Building A Business Through Life Experiences with Ken Rochon

USO 57 | Building A Business


How do you build a business that works harder for you than you have to work for it? How do we build a business that can grow beyond you so that it gives you not only wealth and opportunities but also a tremendous amount of freedom? As an army kid, moving from one country to another and learning varied cultures and languages influenced Ken Rochon to become the entrepreneur that he is today. Ken is the co-founder of The Umbrella Syndicate, a PR and marketing firm. He is also a photographer, world traveler, and recipient of America’s Most Influential Business Connector of 2010, among others. He compares himself to a Swiss army knife, having been able to solve various problems through different variables while still finding time to indulge in his passion for photography – an art form that he majestically captures with consummate skill. Today, Ken talks about the genesis of his company and how it morphed into what it is today, and shares his mindset towards success.

Listen To The Episode Here


Building A Business Through Life Experiences with Ken Rochon

On this episode, we’re talking about how do you build a business that works harder for you than you have to work for it? How do we build a business that can transcend you, that can grow beyond you so that it gives you wealth, it gives you opportunities, but also it gives you a tremendous amount of freedom? I’ve interviewed wonderful and successful business owners that I know that have different elements of running companies that will benefit you. I’m looking forward to our guest. I have Ken Rochon from The Umbrella Syndicate. Ken, it’s good to have you here. Tell us briefly what The Umbrella Syndicate is and we’re going to jump into a time machine and go back in time a little bit.

A lot of people think because there was a camera in my hand a lot of times, it’s a photography company, but it’s a hybrid media company. We do a lot of things. There are six triangles within The Umbrella Syndicate. Each one is related to a service that we put together for our clients to help them be positioned correctly as leaders and hopefully as influencers. Some of those are the publishing, photography and promotional events. We do social media marketing. We do publicity. All that said, it’s a hybrid media company that is economically feasible for people that are trying to get on stages. Trying to become a legacy person with authorship and making a bigger impact in the world.

The reason I wanted you to say it for the audience’s sake, you know that I go all over the place and I give talks. It seems that about 80% of the time that I show up somewhere, Ken is there as well. It’s usually with a camera in his hand in the middle of all the action. Not only taking photographs of who’s on the stage or who’s in the audience or mingling, but he’s promoting his own books, his clients’ books, quite often my little book has been featured. There’s so much going on. The way that you put the photographs out with these keep smiling cards or with the books at the different events, everybody going in and tagging themselves.

What it does is it starts to let a lot of people out there in the world know that this event went on and here’s this individual who is at this red carpet, that they’re holding up this other person’s book that may not be at that place. It’s this interesting way of cross-marketing from personal profiles, the experience that’s going on and some other thing that you’re trying to feature. You’ve got all these moving parts like a Swiss watch. Before we talk about what you’re doing with The Umbrella Syndicate, you’ve got a very interesting backstory. I want to go way back to childhood. Were your mom and dad entrepreneurial or what was the circumstance as a little kid growing up for you? Do you come from wealth or from a modest home?

You did say a Swiss watch. Can I elaborate on that a little bit? I have personally been identified as a Swiss Army Knife. If you look at a Swiss Army Knife, it has a lot of possibilities for solving problems. If you think about a photographer, that’s a variable. If you think about a promoter, that would be a variable. If you think about publicity or publication, it would be variable. The more variables that are doing a great job for you, the higher your impact is in the world. For instance, if a restaurant had great food, that would be one variable. If they have great service, that would be another variable. If they had a great atmosphere, that would be another variable. I want to comment on that because a lot of people don’t understand the power of variables. If you have a variable that’s ten, that is as high as it goes as ten, but if you have a variable that’s ten and another variable that’s ten, now you’re at 100. If you have another variable, it’s 1,000. It gets very interesting when you’re combining a hybrid model media company.

I do want to talk more about The Umbrella Syndicate but first, I want to know how did all this start from those early inputs? What was it like in your home as a kid?

I was born in Rhode Island and I got to live there for two whole months then I went to France because my dad was in the Army. I was an Army brat. My dad was an Army officer, middle-class lifestyle. My mom and dad were not entrepreneurs. They had no entrepreneurial blood in them and they didn’t know what to do with me. Being an ADD, bouncing off the wall, a bit of a rebellious creative type, I was never bored but I was constantly getting myself into trouble. I will say that they didn’t know what to do with me. My brother and sister, they landed corporate jobs. They did very well for themselves. I’ve been the black sheep of the family. My mom and dad are wonderful. They love me but I probably gave them a lot of hell.

You’re the black sheep, more like the white knight. You’re the one that gets to hang out with all the famous people. You’re a kid and an Army brat. You’re moving from time to time between different bases, probably moving around the world or at least around the country?

I was thirteen bases before I was twelve.

At twelve, what happened? Did dad leave the military?

USO 57 | Building A Business

Building A Business: One of the most important phrases you can learn is learning how to say, “How do you say?”


