How To Set Up Your Own Business - An Interview With Ashley Smith

Hi Ashley! So first things first, tell me a bit about yourself. Ashley

Well, I’m 21, I’m in my final year at Queen Mary University in London studying Environmental Science with Business Management, and I’m also the Co-founder of STAG Music.

So, who are STAG Music?

We are multi-award winning music management company, representing some of the UK's elite Conservatoire (music college) musicians. We have more than 60 different acts on our books from Solo Pianists, Orchestras and Jazz Duos to Pop, Soul & Swing bands and DJs. Through STAG we want to make live music accessible to everyone; we pride ourselves on catering for events of any size, at any venue.

StagHow did STAG come about?

Just over a year ago, my best mate from home Jack (Jack Stookes- Co-founder) asked me to meet him for a drink and told me he had a business idea.  He wanted to create a platform for classical and jazz musicians to perform in order for them to gain the valuable experience they require, but he wasn’t sure how to go about it. Everything stemmed from that one drink really!

We started working with students from music colleges around the country and a year later we have done nearly 100 events for some really amazing clients including - Google, Natwest, Relentless drinks, Jaeger, Coutts bank, Made Festival, as well as at some of London’s top hotels. I don’t think Jack or I ever anticipated things would take off so quickly! The name STAG is really well known across London now and the UK and it's brilliant people are genuinely interested in what we are doing and trying to create and achieve.

What makes STAG Music unique?Stag2

I think what makes us unique is that we offer access to exceptional live music for a competitive price. Something else that makes us unique is that our service is based entirely around students (or recent graduates) -we’re really proud to offer a platform for young up-and-coming musicians. There is a stigma around students being lazy and I think it’s great to be able to showcase students who are doing incredible things.

What has been your biggest obstacle been?

I’d say it was tricky to portray ourselves as a company at first; everyone wanted to know what our past experience was - who we had been working with before. But as soon as we got a few of the big name clients on board it was much easier to get business, and then things snowballed! It's still hard to compete against the other agents and management companies doing a similar thing to us but we hope over time, as we do more and more events, that people will automatically think of STAG Music for live entertainment!

Stag3Did you find it difficult being taken seriously at such a young age? and how has it been managing a business at the same time as going to uni?

It can be hard to portray yourself to potential clients at a young age and to make them believe that you actually know what you are doing. I feel age is both a positive and negative issue. Age makes clients believe you lack experience or are going to provide an unprofessional service. However, being young you see things from a different angle. Also by starting a business at a young age you give yourself the maximum time in which to develop which can only be beneficial in the long-term. Our clients are always pleasantly surprised by how brilliant our musicians are and that’s always a great feeling.

It's been hard to manage a business and go to uni at the same time and sometimes either can slip. However, when we started we created a small but closely formed team of people who all followed in the same vision as us and I can’t thank them enough for their support so far.

If you had 3 pieces of advice to give students or grads looking to set up their own business, what would they be?

-Don’t be afraid to ask people for advice and do as much market research as you can. Make sure the business you are launching isn’t already a business and if it is how can your version of that business be better?

-Go with your gut feeling - it’s usually right

-Just give it a go! At this age our potential losses are very low so what do you have to lose?

Thanks Ashley!

No worries, anytime.





If you want to learn for about STAG music, check out their website:, add them on facebook:, or follow them on Twitter: @stag_musicuk

If you'd like to see how other students and grads are taking their first steps in their chosen careers, take a look at our Advice Section under What's Your Occupation!


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