Joe Bunn on Building an Empire, and Being Willing to Lose It All

DJ Joe Bunn was recently featured in the New York Times with the headline, “Some Wedding Vendors Face Fallout After Speaking Up on Social Issues.” He never speaks up on politics, but in the case of Black Lives Matter, it wasn’t about politics – he felt a pull to do what is right. And he wasn’t concerned about the consequences to the empire he has spent 20+ years to build.

DJ Joe Bunn Donald Thompson Podcast

Donald Thompson: Welcome to the Donald Thompson podcast. My guest today is Joe Bunn, and many of you may know the name through social media and different things, but you’ve probably attended events where Joe Bunn and his production company have been the DJ of choice, or through his franchise system and entertainment programming – some of his students of the game, and we’ll talk about the DJ Vault as well. Joe, welcome to the program.

Joe Bunn: Hey, what’s up Donald? Thanks for having me, man.

Donald Thompson: Hey, no worries. One of the things that I like to do as we chat with folks and build out the, the dialogue for the program, tell us something about you that we wouldn’t find on LinkedIn, or we wouldn’t find on social media.

Joe Bunn: Let’s think. That’s a great question to start with. You know, I, I’m pretty, I’m pretty out there. I mean, like, so I have my two different, you know, Instagrams. I’ve got the company, you know, which my company is Bunn DJ Company, and that’s @bunndjco, and so that would be any number of DJs that work for me and the parties we used to do pre-COVID and you know, all the, all the good times.

And then my personal page is, you know, @joebunn, and that, I mean, I put it out there, you know, like my, my, I put my family out there, I put that I love to fish out there, I put my workouts on there. You know, I put the songs I’m listening to that morning, what kind of mood I’m in, I mean, I’m pretty out there.

People always think it’s interesting, my middle name is Eagles, so I always get the, “Why?” and it’s, as much as I want to say it’s ’cause, you know, my dad was from Philadelphia, or that my mom loved the Eagles, or Glen Fry or Don Henley, it’s just a family tree name. You know?

Donald Thompson: Wow, that’s cool.

Joe Bunn: And so when we went to name my son, you know, I wanted to give him that middle name as well. And somehow, somebody unearthed this Bunn family tree, and it was a name – it was a kid or a person’s name on there named “Little Berry.” Little Berry Bunn. And so, we started this rumor when, you know, when my wife was pregnant, that we were going to name one of our kids Little Berry, and I think it like, people actually believed us. Little Berry Bunn was going to be a, a real thing.

Donald Thompson: That’s pretty hilarious.

Joe Bunn: It’s a good name.

Donald Thompson: So when you think about a DJ, when you think about someone that throws parties, when you think about having a good time, you think about music being an escape, right? All the things that we enjoy as individuals, well, independent of genre and different things, but most people enjoy and can get into different music genres that they grew up with, that they feel close to.

What are some of the things that drove you to grow a business versus just something that you were a DJ on the weekends, that you made it a career and then built a business out of it. Where’s that transition? How did that come? How’d that happen?

Joe Bunn: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, people pick up passions and interests and hobbies from different areas, you know, whether you’re your friends fishes, or, you know, in my case, my parents love music, you know, neither, neither were musicians, but, you know, through the seventies – I mean, I, I was born in ’71 – so, you know, through the seventies they had albums and, you know, they had tons of albums, just shelves of albums in the house, just pulling out random albums, and looking at the cover, putting it on.

They always had the radio on in the car, we had this Brown Buick “bomb,” is what my mom called it. And we always, she always had music on. You know, and their era was more like the Motown stuff, the soul music, like that was, they weren’t really like the classic rock, like Stones, Beatles.

They were, they were Motown. They were Detroit, you know, even though they grew up right here in the South, in North Carolina. And then I just took that and, and, you know, realized I love music, and then obviously added, you know, through the 80s, started adding my own stuff to it. And, you know, one thing leads to another and next thing you know, some DJs going out of business in your town and you’re taking it over.

