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Daily Inspiration: Meet Mike Caimona

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mike Caimona.

Hi Mike, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I have always been a drummer. I remember the moment when I was eight years old and I listened to a Led Zeppelin song on my brother’s stereo system that changed my life. From that moment on I played music nonstop. I played in a variety of bands in school and with friends from junior high through college. At the same time, I always found myself modifying, redesigning and improving my drum sets to get the perfect sound or look. After college, I joined the military and took a long break from playing the drums. Eventually, I got back into refinishing my old drum sets and became more and more interested in the manufacturing aspect of percussion.

In early 2010, I challenged myself to build a snare drum from scratch with no woodworking training or equipment to speak of. It was something I always wanted to do, so I began a two-year journey to build a prototype snare drum. Eventually, I completed a working prototype in 2012 and started showing some friends. I immediately received an offer to buy the snare, which was not something I expected. I built my second snare that same week and also received an offer from someone to purchase it. At that point, I took the leap to form a company, and in September of 2012, I formally launched “1710 Percussion.”

1710 Percussion quickly turned into a business that focuses on bringing a detailed artistic approach to other drum enthusiasts. Within two years of founding, we gained the attention and signed endorsement deals with Alessia Mattalia (drummer for Jeff Beck’s Grammy Award-winning track, HAMMERHEAD) and Ben “Benzel Baltimore” Cowan of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. We were also voted one of the top custom drum companies by fans in the annual “DRUM! Magazine” readers poll for three consecutive years and were featured in “Modern Drummer Magazine.” Things took off from there, and we never looked back.

The charity has always been an important part of the company culture. 1710 has designed and auctioned drums to raise money for military families, cancer and ALS research, and to support local high school music departments. We also had the opportunity to be a “wish granter” through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As a result of the philanthropy work I’ve done in 1710, I spun out a separate non-profit called Warrior Music Foundation in Maryland that provides free music therapy to Wounded Warriors and their families.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
A large challenge has been to effectively scale the business while maintaining the personalized custom-manufacturing model. We insource most of our support to include marketing, promotions, sales, and support. We leverage our network of drummers and customers to have an organic environment where people can contribute to the growth of the organization. That said, our biggest hurdle has been expanding our customer base to large national recording artists without major investments in infrastructure. It is hard to support a nationally touring musician without a large staff to respond with the level of customer service the drummers deserve. Fortunately, our customers understand that we are a small custom manufacturer and they are willing to work with us.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Building drums is a total creative process. Each wood type has its own tonal qualities and personality. We can mix and match wood types with different dimensions of the design to target specific sounds and feels. It is incredibly rewarding to visualize a certain look for a drum while also hearing the sound in your mind before you cut the first piece of wood. When you finally test the drum and hear that same sound resonating from the shell, you get a sense of artistic euphoria.

When I am building a custom drum (either an individual snare drum or a complete drum set) for a customer, I spend a lot of time learning what type of music the drummer is inspired by. We talk for hours about their style and approach before I start the project. Then, once I start the build, I only listen to the music that the drummer talked about. I pump the music into the workshop and try to channel all of that energy and magic into the process.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
The approach I have taken with mentors is to have multiple people in your network. As a small business owner, I need mentors from outside of my craft or industry so I can learn basic entrepreneurial lessons. I also like to learn from other artists, other manufacturers, other folks who support the community and others who have expertise in marketing. Also, since most of my work has morphed into the nonprofit domain, finding mentors that support causes in the area is key. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It takes a network of like-minded people to help one another thrive.

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