FAVORITE DISH: Steak. PEOPLE OFTEN DESCRIBE ME AS: Intense and larger than Life. A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION: My family and friends. I get to work with a lot of my friends and watching them achieve their dreams pushes me to work even harder. My family's sacrifices for me early in life are also a major source of my drive.
Creating access allows the best to become the best
BUILDING A DIGITAL SOLUTION TO GEOGRAPHICAL PROBLEM. DuMarkus Davis, the founder and CEO of Musicbuk, knows firsthand how difficult it can be to find a talented, fun, and engaging musical instructor in your own community. “I grew up in the Atlanta area looking for a quality violin instructor, ultimately unable to find anyone,” Davis explains.
Later, during his time at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and while playing in professional orchestras, Davis also worked as a teacher at a local "mom and pop" musical instrument shop. The shop charged students around $100 per hour, but only paid instructors around 20 percent of that. “This was the norm for decades. We did the work, but the store would make the real money,” he says. “Honestly, the student was locked into the whole mess because they often didn’t even know where else to go anyway. I knew there had to be a better way.”
Davis turned down fellowships and professional jobs to start Musicbuk, a marketplace through which aspiring musicians anywhere in the world can find virtual instruction and mentorship with top instructors matched for individual needs. “On one hand, Musicbuk was for a kid like me who wasn’t from a community that always had the best musical instructors but had big goals and aspirations; on the other hand, it also helped the instructors who traditionally got undercut and gave them the technology to build a thriving studio in the 21st century.”
MORE THAN MUSIC LESSONS. Davis’ parents were quite supportive, but he struggled to share his identity as a gay, Black man with others. “I looked for spaces… I combed for spaces to feel comfortable and say, ‘This is who I am and it’s okay,’” he says. “Ultimately, I believe this is why I’m so good at what I do. This is what makes me a better founder, because I think at the end of the day being able to live my life authentically has allowed me to better run my company and have difficult conversations, and to stand boldly in the face of adversity all founders face.”
Over time, his anxieties faded as he owned his identity in business and in life. “I became more grounded as I built my company. And in being so authentic, I noticed it gave other people permission to do the same. Over time, it led to my confidence growing and feeling like I could start course-correcting conversations where people might joke inappropriately and I could address it. I could speak out, not just for myself but for others. All of a sudden, my authenticity became authority and that authority gave way to renewed respect and empowerment.”
Davis hopes Musicbuk offers an outlet for others to find their own inner strength as well. “Creating this platform opens doors and widens them, too, for people. I hope it can maybe make space for other young men who were like me, who are from the South, who maybe were more interested in violin and watching Project Runway than, perhaps, watching football and playing basketball in the afternoon.”
When asked for advice, “I tell everyone, do your research. I warn them: do your research. Even the best, brightest ideas will have to go into survival mode, so make sure you can survive. Make sure what you’re building, what you’re working for, fighting for, is smart, sound, and researched.”