And so, how did that get to, you know, the business level, and I guess it really was after I did several other things that weren’t DJ or music related, and they were failures, then I came back to what I always knew. And I always preach that so much when I go talk to these colleges, I’m like, “If you get into something as an entrepreneur that you’re not passionate about like I had to – I did real estate, hated it. Worked for Red Bull, hated it. Worked for Camel Cigarettes, hated it. Like I did other little things, but I had zero passion, and so I always came back to the music. And that’s when I realized it was a scalable business. And I, you know, I look back on history and just kind of kick myself that I didn’t do it right out of college. You know, I think I burned about six years on other things that were just not profitable. Not only were they not profitable, they were just straight up money losers.

Donald Thompson: Hey, listen. I’ve had several of those, man. My thing was,I decided I was going to buy an arena sports team and I might as well, I might as well have just taken wads of money and lit them on fire, right? And just put that on YouTube.

And it would’ve made me more money.

Joe Bunn: Generated revenue.

Donald Thompson: Right.

Joe Bunn: Especially in this day and age. Especially if you were like 19 with like a, like a giant Afro, like it needs more elements. It needs to be like a 19 year old. You with a giant Afro lighting piles of cash on fire dressed up as the joker from the dark night. I just solved your entire debt problem right there.

Donald Thompson: Exactly, right. Hey, creative insight on tap. Right? That’s a new thing we can do, we can do later. But to your point, to your point, right, the failures ground you, right? Humble you, and, kind of, help you figure out your true truth.

Joe Bunn: That’s true. That’s true, man. I don’t know that I would be where I am today without all the failures.

Donald Thompson: Did the failures and I’ll, I’ll give my perspective, but how did you emotionally take the failures? Some people are pretty, you know, like that, that baseball home run hitter right, that really can block out the strikeouts, they just get back in the batter’s box. Some people take an emotional dip and need to rebound. Like how did you deal with things that didn’t work right emotionally, as an individual, and then get back in the saddle again?

Joe Bunn: Yeah. I mean, I think the only time it really took me out was when I, when I was like victimized, when I had basically gotten squandered out of money by a partner, hence why I’ve never had a partner in anything I’ve ever done since. You know, it was, I think I was trying to grow the DJ company and also doing, flipping houses in a, in a hot market. You know, small stuff. A hundred thousand, you know, type houses, flip them, make $50,000, and I just didn’t have my eye on the money, didn’t have my eye on the project, and that guy was just robbing me blind that I was in it with. And I was angry.  I distinctly – and I’m still angry.

Like if I saw that guy – this was 20 years ago – if I saw that guy on the street today, I’d punch him right in the face. I’m still angry. Obviously. I mean, I would literally punch a guy in the face in a restaurant and probably go to jail. But the other ones were just, you know, man, let’s sweep it under the rug, chalk it up as a life lesson and keep it moving, but that one, that one stung.

Donald Thompson: Yeah, I think, you know, for me and, and I guess that’s part of the entrepreneur journey, right, who you work with.

Joe Bunn: Yeah, sure.

Donald Thompson: Because I’ve certainly had some instances that things could have gone better.

Joe Bunn: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: Things – there wasn’t a hole in the bag with somebody who was holding the bag other than you.

Joe Bunn: Yeah. Right.

It was – I remember the accountant that year, you know, said “Oh, bring your stuff in,” and you know, we just dumped this pile of receipts on this guy’s desk. He called a week later, he said, “I’ve seen children run Popsicle stands better than this,” and I was like, “Wow.” That was, that’s when I knew that we had really messed that up.

Donald Thompson: When you are franchising a DJ business – give me some insight, insight there, right? Like the reason I pause is both admiration, rest, like that’s, that’s unique.

Joe Bunn: Yeah. So now, you know, like we, we have six offices in five different States, and I would almost call it a licensing agreement more than a franchising agreement, and I’ll say that the success is based truly upon the fact that all of the owners work here at one time. So in other words, it’s, it’s unknowingly the same principle is Chick-fil-A. You know, Chick-fil-A, you can’t have a Chick-fil-A franchise unless you work in it. You know, if Donald wants that Chick-fil-A at Cameron Village, they are going to make you work there.