No, he got stationed in the United States finally. I got to go to a little town in Galesburg, Illinois. He taught ROTC at Knox College. I found out that there is no soccer in that part of the United States.

You’ve been living in foreign countries. Soccer is the game.

It was my life. I thought I would become a professional soccer player.

For all Americans out there, remember that not everybody thinks that football is played with a bullet-shaped pigskin. It’s a round football. You are living all over the place in these young formative years. When you said you were creative, how did you express your creativity as a kid?

It’s mainly through drawing. Inspirational mentors for me were Michelangelo and Da Vinci at even age six, believe it or not. I was copying and rendering what they had done to learn more about how to draw anatomy to express myself in any way I wanted to, pen and ink and paper.

A lot of your childhood homes, these thirteen homes by the time you were twelve, were many of them in Europe?

A lot of them were in Europe, some in Hong Kong. I lived in India when I was five to age six. I was the only white kid in my school. There was a lot of Indians in my school.

This tells me stuff about you I didn’t even know. I thought I knew you well. We were joking around about at an airport about how many languages you speak. This helps you understand a little bit more why you would be fascinated with languages. How many languages do you speak at least enough to get by in that country or with that language?

I speak French and Spanish relatively well. I took thirteen languages. With probably another month of reestablishing what I learned, I could probably speak them to survive or impress or at least delight someone that I’m not ignorant.

You could move around within that language in some country. You could get around, ask questions and find out what was going on.

I can eat and go to the bathroom in probably thirteen languages.

It’s a universal language. I’m super accomplished in language-wise because I know how to do that. The big question is can you order off the menu in thirteen languages or ask for help at the train station? I don’t care how well you think you know the language. As soon as you get to the train station, I’m completely lost.

In the thirteen languages, I have probably twenty go-to phrases that would get me out of trouble. You know one of the most important phrases you can learn?

What is it?

It’s learning how to say, “How do you say?” It’s very important.

How do you say bow tie? The French will pronounce it.

I love it when I asked my wife, how do you say, “How do you say” in Spanish? She goes, “What?” I go, “No, how do you say that expression? How do you say open the door in Spanish?” I’d say, “Cómo se dice open the door?” She’d say, “Open the door.” I’d say, “No, I want it in Spanish. I know how to say it in English.”

This is the problem with multilingual. You bounce back and forth and now you’re playing Spanglish. You’re a kid. You’re bopping around. You finally get back up to the United States. Now, you’re coming into the teenage years. Tell me about that time of your life?

Before I moved to the United States, my dad said, “We are moving again,” for the thirteenth or fourteenth time. I said, “Dad, I don’t care where we move as long as it’s got soccer.” My dad said, “It should have soccer.” It didn’t. I went into a spiraling depression because I had been in Germany for five years playing, believe it or not, all-star level, which got me to play with high school kids. I was doing well. I thought my possibilities of a professional career look good since I was scoring very well. Even though I’m very young, I’m very accomplished there. When I got here in the States, someone learned that I was a bit depressed and told my dad, “Why don’t you bring him out to a running club?” I ran five or six miles effortlessly. I went to state in cross country and track in high school.

USO 57 | Building A Business

Becoming the Perfect Networker… Succeeding One Connection at a Time

I know you from all of these places that we show up together. We’ve spent time together in hotel venues in these places where events go on. I never knew any of this. What I’m trying to figure out is first, you’re saying soccer. You became an accomplished long-distance runner. Where did the drawing go? Were you doing music? Were you doing theater? Were you doing artwork? Were you taking photography classes? The whole thing I know about you has nothing to do with sports other than you’re in good physical condition.

It’s a couple of things. First of all, the creative side never stopped. I went from drawing to pen and ink to doing airbrushing, so that part stayed alive. I’ll tell you from a standpoint of the program that you have. I read a book that changed my life at roughly twelve or thirteen when I came to the United States and I got hooked on Tom Sawyer. When I moved to the United States, I also learned how to do a paper out. I learned how to mow lawns. I was basically a hustler and all that stuff intrigued me that you could get other people to do things and still run the store. The collection of monies, the collection of doing a good job and having people cover for you if you couldn’t do it, it fascinated me.

From age twelve to roughly seventeen, I was working on my creative side, but I was also learning basic lemonade stand entrepreneurism. I had a very tough decision at age eighteen. My dad got reassigned to NSA in Maryland, National Security Agency. It was my senior year, so my choice was to stay in Illinois, be the captain of the track team, be the captain of the cross country team and I had just won a scholarship to Illinois State University for art. All this stuff was in play. My coaches like what I was doing so much that they said, “You want to spend your senior year?” I had my track coach and said that I could stay with him. The cross country said I could stay with him. My art teacher said that I could stay with him.

