful club DJ for a stint in Reno, Nevada and San Francisco during the 1990s.
He went to college at the University of Nevada where he received both his bachelor’s & Master’s degrees in teaching and administration.
Sawyer began teaching high school in the early 2000s and continued for 15 years. He was also a coach, teacher trainer, AP teacher, and AP coordinator for his school. In addition to teaching, Sawyer worked full time as a DJ in Tahoe, starting his own business, Moonlight Mobile DJ, in 2003. He left teaching a few years ago to focus solely on his DJ career.
Sawyer has won WeddingWire.com’s people choice for the last ten years in wedding choice, brides’ choice, couples’ choice. He’s a founding member and advisory board member for Tahoe Wedding Industry Group (TWIG), a group for wedding professionals that provides educational training for wedding professionals. He’s also a member of NACE, the National Association of Catering and Events.
In addition to working two full-time jobs and being a dedicated father of two, Sawyer has found many ways of enjoying his free time. He holds a fifth-degree black belt in Aikido and currently teaches and trains others in Reno, Nevada. He was a ski and snowboard instructor for ten years at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe. Sawyer still actively skies and snowboards in his free time.
Sawyer also races sailboats and is a three-time winner of the Trans Tahoe Sailboat Race. He’s been a sailing instructor for Sierra Nevada Community Sailing since 2000.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start Moonlight Mobile DJ?
My parents were big music enthusiasts while I was growing up, so they nurtured my love of music. I decided to start DJing because I was inspired by early hip hop, like Run-DMC and those guys that were telling stories, and the break dancing that was happening around that. So, I got a couple of radio shack turntables and a little radio shack mixer and started DJing when I was a sophomore in high school.
From there, I grew my scale and love of music. That was during the vinyl days, before CDs. I made my way into clubs, still all on vinyl, and as my DJ skills progressed, the club scene kind of ran its course, because you either get big or you don’t. It’s like being a good musician. You either get discovered, or you don’t, and the majority of people don’t. So the way for me to keep my DJ business alive was to move into the mobile arena and then focus on the customer service and taking care of my clients. That became my new goal.
During college, I was a room captain in wine steward. I spent my whole college career in food and beverage, followed by ski instructing and working at a golf course. This helped me learn the customer side of things, and that was my primary mission for my DJ business; to have it be a customer service business. I wanted to be able to take care of people, certainly on their wedding day and any of these most important days of their lives. I wanted them to have somebody that wasn’t just there as a DJ, but as somebody who’s like, “I’m here for you. No matter what it takes, we’re going to make this amazing.”
So, that’s how it evolved from just two turntables to putting together a professional DJ company that would take care of people.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Honestly, no. When I first started I had maybe 20 events the first year, then 40 the second year, then 60. So, it consistently built momentum. There was never really a question of “is this going to work?” It took years to build the foundation, but I never had any doubt.
How did you get your first customer?
It was a referral from a friend. Someone who knew me told someone who was getting married that they knew a great DJ, and then it was off and running.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works well to generate new business?
I use Instagram to personalize myself, so people can see not only that I’m a working professional, but they can also see a personal side of things, too. It’s my way of trying to relate to people and be relatable. So, my potential and current clients know that I’m more than just my profession, that I also do these other things and share these interests and hobbies with them.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
Nowadays, a lot more companies are trying to be everything; other DJ companies now offer photo booths, photographers, videos, and so on. The temptation is certainly there to try and expand and do these as well. However, I’ve decided to stay with the mindset of staying in your line and doing what I’m good at. And the truth is I’m a great DJ, that’s what I’m good at. So, I’m going to continue to focus on that and not be distracted by the temptation to spread myself too thin.
I think in this day and age; everybody wants to make everybody else’s money; they don’t just want to be content with their salary. It’s like if they see somebody else making money on a different front and they think “oh, I want to do that. I want to make that money for me.” I’d rather stay a DJ and support a local videographer or photo booth company and let them be successful as well.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Being a skilled DJ is a lot of it, but I also think it’s my customer service side. It’s taking care of people how you’d want to be taken care of. That’s basically my business mantra. I always say I will treat every client as if the bride was my sister. If that was the case, what would I be doing? I’d obviously go the extra mile. I would shovel snow, and I would clear plates, I’d pour champagne if it needed to be done; all of which I have done in the past. It’s beyond what a typical DJ would do, but I wouldn’t just stand there and say, “No, that’s not my job.” Instead, I’d say, “Oh, this needs to be done? Okay, hold on, let me go grab a shovel.”
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
It’s at the end of every night when the bride and groom come up to me and give me a big hug with that huge smile on their face because I know that I just made their night amazing. That’s my biggest pay off right there.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I think the future is more successful events, more happy clients, and I’m excited to meet all those new clients. I can’t wait to help make their special events one they’ll never forget.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I recently purchased a new mixer, speakers, and some microphones which are going to make it easier for me to mic ceremonies and provide better amplification. In Tahoe, with windy afternoons and lake noise, it’s a great and necessary thing. Investing in top-quality equipment will make the guest experience the best it can be.
What is the best thing about your current job?
It’s getting to work with people on such a happy day. My work day involves their biggest celebration and, although it’s still my work day, it’s cool that it gets to be this fantastic celebration where they’re bringing families together, and it’s both a family reunion and a wedding. It’s so many things at once. The fact that I get to experience that on a day at work is very cool.