Like if you had just unlimited cash and wanted a Chick-fil-A, you were a billionaire and wanted 10 of them, they’re going to make you work in that system. And that’s, you know, maybe why this – I think it is why it worked is every one of them, other than my sister, who had as the newest office out in Montana, worked for this company at one time. And they just came to me and said, “Look, we love working for you, Joe,” – or they had worked for me in the past, but – “We want to be bigger.” And I was like, “Well, not in Raleigh.” And they were like, “No, no, we’ll go somewhere else.” You know, either they had family ties somewhere else or, you know, they, they were drawn to a certain, you know, region or whatever, or they were already living there.

And I just said, “Man, I’ll give you the blueprint ,and I think you can be successful,” you know, so it’s not a, you know, it’s not a super moneymaker for me, but I think I’m more proud of the fact that I started careers for many, many people. You know what I mean? Like, and not only the owners, but all the people that work under them and it’s just, it’s really something I’m proud of, quite frankly.

Donald Thompson: And you should be. And I think one of the things, when you put your own money and your own time, effort, sweat, equity in, to not only take care of you, but build, right, careers and, and jobs. And that means people are paying mortgages, and car payments because of that goal and vision that you had, and, you know, as we look, we look at the economy, and politicians all the time want to take credit for growing jobs, but small businesses, entrepreneurs like, grow more jobs, more than big corporations, more than the government ever could. So that’s, that’s super powerful. Let’s pivot a little bit and talk about some of the things that are happening in the world and I’d love your opinion. You know, obviously, we got together and we’re on video together. I’m an African American male, you’re a white male. We have a different life experience. There’s a lot going on. You were in the New York times talking about how the wedding industry has been impacted, right, by the pandemic, right, by Black Lives Matter, all the different things like that.

Give me a sense of how you’re viewing some of the macro economic things that are happening in our world now.

Joe Bunn: And that article was, was very interesting. And, and you know, as you know, this is, this is really in our lifetime or in my lifetime, you know, this is the most powerful movement we’ve seen for Black Lives Matter, you know, and it’s, and it’s ongoing. Like, so this really – that, that article came out right after the George Floyd incident, and since we’ve had more injustices, as you know. But the movement, you know, I’m happy to say has not stopped. In fact, I think it’s, I think it’s still picking up steam.

You know, sometimes violently, but most of the time worldwide, you know, so you probably watched the game last night, right? So, you know, what happens at the beginning? They have this whole moment of unity, the NFL is behind it. You probably watched, maybe, even tje Lakers game last time. What does the court say? Black Lives Matter. Like the jerseys have, you know, sayings on the back or people’s names that have been unjustly killed, you know. Like, it’s happening now, and this has been months since the George Floyd thing, so – I kind of jumped off topic, but I’m glad to see that, that something that could have been an article that came and went in the New York Times, again, I didn’t necessarily influence many people, but that this thing is still going. And that article was interesting because the headline almost made it seem like we had been ostracized for speaking up, these people in the wedding industry. And in fact, my picture, if you saw the article, was in it, because there were two young ladies, I think, that were mentioned in the article, and the original picture that came out in the digital edition before the Sunday paper was them. And then the next thing I know, I get a phone call and they said, “Oh, they thought it was bad for business, blah, blah, blah,” and I was like, “You can put my picture in the New York Times right now.” They were like, “It’s going to be color, and it’s going to be big,” and I was like, “Dude, put me in the paper. Like I want, I want it. I want to be seen, and I want to be heard. Put my picture in there.” So sure enough, you know, the paper comes out on Sunday, and you open up that section and there I am. And, but – I guess my point is, you know, number one, if it had affected business – man, I hate to be so callous – I don’t care. You know what I mean? Because I, I was very, select with my words. I was very specific about what I said. I thought a long time before I made the post, you know, not a long time, but you know, within 48 hours after things really started to escalate, you know, after the, after the George, George Florida incident. And she didn’t really, she asked me this question, but I didn’t really get to convey it.

