After realizing women were underrepresented in the male-dominated world of DJs, Tessa created Prism DJs — a booking agency that represents an array of female talent. She regularly books gigs for herself and her team and uses personal experience to empower other women in the field.
SO, HOW'D YOU GET STARTED?
I started my first business in 2003. It was a music and art-inspired clothing and gift boutique in Reno, Nevada. I bought my first pair of turntables and would play music in the shop all day. In 2008, I moved to Los Angeles and was working as a paralegal while still collecting music. I wasn’t entirely happy with this profession, so I made the decision to start utilizing the music knowledge I’d been acquiring my whole life. I randomly responded to an online ad looking for a DJ in downtown LA, they accepted my mixtape, and I’ve been DJing ever since. In 2010, I made it official and quit my office job to start DJing full time. I’ve DJ’d hundreds of events ranging from corporate and brand events, celebrity events, private events, and weddings. And I’ve made genuine client and colleague relationships in the process. In April of 2015, I started the all-female DJ booking agency, Prism DJs.
BIGGEST AHA MOMENT?
My aha moment was when I decided to start Prism DJs. Everything aligned at exactly the right time. The DJ job inquiries were coming in and I was too busy to take them. The clients were looking for female DJs and I could match the perfect talent for their events. The combination of the market’s need for female DJs, my connections, my administrative background, and my eyes and ears for brand matching all came together to form the booking agency.
"I randomly responded to an online ad looking for a DJ in downtown LA, they accepted my mixtape, and I’ve been DJing ever since."
ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU'RE MOST PROUD OF?
I’m most proud that Prism DJs has grown from four DJs to about 30 DJs in four years. It’s definitely a team effort. Our roster boasts musical talent mixed with professionalism and that is the key to our success.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Success, to me, is being healthy — physically, mentally, and spiritually. Having friends and family that love and support me, as well as being able to return the love and support to them. Having the ability to learn and grow, having a roof over my head, transportation, and food on the table.
WHAT ROLE DOES FAILURE PLAY IN BEING SUCCESSFUL?
Failure is the greatest learning experience. Failing at my first business kept me from making the same financial mistakes with my second business. At the beginning of my personal DJ career, I had some failures where I wasn’t on point with the music and the client wasn’t happy. Because of these failures, I’ve learned to be more prepared.
SECRET TO PUSHING THROUGH WHEN TIMES GET TOUGH?
It wouldn’t be interesting if it was a smooth ride. My new secret to pushing through is listening to business motivation podcasts that interview entrepreneurs. My favorite podcast right now is called Project Mindset hosted by Keven Stirdivant.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I’m inspired by groups that offer community support. One is a collective called Ladies of Sound. They hold scratch sessions, information panels, and provide support for women in the DJ community. They’ve really inspired me to help more and share my skills.
HOW DO YOU REACH YOUR FULL POTENTIAL EVERY DAY?
I just keep working, power through the tough jobs, and always do my best. I also try to drink lots of water and limit alcohol. If I am drinking, I take my Morning Recovery and get enough sleep, so I can be more productive the next day.
"It wouldn’t be interesting if it was a smooth ride."
ULTIMATE LIFE HACK?
I’m on the Marie Kondo bandwagon. I’m folding all my t-shirts according to her method and placing them vertically in my drawers. It gives me so much joy.
I set my Instagram daily time limit to one hour. I get a notification when I’ve spent that much time in the app. My Instagram use is half for work and half personal. Setting the notification forces me to get all my work stuff — posts, comments, and replies — and the scrolling for pleasure condensed to one hour, so I can move onto other important tasks.
PIECE OF ADVICE?
While you’re pursuing your passion, don’t be embarrassed to get a part-time job until the income is consistent.
HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Work-life balance is a work in progress for me. I try to stop checking emails, texts, and apps on my phone after 6 p.m. on weekdays. I rarely respond to business emails on weekends. This is so I can focus on spending time with my family and friends. It’s important because I don’t want to look back thinking that I spent too much time distracted by technology. Almost everything can wait until the next business day.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE WELLNESS?
Wellness, to me, is keeping your mind and body healthy. A simple wellness practice I swear by is just taking time out to sit and focus on your breathing when you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or stressed.
FAVORITE WAY TO LET LOOSE?
Since I am DJing events and parties all the time, the last thing I want to do is party hard on my days off. Letting loose, to me, is taking the time to relax my mind with a daytime activity like a hike or visiting an art museum.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
I’d like to continue focusing on helping women succeed in their DJ careers and give back to communities in need.