Member Spotlight: John Stephens

It’s a young entrepreneur’s dream that after a few decades of self employment, gig work and hopefully building a thriving business, they will still be doing what they love.

“We had operated theRoots.FM from an empty office at my video production company in Brentwood. When I sold the video business, I had to find a new home for theRoots.FM,” said John Stephens, owner of The Roots FM radio station.

It was a tall order to fulfill all the specific needs of the radio station, from a 2,000 sq/ft space, 24/7 building access, fiber internet, air conditioning for the servers, and “an environment that would accommodate a group of aging rockers.”

“We advertised our need for new space on our radio station. Another Medici member contacted me about the facility and I took the tour,” John said. “Our biggest challenge was hiding our enthusiasm about MediaSpace. The facility was perfect for us with the Black Box theater, shared features like conference rooms and studios. But our favorite benefit was being around young, creative entrepreneurs. That is going to keep us all young.”

Everyone on John’s team worked in media of some kind before retiring. John himself worked for CBS and in advertising in New York. Most of them worked for KSHE radio in the 60s and 70s. Ted Habeck, the music director, has worked in radio for more than 50 years, alongside names like Mary “The Burner” Turner, Jim Laad, Jeff Gonzer, Paraquat Kelly, Ace Young, David Perry, Cynthia Fox, Chuck Randall and Dr. Demento with Weird Al Yankovich.

“When the opportunity to program The Roots arose, Ted saw the opportunity to resurrect ‘the old KSHE,’” John said. “Free form and playing thousands of cuts, not hundreds, and not just the rock genre but Blues, Jazz Fusion, Country Rock, Folk and so on.”

One of the biggest challenges for any start up venture is funding, and The Roots radio station is no different. Even though the members of the team are all volunteers, the licensing cost for the music they play runs an astronomical tab. To mitigate that, The Roots is in the process of starting a non-profit organization.

“Since we are all retired, you can call theRoots.FM a ‘bucket list’ project. We all loved the music of the 60s and 70s and the way radio worked back in those days. So our goal was to ‘Save the music,’” John said. “We could no longer hear radio we loved, so we built our station to serve our age group. We think the 50+ year old audience is overlooked by the media. Our goal is to save the music they all love and to keep on rocking. As we grow, our plan is to take programs to retirement assisted living facilities. They are full of aging rockers waiting to hear the music of their youth one more time.”

John and his team at theRoots.FM identified a hole in the market that not only has an audience, but also is close to their hearts. They built a business that serves them and their demographic and hope to see it take off. They would love to learn how they can network with other Medici members more.