So I’ll convey it on your show. Like, I honestly felt like an internal pull. Like, somebody had tied a rope around my waist and was pulling me into this conversation, or into this movement, into this – into action. And as soon as I made the post, it just, it exploded, but in a good way, you know what I mean?

And again, if anybody had anything negative to say, they kept it to themselves or they just unfollowed me, and again, I didn’t really care. But there were multiple people from girls I went to high school with, African-Americans, to middle aged white guys, like myself, to teenagers that said, especially to DJs, which we’ll probably talk about later, you know, thousands and thousands of DJ followers on all my accounts that said “We were waiting for you.”

They were, that was the exact quote. “We were waiting for you.” And what’s crazy is I knew that, like that, like something in my, like I said, that there was a pull towards this, this movement, and I knew I needed to be in it, you know? And if you go back, you, you won’t see that kind of stuff from me ever really. I don’t talk about politics and, and, and it, wasn’t a, it’s still not, it’s not a political thing, it’s just what’s right. What’s good. What’s human. You know, as – I didn’t mention Donald Trump, Joe Biden, anybody. I don’t. I don’t, I never will, and I don’t mention religion. I don’t, I don’t, you know, I’m not one of those guys that makes these posts and like throws gasoline on it and then just walks away and watches the world burn, you know, that’s just not the way I operate.

Donald Thompson: Yeah.

Joe Bunn: And I don’t even get involved in those comments. I don’t have time for it. You know what I mean? And I was – I don’t even necessarily think I was worried about what the comments were going to be, I just knew that this, these were, this is how I’m feeling. This is how I’m going to speak about it.

And I’m sure I just went like way off, whatever.

Donald Thompson: No man, you just spoke from the heart.

Joe Bunn: But she didn’t give me a chance to, she asked me this, you know, about this, and then didn’t give me enough, enough, article to really convey what I meant. And so anyway, now it’s on The Donald Thompson Podcast for the world

Donald Thompson: For the world, and that’s all and that’s all good. And no, you did handle it completely because you spoke from the heart in what your pull was. The thing that people ask me often is “Don, as an African American, how are you dealing in these moments?” Right? And one of the things that’s difficult is that, you know, as a business person, you have a business to run and different things, and so you do do the calculus in terms of, if I say this, what we’re doing and you have these employees in different things. But at the end of the day, what I believe most about people is that human decency should be on everybody’s agenda.

Joe Bunn: A thousand percent.

Donald Thompson: And if we can’t get with that together, then we shouldn’t work together in any capacity.

Joe Bunn: Right.

Donald Thompson: Right? Like we just, like you said, there’s, there’s politics here. There’s red, blue, all this stuff. But like, this, this is so big, much bigger than that, because what we’re talking about is the human decency that we should all have as a human right to feel safe in our community, to feel safe by our elected officials and our law enforcement. And if we can’t agree that that is egregious, then we got to move on to a different kind of line of work, different from each other.

Joe Bunn: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more, man. Listen, I feel like. It’s just, it’s a problem that’s gone on too long. You know what I mean? I feel like, unfortunately, there will always be some people that are racist. I think their grandparents taught their parents and that parent taught, teaches that kid and the way they talk about people and the way they treat people, unfortunately, I think it’s a passed down thing, and I think there will, there will forever be racism. But, I think that the generations that are growing up now are able to start to separate from their grandparents and parents. They’re able to make their own thoughts. They don’t have to adapt to that senselessness. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t, I don’t, I just, I don’t, I never got it. I never understood it. I’ll never understand it. It just doesn’t compute in my DNA, but I feel like it is a passed down trait and the, the good news is though, I think what’s happening now is making – can change minds. I’m not saying, I’m not saying that there’s – it, it has to get better, quite frankly.

