Drumming Up a Percussive Small Business
A love for pounding out rhythms and grooves with his own two hands became an unlikely success story for Kevin Brown, owner of Rhythm House Drums.
The Matthews, NC based small business was a labor of love for Brown, who claims it wasn’t his initial goal to set off and start his own business.
“I was just playing and building drums as a hobby,” Brown said. “I soon realized that what I was doing was very unique and others were interested in these drums.”
Hailing from a family of classically trained musicians, Brown also gravitated toward his musical muses. His first introduction to percussion came in college where he was seduced by West African rhythms and the surrounding culture behind them. He soon set out to make and sell these types of drums, setting up a website that spiraled into Rhythm House Drums.
“Inspiration grew from the desire to build a better hand drum,” he said, noting that most mass produced drums don’t have the rich sound or look that many organic West African drums like the Djembe possess. “I wanted to do better, for myself and other drummers.”
This proved to be a challenge initially, seeing as how mass-produced and imported drums are sold on a fairly large scale and are cheaply made. Some cultural traditionalists also dismissed Brown’s use of local North Carolina lumber and other materials in his drums.
“[Many] believe a Djembe should be made in Africa with African wood,” he said. “It’s been challenging to change their minds and show the benefits of locally built drums from locally felled lumber, and using modern tools to create completely unique pieces.”
But Brown’s love of the drum, particularly the West African Djembe, which he describes as “extremely powerful and very dynamic,” clearly shined through in his creations, as the Djembe has become his most popular product. Drummers can also find everything from the Nigerian style Ashiko to Native American Powwow drums at Rhythm House Drums.
Brown fully admits that it was his musicality and genuine affinity for drumming, not his business acumen, that truly helped Rhythm House Drums become what it is today. “I’m not a businessman – I didn’t have goals other than to build kick ass drums.”
Rather, it was his love and passion for percussion that was the driving force behind his business. “Hand drumming in itself isn’t a huge business – narrowing that down to a specific style of hand drumming means that you better be doing this because you love it, not to get rich.”
With the Djembe now conquered, Brown has his sights set on a specialty Conga. “After lots of research, I have finally started to develop, design and hand craft my own stainless steel hardware for Conga drums. I believe this will be a game changer for me as it opens up a whole new market.”
As Brown perfects his Conga craft, and with the dream of moving to a larger storefront that would serve as a studio where locals could come hang out and play music, it looks like the beat will go on for quite sometime for Rhythm House Drums.