I had three offers to solve a problem, but I felt funny letting my family go to Maryland and I may not be in a part of the family experience. I decided to go and come to Maryland, it was crazy. I don’t know if you know a lot about the economics of Maryland, but it’s connected to DC in a very big way. Economically, you have this square that is the Washington DC government. It’s moving money out at a very high rate to Maryland and Virginia. If you were to Google what are the wealthiest counties for the highest paying jobs, even for a real estate retention and any average unemployment. A lot of things are factors in this. You’d find four of them reside on the counties touching DC and Virginia and four of the counties in Maryland, but two or three of them are touching DC. In other words, lots of government contracts. The reason I share this with you, Aaron, is that when I moved here, within two weeks it was like an economic windfall of the spear hitting me like, I have to start a business. I had never done a business before. Before I was just hustling. I opened up a DJ company within two or three weeks. I’d never been a DJ before in my life. I love music. I opened up a graphic design company. Both of them within months of me moving here, I wanted to go into business. Many years later, I have a DJ company still.

When you were in Illinois, you were prepared to go to college on an art scholarship. Did you end up going to college and pursuing the art or did you say, “I’m going to be an entrepreneur and this is what I’m doing,” or did you do them both?

I didn’t get enough of an art scholarship. I’ve got two art grants and that paid for some of my college. The military offered me a full ride through Johns Hopkins. I turned it down because I have to do the three years back to duty. I like the entrepreneurial aspect of my life, so that didn’t help me. I did go through ROTC for the benefit of discipline and learning what my dad went through. I wanted to balance medical illustration as a career with education, with business. I wanted to teach possibly. I love business so I did business as a minor. I did mainly art and science for medical illustration. I ended in a very uncreative field to go and do.

You can’t be very subjective. You’ve got to be pretty exact. You can’t go, “I’d like to do an impression as a version of this muscle section.” We can do pointillism of the skeleton. Just lots of little dots, it’s going to be great. It’s good that they made you be not very creative with your illustrations. That’s so interesting because that would be very complicated art.

It’s definitely arduous and monotonous. When I heard that some of the drawings take three months or six months, this was pre-cat. After five years of being in medical illustration, I said, “I’m going to finish and get certified to teach science.” I taught physics and chemistry for four years at a middle school and high school level.

Here you are in your twenties, you get done with school. You’ve done your ROTC. Do you go get a job as a teacher for several years?

Yes, for four years.

Now, you’re 30-years-old, what happens?

I had been doing the DJ company. I wanted to teach and see if I can make a difference at the educational level because one thing I may have failed to share with you is at fifth grade, I had a science teacher and he changed my life. Later, an art teacher changed my life. I became the combination of that Da Vinci, the art and science. I want to go and see if I could provide that same type of inspiration to kids that are like me that is lost in the classroom.

Was that during the teaching time you are trying to give back as a teacher and mentor like you had been mentored?

My entrepreneurial DJ business was finally making enough money I could afford to teach.

If you want to have very much money, being a school teacher is probably not the way to do it. There are other reasons to do it that are wonderful and noble. From a strictly financial perspective, maybe it’s not the best choice unless you’ve got a successful entrepreneur business going on the side. You and I were together in Central Oregon doing an event with Les Brown. You were given an award as an Entrepreneur of the Year. Tell me about that. Just so everyone knows, I’m going off on a rabbit trail. We’re leaving the timeline of Ken’s experience. I have to know, tell me about this award they gave you for this entrepreneurship award.

I go to these events like Secret Knock with Greg Reid. I met Manny Lopez out of that experience. Manny had an event called Serve X. I met James Evanoff at that event. When you meet someone and they hit you with a force of goodness or power energy, I got that from James and he resonated with the fact that I was taking a photo. He saw my book. We stayed in touch. What happened was he invited me to that event. I consulted on The Gemini Foundation and that had an impact.

James invited you to the event. I was excited that you got it. I thought it was a cool thing that they were doing. That makes more sense.

Do you remember Greg Jacobson at Les Brown’s event? He has the happiness book.

Is he the consciousness project?

He had an Author Millionaire event. I invited Jim Ashley and James to that event as my guest and just the connections I was making, James was introduced to Gail through me as well. The power of connections is probably what put me in a good spot for them.

For the audience’ sake, there was this event and Les Brown, the famous inspirational motivational speaker is the marquee. It was an intimate evening with Les Brown and friends. There were five speakers that all had ten minutes. James, the guy you’re mentioning was one of those. A number of people either had a ten-minute slot or there was a panel with some people and the panel was twenty-minutes long. I had some time and then Les Brown came out. I was also the master of ceremonies for that particular event. I didn’t know, I thought Gail Kingsbury, who’s worked with Les, Brian Tracy and with Brendon Burchard and all these different people over the years. All of us were together in this little theater in Bend, Oregon. It was a very weird confluence of people that do things all over the world, in this adorable little theater on Main Street in Downtown Bend. That’s the reason for the rabbit hole there, but that is even more interesting that many of those people that were orbiting more around you than around the fact that it was Gail and Les.