You know what I mean? And, and again, I was, I’ve said it before. I think I said it in that post, like the, the number of times I’ve been pulled over? Let’s see, I’m 49 next week, I started driving when I was 16, so for 33 years, I probably have been pulled over 25 times, and at no point ever from when I was a child or when I was a grown man, did I ever feel like I was in jeopardy of losing my life.

Period. I knew I was going to get a ticket, I was probably pissed off about it, but I never felt that feeling, and I don’t know that you would say the same.

Donald Thompson: No, my number is 14. Fourteen times I’ve been stopped. Seven times were great, I either had a ticket or did what, you know, and, and seven of the times over the years, three of those seven were interesting, so just a lot of loud talk, drop the N word, different things like that. No, but, but I wasn’t in, you know, you know, “Slow your blah, blah, blah a** down,” right? That, that kind of thing, which I can deal with ’cause I’m going to go home at night, right? And then there were a couple of situations in my life that I’ll never forget.

Joe Bunn: Wow.

Donald Thompson: Right? Like I’ll share one with you as we get your – I’ll share one with you.

Joe Bunn: Sure.

Donald Thompson: And this wasn’t in a vehicle, this is, I was, I was on a flight from Boston, came back to Raleigh, North Carolina, into my little house and take off my suit, putting on my little pants, getting ready to go to bed in my little boxers, all’s good from a business trip.

Get a knock on the door. Blue lights outside my house, and several police officers outside my house, said “We have a warrant for your arrest.”

Joe Bunn: Whoa.

Donald Thompson: And I said, “OK.” And I’m standing, I’m just standing in the door kind of frozen. And I said, “What’s this about?”

“We have a warrant for your arrest for threatening somebody’s life,” this, that, and the other.

And then they, they literally started to push into the, into the house. The thing that happened in that instance is I looked the officer in the eye and I said, can you give me 10 seconds? I need to say something to you. And they, and they stopped, hands on, on, on their weapons. Lot of like, like the most aggressive language you can imagine.

I said, “You got the wrong guy. There’s a mistake. Whatever you’re looking for is not me. If I’m in that car in bracelets, we have a much larger problem. If you just slowed down for a minute, we can make this better.”

And one of the officers that came up in the back said, can I use your telephone? The other one was still on me, and so he picks up the phone, they call the magistrate, they had the wrong address.

Joe Bunn: Oh my.

Donald Thompson: They said, “Sir, we’re – we apologize. We’ve got to go. Somebody’s going to be in touch with you, and they booked it to somewhere else.”

But the thing that I’ll never forget is what if I had mirrored their language?

Joe Bunn: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: If I had mirrored their tone?

Joe Bunn: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: We would not, there’s a chance I would not-

Joe Bunn: You’re not here.

Donald Thompson: I’m not here, right.

And so in my, in my mind, like even talking about it right now, in my mind I just had enough confidence – I don’t know what it was, because I was afraid.

Like it wasn’t, it wasn’t like I’m some kind of tough guy with that kind of situation, but I just had enough sense of. Trying to be conscious –

Joe Bunn: Slow it down and say, “I think there’s a mistake.”

Donald Thompson: Slow it down, and by the grace of God, one of those officers said, just looked me in the eye and said, “Can I use your phone?” And they called and they double checked the warrant and they, they made some mistakes, but it was one of the craziest nights of my life. Now I was not injured physically.

Joe Bunn: Yeah. But also your, your, your wits, you know what I mean? Almost say, do you like, and you’re probably not a violent person and some of the people in the story of the past year, have mental instability, let’s say. There’s something a little bit off. Right? Exactly. And so they’re approached, you know, blah, blah, blah, shut your mouth, blah, blah, blah. And then immediately, you know, something goes off and they’re, they’re violent or they talk back, you know, like we have, you have friends like that. I have friends like that, and then it just escalates. Boom, boom, boom. And then the next thing you know, they’re not here anymore.

Donald Thompson: They’re not here anymore. And you know, anyway. I wanted to, you mentioned that, and I wanted to share that with, because you’re right, right? There’s – I haven’t had as many experiences as many, I’ve had a privileged life in many regards, but those moments never leave you.

