Chamber honors small biz

Published 10:11 pm Monday, April 17, 2017

Chris Rice was so young when he had his first DJ gig — a Sweet 16 party — that his mom had to drive him to the event.

The Spotsylvania native had been fiddling around with car stereos in his room before he even had a car to put them in. Then he started carrying his equipment to parties and get-togethers, and then he got requests to be the official DJ for his friends’ parties.

Now, Rice’s business, Music Makes You Happy Entertainment, has been named the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year for Suffolk.

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He’s come a long way from his beginnings, he said.

Chris Rice, the owner of Music Makes You Happy Entertainment, shows off some of the thank-you notes in his office from satisfied customers. He DJs dance parties for his two children every evening before bedtime to help them let off some steam. Other than that, his favorite events to DJ are laid-back weddings and outdoor festivals.

“It’s pretty neat to take a step back,” he said. “I have to remind myself to do that from time to time.”

Rice attended Christopher Newport University, and his DJ career really gained speed while he was in college. He got gigs and friends’ parties and for the university.

“I just fell in love with it,” Rice said. “I really enjoyed making people happy.”

About six years ago, he officially started his business. He ran it out of his home for some time and has had a location in Suffolk on Holland Road for about three years.

“This location has really allowed me to grow and allowed the company to grow,” he said. “We’ve added on new employees. We’ve gone from having a half-full warehouse where we keep all of our equipment to running out of room.”

The business has a staff of nine and recently purchased a new sound system that will allow it to do much larger outdoor events. Rice said it’s important for the company to diversify its revenue stream by doing a variety of events, from weddings to festivals to corporate affairs. It has also added full-service rental of audio-visual equipment to its offerings, which also include a photo booth and props, lighting, tuxedo rentals through Jim’s Formal Wear and more.

The business also now actively advertises and networks in Richmond and has done many events there, Rice said.

He said he now is pushing to get all of his staff fully trained so that he can take more time away from work, especially weekends. He and his wife, Erin, have two children — 3-year-old Cecilia, named after the patron saint of music, and 19-month-old Anthony.

The Hampton Roads Chamber 2017 Small Business of the Year will be announced at a luncheon on May 2 at the Chesapeake Conference Center.

Music Makes You Happy will compete against the city winners from the other four South Hampton Roads cities:

  • Chesapeake — Hackworth Printing and Graphics
  • Norfolk — CURE Coffeehouse and Brasserie
  • Portsmouth — Brutti’s Catering
  • Virginia Beach — Beach Pet Hospital