I want to say that I don’t know if I would’ve been there if I didn’t introduce James to Gail or vice versa. What happened was I think I almost was rewarded. That was my first time working for Gail and James, Jim and Ashley said, “We’d like to have you as our guest. You’ve given us some opportunities to be at events that changed our life. We’d like to have you as a host.” They brought me out and I wasn’t expecting that reward. Five minutes before the award, they said, “You may want to give your camera to somebody else.”

You didn’t know about it?

USO 57 | Building A Business

Building A Business: When you put everything on Facebook, you’re growing Facebook and building a list where people are grabbing the photos and thanking you with a note but not doing business with you.



I want to go back in time a little bit. What was the genesis of The Umbrella Syndicate in this idea of a hybrid viral social media marketing? My assumption is the book publishing stuff. Was it there at the beginning or did that come as a byproduct of all these wonderful images that you are getting?

There were two byproduct levels. First of all, when I went to teaching, I left my business to teach and I put some people in place to manage the business. I put the right people and I develop the right team, so I get how valuable what you teach is. My company doubled every single year to the degree that in the fourth year of teaching, my teaching checks wasn’t paying for my postage. Back then when you needed to mail stuff to people, honestly it wasn’t paying for my postage. My fifth year I was forced to leave because it was getting ridiculously not making sense. I also was having some animosity from my team that was building that, “He’s going having fun teaching while we’re working.” I had to be there to get back on the helm a little bit.

We built that company to 45 people working at Absolute Entertainment, and we’re number one in all kinds of ways. We were the highest, most expensive DJ service. We were doing the most events. We are in the most prestigious places. I share that because I’d done everything I could with it. When you’ve done everything you can with a business, if you want to get challenged again, you’ve got to go for a new challenge. I learned about this thing called Facebook in 2006. The reason I say that is a lot of people heard about Facebook in 2009, 2010 and I was studying it so much that I invested an enormous amount of money into a platform called Perfect Networker and it was a financial disaster. It took all the money I’d made Absolute Entertainment and basically flushed down the toilet. However, I learned the power of social media and I learned the power of positioning and platforms and it can cause an influencer to actually get all the traffic they want to create an offer that can change the world. I learned that in a very expensive lesson. Imagine this, I was teaching social media in 2007, 2008. People were like, “I’ve never heard about this stuff.” For eighteen or twenty years I said, “I always want to do a book.” I had all the original content, so I created my first book called Becoming the Perfect Networker… Succeeding One Connection at a Time.

Using the word perfect from a standpoint of there is no perfect but to strive for it puts you in a very nice position. Becoming a perfect networker at an event, how do you stay up with all these people? How do you give value? I had the platform called Perfect Networker so you could transfer a relationship like you and I have to stay in contact on social media to strengthen the relationship. As an onboarding and offboarding of online and offline relationship communication, it expedited how deep a relationship went. I was doing this in 2008, 2009 I launched that book. I said, “I’m now an author” and that was a financial disaster, Aaron. I lost almost $30,000 for that first book out because I thought with me having 11,000 people following my Facebook, I thought they were all going to buy it.

I’m going to buy a book.

They all said it too. They said, “I can’t wait to get your book.” They must have misunderstood the purchase part of it.

Isn’t it funny as soon as you put a price on something, you lose a lot of interest?

I had people ask me, “I’ve always wanted to do a book. You did a book. Teach me.” I did ten people of which the only one published. I said, “There’s a real problem here.” Most people can’t even follow through, so I created a system for publishing and that gave me the confidence that when I do the Keep Smiling books. By the way, we may be doing 70 different versions of Keeps Smiling books because I have a templated way of doing the Keep Smiling. As you know, when you systematize something and template it, people can say, “I liked that template.” It’s like websites. If you buy a website, you’re paying hundreds of dollars instead of tens of thousands of dollars because it’s templated.

You talked about Keep Smiling books. Most of the audience isn’t going to know what that is, but we’re going to put that on hold. You’re studying Facebook. You do the first book. How did The Umbrella Syndicate morph into what it is?

When I was building Perfect Networker, which was a money pit, we’re talking well-over $150,000 I poured into that. I was paying technology people to build something that was in my head that was a hybrid of three different sites. Facebook, which was social and professional, LinkedIn, which was professional and social and, which was the magic conduit of putting people together. I wanted to put them together, not romantically but business. I was taking three sites. I was trying to build a hybrid site called Perfect Networker. I needed millions of dollars.

Back then, if you told me, “How much money do you need?” I honestly would have told you, “I think I need $100,000.” I need millions to build this platform. Because of my ignorance, I lost a ton of money. What happened was when I studied Facebook to the point I said, “Facebook is the best platform.” I don’t have to pay for it anymore, so I built a company on top of Facebook called The Umbrella Syndicate, which was a hybrid media company. I did this test for one year. A lot of times when you want to create a business, do a test period where if you can’t sell it for free, it’s not going to sell for money obviously, that’s one. Number two, if you can’t keep a pace that’s way ahead of everyone else, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Be more specific about that, what do you mean if you can’t keep a pace?