Joe Bunn: Yeah. It’s scarring.

Donald Thompson: And creates that, that difference. And I think that it’s, it’s hard when you express yourself fully when a society doesn’t understand and says that’s not real.

Joe Bunn: Right, right.

Donald Thompson: Right? In terms of, of, of how things are, how things are done and that doesn’t, you know, I have many friends that are in law enforcement that are doing it right.

Joe Bunn: Same.

Donald Thompson: I have opportunities where law enforcement have been a blessing in my life and helpful. I’m not talking about any of that.

Joe Bunn: Nope.

Donald Thompson: My thing is we should be unified to address those in law enforcement, in positions of power that aren’t doing it. Right.

Joe Bunn: Yeah. And it’s just, there’s bad apples. There’s bad apples in any job. I mean, I went and toured a factory today. I guarantee I go through there and weed out the problem, people, I mean, there’s bad apples in every field. They just don’t need to be out there on the streets, man. Can they be, you know, let them let them do the, the desk work or, you know, run copies or try and make the fax machine work again, or, I mean, d***, I just, they don’t. They can’t be out there,

Donald Thompson: And not with guns and tasers.

Joe Bunn: No, man. Oh, man. It’s not the right job for you.

Donald Thompson:  So what are some of the things – you mentioned, a couple things that, that people can change. One of the things that gives me hope is young people.

Joe Bunn: Same. That’s what I was saying. Yeah.

Donald Thompson: What are some of the things that give you hope for the future?

Joe Bunn: As, as all, as much negativity as the internet has, I think there’s a lot of positivity in it. You know, I think messages are spread faster. I think that kids, you know, being a father of a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old that I think that they are able to not only see how I act and see the things that I post, but they are able to see – and I’ve, I’ve been very, you know, open with them about what’s going on, you know, as you can imagine. They don’t sit down and watch, you know, Fox News or CNN, but they are very dialed into the internet and, you know, I’ve walked in on them watching things on YouTube that were in the thread of something else that they were watching that was probably not even relevant. You know what I mean? That, that, that a video about a news story popped-up. So, there are good things on the internet to educate, and I, and I believe, you know, in parenting. I believe in the messaging that’s on the things that they’re watching, you know, Davis was sitting right there last night, watched that football game.

He saw all the players walk out, you know, he understands, and I understand. I even thought about that last night. OK. So, Texas didn’t come out of the locker room, actually, for the Anthem and you know, some of the Chiefs are kneeling and so on. I’ll be honest with you, Donald. I didn’t get that when Kaepernick did it.

I was, it was lost on me. I’m not even – and so that was four years ago, I guess.

Donald Thompson: Yep.

Joe Bunn: It was lost on me, I was like, “I just don’t get it.” I was like, “is this disrespectful? What’s going on?” Like, it was so jarring and confusing that it took me, not till this year, but really a couple years to like, what, what did he really do?

And, and literally, at the end of the day, sacrificed his entire career for it. Still doesn’t play. And I guarantee he’s a lot better than most quarterbacks in the NFL presently playing. It cost him, you know, it cost him everything. And so, but I didn’t get it, then I’ll be completely honest. And now I’m just like, “Man, I get it. I get it.”

Donald Thompson: I, you know, one of the things that, and I don’t know Kaepernick personally, but I am happy to see in his lifetime.

Joe Bunn: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: That his perspective is now better understood, right? Because during that time years ago, it, the debate was military patriotism and what the flag is supposed to stand for. The flag that I stand for –

Joe Bunn: Sure.

Donald Thompson: Is supposed to mean the brighter future we have together, and to be able to fight for protesting peacefully, which is what was done, but he was vilified as if he had burned down 10 buildings.

Joe Bunn: Yeah. Oh, no, it was yeah. He was ostracized, like literally vanished.

Donald Thompson: Right? But, but the peaceful protest, even if we don’t agree with the protester is supposed to be what we want to protect and that his stance, actually it highlighted the hypocrisy that we live in so much in our country. Because people agree with protest for causes they agree with, but then there’s a whole ‘nother set of standards, right, for a cause that they don’t understand or agree with.

