This is the last installment of an interview with Scott Durbin. Durbin has made an entrepreneurial leap of faith, leaving behind a safe job to pursue a dream, starting a rock band for kids. In the first part, we learned how the band moved from idea to start-up. In the second part, Durbin discussed his family’s pre-band financial situation. And in the third part we learned how starting the band affected his personal finances, and how this hobby turned into a business.
Scott, how did Hurricane Katrina affect the Imagination Movers? How did it affect your personal financial situation?
Katrina, without question, was a reminder of just of fragile we are; how life can turn on a dime with very little warning. Its effects were truly devastating, but with destruction there comes new life and so it was with my family personally and the Movers professionally. First off, Katrina destroyed three Mover homes and most (if not all) possessions. Here is a picture taken near our home a few days after the levees broke.
Keep in mind, most of this water stayed around for days. Sadly enough, photographs, videos of a child’s birth — you name it — met a watery and moldy grave. Actually, it went further than that — it destroyed the neighborhood. The places you went to have coffee, ‘make’ groceries, the church you attended or the school you dropped your kids off were gone. In the blink of a wink, everything you saw for miles became ghost-like. Even today — more than a year plus after — empty houses, lonely streets, lost neighborhoods now whisper for anyone, anything to bring them back to their former selves.
The Mover office was also trashed. Countless CDs, coloring books, musical instruments were ruined. And guess what? The Movers didn’t have insurance. We had liability insurance, but we were so small and Mom-and-Pop-ish that we hadn’t needed more insurance — or so we thought.
Luckily Smitty lived on the West Bank, so although his home experienced minor wind damage, it escaped the destruction. The material things naturally hold memories, but not life and our thoughts focused on the well being of him and others like him soon after Kat hit.
Right after the disaster, everyone was reeling from the new reality we were forced into and for all intent and purpose had not processed the extent to which our lives would change, but we knew at the very least we did have the Movers. In particular, the Movers had two shows booked in Texas, one in Dallas on the Labor Day weekend and another in Plano. With the exception of Smitty (who was knee deep in search and rescue), we all rallied and went to Texas to fulfill our obligation. Quite honestly, no one knew about their jobs or future income or anything. All we could see in front of us was a small payday and so we went with quite honestly the clothes on our back. We had no instruments, no Mover suits — nothing, but we went. And we played. Here is a picture of the Mover suits we used in place of our trademark royal blue ones. Note: Kyle is our ancillary Mover and plays drums for live shows with us.
Life afterwards was surreal. We no longer had a place to live. My family lived with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend in a tiny house with one bathroom in Lafayette, Louisiana (about two hours west of New Orleans). My job as a teacher was in limbo. I spent time in line for food stamps and wondered what queer curiosity tomorrow would bring. All the while I was still a dad and husband and the well-being of my family was paramount to everything I did. I’m sure the rest of the Movers felt the same way.
Personally speaking, my family received help from people we knew and didn’t know. Friends sent us giftcards for bookstores so we could buy the kids books as our wee ones love to read. Other friends and people we didn’t even know sent assistance of clothing and toys and hope. Churches helped. Companies helped. People helped us restore the basics. The Movers too received emails of support and even a guitar was sent. The emails, for the Movers sake, really kept the project going. The simple act of someone somewhere taking the time to share with us how important what we did — musically speaking — meant in the lives of their children (many whom were going through the same situation as us) humbled us. Buckled our knees. We knew. We knew we had to continue despite the overwhelming sense of powerlessness we all felt.
All in all, looking back, I am a better person. Though I wouldn’t wish the ordeal on anyone — the goodwill (and Godwill) of so many showed taught me about selflessness and how truly to give of the heart. As for my personal financial situation, well I was unceremoniously dumped from my position as a teacher in an independent school in New Orleans. I hold no grudges but wished they would have done it with a little more humanity and compassion. It was a phone call and a FedEx package. Either way, no job meant no income and no health insurance. My wife had to go to work full time so we could have health insurance. Our situation was so transformed that we were unaware of what might happen next (food stamps, unemployment, ect). Lots of ‘what ifs’ came along. Lots of ‘how did we get here.’
On the good side, the reality of our immediate financial situation was: we forced ourselves to save, to tore up those proverbial nuts for winter. Some pluses included no longer having to pay some of our bills: electric, cable, water, etc. We did receive some emergency funds from Red Cross, FEMA and some monies from of our insurance companies. All in all, our financial situation was made very clear to us: the ins and outs of our money was front-and-center and we were forced to deal with our financial situation head on. Credit card debt — what to do about mortgage payments on a home we no longer lived in — paying rent, too — you name it. We dealt with how we were going to handle it, especially having lost my salary.
Since I had no job, the Movers became a full time gig. As it did with Rich and then later with Dave. Any reason we had not to jump headfirst into this venture disappeared and so we signed with Disney. What a crazy juxtaposition that is — you sign a deal with Disney and you still are having difficulty making ends meet. Most people believed we were rich once the Disney deal came — biggest misnomer you could ever imagine. Hopefully our financial situation will improve, but the fact is: reality and perception are clearly two different things. Our main source of income is not Disney. Instead it was and is playing live. It’s our favorite thing to do and so we do it — right now to survive financially and emotionally. As a sidebar: Major props to Music Rising as it was a Godsend. Without it, the Movers would be instrument-less.
It’s now been a year since Katrina. How are things now with the band? With your financial situation?
A year plus removed from Katrina, it seems everyone yearns for routine and normality. My life now is spent in a city two hours west of New Orleans. I am the only Mover who has not returned to NOLA. My family sold our house after having sat on it, hoping the city and state would give us reason to reinvest and rebuild. Translation: a plan of some kind or another. Unfortunately, they have failed miserably in my humble opinion. The local leadership has become invisible and crime has riddled a city in desperate need of hope.
The world wonders why the Saints meant so much to the city of New Orleans. The inside scoop: a simple football team allowed the city to be one, regardless of color or creed or financial state. It allowed all people to smile and be hopeful because the city itself didn’t offer those commodities.
Back to the Movers — We’ve been fortunate to have videos rolling on Playhouse Disney so it does raise our profile. We’ve been working our tales off to make half of what we were making as professionals: architect, journalist and teacher — so we could make this dream come true. Sidebar: Smitty still works as a fireman in New Orleans. Shows you our true reality. Even with that said, we have opportunity and that is all we can ask for. We finished a pilot presentation (we felt was incredible) and five new videos which will hopefully air soon. All of the filming was shot in LaPlace (which can be considered Greater New Orleans to some). We felt humbled to know that an idea we created was now employing 75-ish people, most of whom were from the local area. Good story. Gives you lumps in your throat.
As I type this, I really have no idea what the future holds — financial or otherwise. I just hope I can make my next payment! Money is, after all, like all the things lost in Katrina: it comes and goes. A person defined by money gets short-changed by life. Family and friends are what make life special.
Thanks to Scott for sharing his story. Look for more money interviews with other real people in the coming months.
To date, the Imagination Movers have released the following:
Want to hear what the Movers sound like? Here’s a song called “My Favorite Snack”. This song is popular among both the kids and parents we hang out with. You can find more mp3s for download at the Imagination Movers site.
Thanks to Scott for sharing his story. It’s a great example of the need for emergency funds and the realities of entrepreneurship (and making money from hobbies). I hope to do more money interviews in the future. I’m exploring the idea of making these podcast-based. If you have any thoughts on this, drop me a line.