I want to do one huge event a day for a year, but professional full-time photographers do 40 big events.

You wanted to do effectively 365 minus whatever days off of your family.

No, these events were marketing opportunities. I would go to an event for an hour and leave.

You don’t have to stay the whole day.

In essence, I was doing 365 hours times maybe a couple of hours for travel and a couple more hours for post-production. After three months of doing that many, 90, people were predicting, there’s no way you can keep this pace, zero way. Because I would do the event, the next day I had to post the photos by 6:00 AM so I had this regiment. You met James Lawrence, the 50.50.50 Triathlon guy. He did something no one had ever thought of, doing a triathlon a day in a different state. He broke all the rules. While I was breaking all the rules being very disruptive, photographers did not like me. I’m not going to lie. They were not too happy about this output. When people would see my logo on my chest or on my hat, they would go, “We’ll see the photos tomorrow.” I don’t know if you recall but some seven, eight years ago when you go to an event, you didn’t know when you’re going to see the photos, where are you going to see the photos. Our policy was the next day.

We’re so used to things being almost immediate from our cell phone. We’re looking at it. We can put a filter on it and we can preview. We take ten of them or 100 of them in seconds. We have to remember that it wasn’t very long ago that we’re going by the photo mat or the 24-hour photo at the drugstore. Even a place to put digital photography where you could upload it and where speeds were fast enough to upload it. That’s all new stuff.

I’ll tell you how disrupted this was, Aaron, because we’re going back. I had never been in the White House, just so we’re clear. I started The Umbrella Syndicate on a platform called Facebook. Within four months, I was in the White House. Within six months, I had been the White House four times. I don’t know if you know this about DC and Baltimore, but DC is a white-collar town. Baltimore is a blue-collar town. They don’t necessarily like each other. I don’t think Baltimore has a big problem with DC, but DC does not say, “Baltimore is so impressive.” I was with the Ravens and I was with the Redskins. It’s like an unheard of how do you get to both places so well. The DMV was a very friendly zone for The Umbrella Syndicate because all we were doing was amplifying goodness. Back then, I called it amplifying your message.

USO 57 | Building A Business

Building A Business: People that cause smiles in the world do one of two things, if not both – they create abundance and they solve problems.


Did you say the DMV?

Yes, that’s called DC, Maryland and Virginia.

That means the Department of Motor Vehicles to most. DMV is not a happy place, so you throw me off there.

It’s such a connected community. You’ve got about eight million people in this zone.

What have you learned along the way that you had an idea and as you’ve been doing it, it had to morph into a different idea? I don’t mean for technology, but from going from visualizing and dreaming it to the practical application.

One of the things I’ve learned is the value of creating a relationship where you’re giving tons of value to a technology partner that they can build an equity piece in your business that is sound because I don’t think I did a great job. I couldn’t have done a great job with the technology person. That’s why I chose Facebook. I wanted to have an automated residual and easy to find solution. The fault that The Umbrella Syndicate that we had to learn the hard way was when you put everything on Facebook, you’re growing Facebook. Facebook was very good to me but as it morphed and became publicly traded and all these other things, it was not friendly for The Umbrella Syndicate. It was very friendly in the beginning because we had massive viral campaigns. When we put something on initially years ago, they didn’t have all these breaks. When we put it on the next day and it got some nibbles and stuff, Facebook was like, “This must be cool.” I could have 30,000 people seeing my photos at an event. It was that crazy. Whereas now you’re fighting for 2,000.

When you’re making that bridge and saying the company was built around this platform. The platform is no longer friendly, what do you do to continue to stay relevant?

It’s a process. I had started a company with Sam Natello from DotCom.

DotCom is company down in Florida?

He just moved to Florida.

Somebody texted me about Sam being a legit tech guy. They said, “Sam would be a good guy to help me with a question I have.”

I’m sure he would be because he’s been phenomenal with this concept I had, which is instead of running traffic to Facebook, we basically see people like yourself and say, “Aaron, if you want to see the photos, go to Big Events USA.” Big Events USA asks you a question when you get there. “Do you like going to Big Events?” It’s a simple question. If you do go and put your email and we’re going to go ahead and give you the photos from the event you were at. We’re building a list. We’re causing traffic, but the big thing is have you heard of a lovely company called Groupon and Ticketmaster? Big Events USA is a Groupon Ticketmaster for top 1% events in the personal development space. We’re in the final grid of getting this thing done, but it addresses what you’re talking about, which is why are you giving traffic and not building a list to Facebook where people are grabbing the photos and thanking you with a note, but they can’t thank you with doing business with you.