Joe Bunn: Sure.

Donald Thompson: And that is, that is pretty, pretty interesting. You mentioned parenting and, my, my kids are a little bit older than yours, so you’ve got young kids that are trying to figure things out. How are you talking to them about some of these things? What are some of the examples that you’re using? What are they thinking and saying?

Joe Bunn: You know, I think what’s interesting is – well, when they did go to school – it’s one of, you know, I’ve always, and for people that are listening who have their kids in private school, don’t take this the wrong way, but I love, I love public school because I think it ,think it’s what made me into who I am.

I think it is why I can talk to anybody, I don’t care how old you are. I don’t care what race you are. I don’t care what country you came from. Public school is the most diverse group of people you can put in one room for an entire year and you get to know everybody, you know, and they come home with different lingo and they come back with different clothes and they, and I’m like, “They’re getting this, not from me, but from kids at school.”

And I don’t know who they are, you know, and I don’t really care, but I just know that like they’re picking up, they’re becoming young men from little things that they learn at school, as well as the lessons I teach them, and as well as life experiences, you know, and I think that they are acutely aware of racism.

In fact, this is a crazy story. Last year, my son got off the bus and he was walking home and he had on some expensive shoes. And this kid came up to him, he lives in our neighborhood, white kid, and he said, “Where’d you get the Off White sneakers?” Collin said, “I bought them.” He said,” you, you bought $500 sneakers?” And Collin said “yeah.” And he said, “how?” He said, “I’m a DJ, like my dad.” And he said, “isn’t that what N-words do?” And my son walked in, and he told me that story, and it was all I could do not to go find that little punk and beat his a**.

But it, it bothered him. It bothered Collin, and it, and it pissed me off more than anything. And I knew his parents, and I saw them and I, I mentioned it to them. I didn’t call them up, and the next time I saw him, I said, “Hey, I just, you know, just want you to know what, what kind of young man you’re raising. He said this to my son.”

“Oh, I don’t, I don’t. That – I’m sure he didn’t mean it.” And I was like, “it’s, that’s a verbatim quote, man. You know, that’s exactly what he meant.” And so, you know, it’s shocking, jarring, everything else, but it just, it almost proved some of the points that I’ve made to him. You know, that it exists, why it exists, why things are the way they are right now.

You know, if coronavirus isn’t enough, now we’ve got, you know, all this racial injustice is coming to a head. Like, this is a crazy year and we’re all living through it. You know what I mean? And so it’s just conversations like that, that have, that have needed to be had. I think it’s easier with my older, you know what I mean?

And my younger is just a little more sheltered, I guess, so far.

Yeah, no. That makes

Donald Thompson: sense. No, I appreciate you sharing that. When you look ahead at 2021, what are you excited about? Whether it’s business, life, when you think about the future, what are some of the things that, that you’re pushing for?

Joe Bunn: Man, I really just, I just want the world to reset. I mean, I know that, you know, the coronavirus thing mainly just please give us some sort of vaccine or cure or like, can we just get immunity from it. We’ve just, we got to get rid of that first. Like, that’s problem A. Racial injustice is a bigger problem, but that’s going to be a little bit longer solve this, this, we gotta get rid of the virus and we just gotta get back on track business wise.

You know, from the restaurants to the mom and pops to the, you know, there’s not many people thriving right now. It ain’t a great time to be a DJ. It’s a great time to have Amazon stock or had the last name Bezos, or be an ex wife to Jeff Bezos. It’s good times for that or Peloton like the, the, the bike company that there’s a few people crushing it, but not a lot.

And so, I just want to get rid of that and get back to business. You know, seeing my friends suffer through this in the small business world is just heartbreaking. And so, I’m excited to – I don’t know. I just, I wish I knew more about the vaccine and where we were and how, how can we really fast track it.