There’s no financial benefit from it. There was no real legit connection to that person. You don’t have their contact information. You don’t have anything about them. If they go in and if they claim their photo and tagged themselves, you could theoretically go and find everybody that tagged themselves to your photos and try to go connect with them online. It’s a very inefficient model.

Dr. Greg Reid paid me a compliment.

I remember him saying, “I don’t know if I should call myself a doctor or not.” He finally decided to do it. I’m waiting for him to get a tweed jacket and a pipe. Greg is a brilliant guy. He’s one of my dear friends. Greg’s attention span is about two minutes. He’s speaking on the phone with you and go, “I’ve got to go, bye.” That’s a conversation with Greg. I know he would never last 40 minutes into a podcast, so what about Dr. Greg Reid?

He said to me, “I never got what you did, but when I went and said, my name is Greg Reid.” They didn’t know who he was. It was a Ryan Long event. They said, “I have a little event called Secret Knock. The person said, “I see your events everywhere on Facebook. That’s the coolest event. It looks like such an amazing experience. I want to go there.” He says, “That’s what you did, Ken. You cause this buzz of coolness on Facebook. I could never say it was you or no it was you, but that’s evidence that it was you.”

The fact that I run into you in so many places tells me that you’ve got these massive connections everywhere. You’re going everywhere. Getting into places that other people would love to get into and you’re capturing the feelings of the moment. Everybody loves that about a photographer, but it’s the fact that you’re saying, “Come get your free picture. Come use it. Come put it on Facebook or Instagram.” You got to come in here and come into our environment and find your picture. It’s a phenomenal way of building a list. You have to figure out what to do with that list once you’ve got it. Where do you see this going? It starts on Facebook. Facebook put the brakes on. You’ve built your own platform now. You must have dozens of pictures that you’ve taken.

Where this is going is it’s not going to be about me. We’re going to create a certification program for photographers so they can be certified at three different levels. One level being a shooter, which is not attracting people that want to talk, they want you to deliver. Another one is people that are great marketers but know how to use a camera. They talk. They get leads for the company, but they benefit in commission, plus they get to do the future events for that client. The third one, which is the hardest one to find, as you can imagine, is the presenter. Whether he can shoot a camera or not, he’s going to an event with a shooter. He’s on stage talking to them about where they can get their photos. The benefit of working with Big Events USA.

A lot of people as you know, waste time going to events that don’t benefit them or they don’t know about the events. They see it on Facebook and they go, “I wish I had known about that event. I would have loved to have gone to that event.” We’re making Big Events USA be a place you can go into a lane of marketing, leadership, whatever personal development aspect, and authorship. You can stay in that lane for a year not waste your time. Maybe go to ten events a year instead of 80 or 30.

I know those people that seem like they live at events. They constantly heard everything. They’re buying everything. There’s not usually a lot of energy going on in their own business so that they feel the energy by being at events. The more we can get people out of that zone where they’re marinating in the excitement and being able to talk about this idea they have, but not ever having to implement. If we can get some of those people to go to a few key events and learn to implement, they will break out of this constant credit card debt cycle that we see so many people in.

USO 57 | Building A Business

Building A Business: When you are thinking you need to look a certain way and be a certain way and you care about what other people think, you start forgetting what you are intended to do or what you can do in the world.


There are many people that don’t know how to implement, so they show up and want to be in the excitement of somebody being successful in putting on a big event. They want to be there and say they were there. A lot of times they have a hard time figuring out how to transition from learning about riding a bicycle to getting on a bicycle and riding it. If you can help people make wiser choices about where to go, even if it’s describing the event or vetting the event. How many people do you know that go to events and go, “That was a waste of time?” They went and they spent their money, they stayed in a hotel and they traveled. I don’t know if that’s the intention, but if you’re thinking to be the Angie’s list of events, that would be amazing.

We’re going to be doing three other parts besides telling them what events would be the best use of their time. When you see me at an event you’re like, “I know Ken. I can ask him later for some photos.” When people buy tickets to these events, we have them get the social proof photos free. They’re included. Because the tickets were making money, we can afford to tell the host, “The photographers are on us.” That’s good for the host. The other thing is we can promote these people because we have their assets. They are our clients so we can say, “This is the person you may want to know.” They do this and this so we can showcase them. The last thing we can do. Because you know that when you’re in the 1% space, you run the same people over and over again. We can say to someone like you, Aaron, “You should meet Paul Young. Paul Young would be a good connection for you.”

Paul Young, the author of The Shack, and they made a major motion picture about the book. This is an inside joke. Ken Rochon did introduce me to the author of this book called The Shack. His name is Paul Young. We texted Ken, who knew he’s in the next little town over from me. I drive through his town every single day. I’m in Battle Ground. He’s in Brush Prairie, Washington. We’re neighbors. My son went to Brush Prairie High School. What a small world that you met him and we’re neighbors and we’re getting together. When does all this launch? How can people start to get involved with a Big Events?

The site is live. It’s just not very useful so we have to finish that part. According to Sam, he has told me it’s the last couple percent. Let’s put it this way. It has been launchable, it’s just not finished.

Tell us the URL one more time.

This is the first company I’ve ever had that has four things true about it. When you say the name of the domain,, you know what we are providing as a service is information about big events in the United States. The Umbrella Syndicate is vague. What is that? What does it do? Everything I’ve ever done has been what does it do in a way. Big Events USA is scalable. It makes money while I sleep. It’s passive and it’s a residual because when I get new accounts, they can sign up on Big Events USA. It’s an Uber because when we get the certification program of all these photographers. Let’s say there are 100, 200, 300 photographers, they’re taking the jobs off the site that the clients are hiring us for and being connected to that event but more importantly to that client so they can give service.

As long as they’re certified, like making sure your car is okay and your driving records are okay, basically anybody could become a photographer as long as they can prove that they’re worthy of being featured. It’s crowdsourcing of how do we get this event covered?

Because I’ve run a DJ company, it’s a little different animal but you’re hiring talent to cover events. You’re having the event talent submit the assets so the assets can be utilized for the client as well as the host.

I do want to come back around and ask you one or two more philosophical questions. As we cap off the practical stuff, is there anything else you want them to know about you or anything you’ve learned in business that as people are trying to build up and scale like you’ve done before you’re doing again now? What’s the counsel for that because it’s not a perfect trajectory?

The most important thing we’ve alluded a couple of times in the show and haven’t brought up is my passion, which is amplifying goodness using the Keep Smiling Card. The idea of the Keep Smiling Card is identifying people that I’m honoring because they cause smiles in the world. If you think about someone that causes smiles in the world, they do one of two things if not both. They create abundance and they solve problems. Almost anyone that you can think of that is creating smiles is solving one or both of this, is that true?

It’s true. Did you come up with the Keep Smiling Card? Was that your idea?

No. It’s Barry Shore. He’s an amazing man. He gave me the card. It blew me away. I have never met anyone who is more saintly. He is a very saintly guy.

It’s funny to use the word saint with a guy who’s so Jewish. I don’t know if he believes in saints, but I’ll tell you the idea, Barry Shore is a tender-hearted, genuinely kind, genuinely trying to do good things in the world. Your expression saintly is very apropos. He’s a good man. He’s been a guest before. I knew he was deeply involved with the Keep Smiling and you. I thought it had been his idea. You’ve just run with it and put it all over the place.

The distinction is he created the card. I refer to him in every single one of my books as Barry Shore was a gentleman. He has a very beautiful heart. He cares about joy. He cares about bringing joy to the world. He created the card. Our conversation at CEO Space March of 2015 went something like this, “Why are you giving me this card, Barry?” He says, “Because I want to remind you to smile.” I said, “I love smiling.” He goes, “I see that. Here’s another card to give someone else.” I said, “What are you doing with the cards though? Is this a social media play?” He goes, “No, I just want to give the cards.” I learned very quickly there was no social media, no marketing, no campaign, no photography, no publishing and most importantly, Aaron, no movement. I told him I’d create a movement.

It’s a nice idea, but without the infrastructure around it, it’s nothing more than, “This nice guy handed me this card. Isn’t that a sweet idea?”

I never would have known that it would be creating 35 books. If you’ve read them. I think you have. We’ve talked before about Malcolm Gladwell, Tipping Point. Every one of them is brilliant. Anyone that’s going into business, that’s almost a prerequisite to understanding how to be powerful with your business. I want to say that we were experiencing where we did one book the first year. We did five or six the next year. We’re moving to almost one a day.

Many people have held the Keep Smiling card. Who are a few significant notables out there? Famous people, who’ve held that card up and let you take a picture of them?

John Travolta, Quincy Jones, Bret Michaels, Toby Keith and Matthew McConaughey. We have not had one influencer or true celebrity influencers say no to it. We have thousands of photos of sports figures. Ray Lewis, the governor of my state. Anytime I’ve had the card to someone and said, “You inspire and create smiles. I’d like to honor you in a book.” They say, “Sure.”

One takeaway that I’m getting from this is it can be very difficult to get John Travolta to hold something up. If we asked him to hold up, this can, he would probably be, “Hold on. We need to go through my publicists. We need to get a contract.” If you even wanted to get Quincy Jones to take a moment to even become a tiny bit aware of some interesting movement. If you were trying to beat down their door, go through their manager, it would be difficult. It would be virtually impossible, but there’s something interesting when you’re not trying to get anything. When you’re trying to do something that’s positive and good, almost everybody will go, “I’m cool with that. I want to be part of Keep Smiling.” It doesn’t hurt anybody.