You know what I mean? I just that’s, that’s where I wish I knew more about medicine and things like that, but, and that’s what I’m excited about just to get back on track, get these people that had to reschedule and rebook us back, you know, get their weddings in the books, you know, make them happy and let them have the wedding that they wanted and not the 25 people, you know, on the back porch of their home kind of thing, you know?

Donald Thompson: Yes, and I think that’s right. I mean, we talked a lot about the racial component and entrepreneurship, but I don’t want to let the show go that there’s a lot of different industries, people that are hurting in a financial way, right? Because of COVID, and I appreciate you mentioning that.

Joe Bunn: Yeah.

Donald Thompson: And, you know, there’s some businesses I’m very fortunate in our digital marketing space that we’re – we’ve been hit-

Joe Bunn: Yeah,

Donald Thompson: -but we’ve not been destroyed.

Joe Bunn: Same.

Donald Thompson: Right? Like we we’ve, we’ve experienced some, some pullback, right? Like we’re not loving every minute, but like, we can still fight. We’re pushing through it. I say sometimes, you know, a nickel profit is a huge win when it could’ve went the other way.

Joe Bunn: It’s survival mode, 100%.

We are straight up in survival mode right now, you know, running lean, cutting what expenses you can and just make it to the end of this, this, the virus.

Donald Thompson: That’s exactly right. Last thing on the virus, and I know you don’t get into a lot of politics, so I’m not going to try to lead you there, but I have a simple idea of a simple question.

Joe Bunn: Is the question will the virus end on November 4th?

Donald Thompson: No!

Joe Bunn: That seems to be the consensus.

Donald Thompson: The, the question is how has a country and a society and as a DJ, you interact with all different kinds of people, all different types of weddings, backgrounds, DJs, different types of music, which is a consolidation of backgrounds and people and ethnicities.

Joe Bunn: Sure.

Donald Thompson: But we made masks political. How did that happen? How did, how does that even compute?

Joe Bunn: It doesn’t. It’s not supposed to. If nothing else, it’s just a respect thing. It just, I don’t understand how that became politicized. Is that a word politicized? It is. In fact, I think the only other, you know, I know that the questionable post or, or, or hot topic post, if you will, that I made all year was about I’m wearing, I’m wearing the mask and you should, too. That was it. Between that and the Black Lives Matter, those were my two things, and neither of them, again, are political. They’re just what’s right. You know, is it an inconvenience? Yes. Does it suck? Yes. You know, am I trying now to figure out if people are mean-mugging me or they’re smiling at me? Yes. Half the time I don’t even know who people are when they address me. Like, I don’t know your eyes that well, identify yourself, like, I don’t like it any more than you do, but it is honestly just a sign of respect. And if people are saying it works and it’s going to get us to the end faster, I’ll wear a damn blindfold at this point and walk around with a, I mean, if that’s what it takes to get to the end.

Count me in, man. I mean.

Donald Thompson: That is beautiful. And I want to end our segment on that, right? If we all work together and do those simple things, and then there’ll be plenty of time to fight about the other stuff.

Joe Bunn: Yeah, exactly.

Donald Thompson: But if we don’t do these simple things, it’s making it a longer term problem every day.

Joe Bunn: I had no idea it was gonna go this long, I’ll be honest with you. I remember in March, I was like, ah, but July, we’ll be back, back in the game.

No, not so much,

Donald Thompson: Joe. Thanks for spending time with me. It was great to get to know you a little bit better, just like the openness and the, and the out there. And, and more than anything else, the business there’s a lot of ways to be successful, but you seem to be doing it in a way that’s giving back to people that have given to you and, and being your true self in doing it, which is a total blessing. So thanks for being on the show and, and I’ve enjoyed talking to you.

Joe Bunn: You too, man. Thanks for having me so much.

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The Donald Thompson Podcast is hosted by Walk West CEO, mentor, investor, and Diversity and Inclusion Consultant Donald Thompson.

Music for this episode provided by Jensen Reed from his song, “You Can’t Stop Me”.

The Donald Thompson Podcast is edited and produced by Earfluence. For more on how to engage your community or build your personal brand through podcasting, visit

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