Whenever we’re inwardly focused, “What can I get? What do I want? How can I make that sale? How can I collect more money?” Those are logical business things, but it was Zig Ziglar. I get a lot of Zig and Jim Rohn stuff. If you want to get what you want, help get other people what they want and you’ll get whatever you want. When you think about, “How can I serve?” instead of always being somewhere with my hand out saying, “I want.” When you’re in that service mode, doors fly open for you. You’ve mentioned Ryan Long. Ryan has this burgeoning, still a baby movement that he has with the City Gala. It’s four years now is all they’ve ever done it. Because they’re giving to charity, they’ve had Ashton Kutcher, Matthew McConaughey and John Paul DeJoria.

All these people show up for Ryan for his new thing because it’s big, it’s visionary and it’s service. Even if they’re showing up representing their own charity that’s going to get money, but they show up. Whereas if you are trying to go hunt them down to sell them your widget, it would be hard. Once they’ve shown up and you can have a meeting with them, then you can go, “Maybe there’s this other cool thing.” When you chase the money, it will run away from you. When you welcome the money without chasing. If you make it welcome, it will come to you. Ken Rochon is probably the greatest example of anybody I know because of both his good works and his good work, excellent work. Your product is great. You get into the coolest places with the most interesting people. People are surprising to you, give you awards. They catch you off guard. It’s all because you’ve got a heart full of service. You’ve got the talent to go behind it. We’ve learned that you have learned how to scale what you’re doing. Any final words?

I was going to say it’s also because of God.

I thought you were saying, “One moment please.” That should be a capital pointer finger.

When you find your purpose and you align it with a calling, it becomes almost unstoppable.

Ken, thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate having you. It’s always a blessing to be with you. It’s a pleasure for me. The delights of my life is when I walk into that venue and I’m ready to be the guy, and I look over and there you are. It always feels like the whole event got put up several notches. If you’re there, I’m in the right place.

I want to remind people that when you are thinking you need to look a certain way and be a certain way and you care about what other people think, you start forgetting what you are intended to do or what you can do in the world. I want to pay you a big compliment, Aaron. You have been an extremely goofy person whenever I’ve asked you to be goofy. It says how comfortable you are. It says that you are approachable. It says you’re a human and because of that, you’re one of my favorite people.

Thank you so much. What’s he’s talking about is he’ll hand you a banana and say, “Here, do something with this.” You have to get creative without being dirty. I made a phone call with the bananas. We’ve made lots of funny faces on your camera.

People don’t realize that it helps.

People want to see the real nature of who we are. Everything that’s not perfectly filtered and glossed over. If you’re standing on a pier looking off across the ocean at the beautiful sunset pensively, that’s not a candid photo. Nobody thinks it’s candid. They know you’ve got a photographer trying to get that moment. We’re in a cycle in a society where people want less glitz and glamour and more of the real person. Let’s be ourselves. A big part of being successful is doing good for good reasons, doing excellent work, being real and transparent. Nobody does all of that better than our guest, Ken Rochon. Ken, thanks for being here.

Folks, thanks for being here. I love when you show back up. Thanks for liking us, leaving comments, sharing these things. When you subscribe and when you comment, it makes a big difference depending on the venue but certainly iTunes. I’m on about 30 platforms, but iTunes is looking at those things to promote out and get more people to read this content and get these stories that are real life, not glossed over. You notice I never let somebody get on and do their canned pitch for their company. This is one of the few places where you can come and know real entrepreneurial stories from real people, who are actually kicking butt out there in the world. Come back, tell your friends. We’ll see you next time.

Important Links:

About Ken Rochon

USO 57 | Building A BusinessSucceeding 1 Connection @ a Time, global fusion DJ, founder of Perfect World Network/Perfect Networker, photographer, world traveler, and recipient of America’s Most Influential Business Connector of 2010.

Out of Ken’s eight books, two of them are related to world topics. Becoming the Perfect Networker teaches us all about the mindset and behaviors essential to successful networkers. Making Friends Around the World promotes acceptance and global thinking for children while The Centurion World Traveller encourages people to experience the world before they are not well enough to do so and it becomes too late.

As President of Perfect Publishing, Ken offers aspiring and talented authors the amazing opportunity of having their work published and recognized publicly. He goes to great lengths supporting writers from the first draft to the final manuscript and into the final printing stage.

Traveling across the U.S. and over 101 countries to attend various speaking/public engagements and business networking events, he also finds time to indulge in his passion for photography – an art form that he majestically captures with consummate skill. Invited to shoot numerous events, Ken’s stunning photos are a masterpiece of marketing, a visual delight.

Following Absolute Entertainment, Ken has expanded to Absolute Productions (AP), building his renowned expertise and passion for producing world-class events. Now, in perfect alignment with his mission to make a difference in the world, his most recent project, The Umbrella Syndicate, was born from recognition of a need for expert promotion and social branding in a unique way. Tapping into the energy that “networking Gurus” have through their vast networks, this unique and timely powerful amplification tool has the ability to reach an unlimited audience.

To arrange for a book signing or interview, send Ken an email at

Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join The Unshackled Owner community today:

Leave a Reply

Close ()