Meet Rachel Willes of DJ Rachel Z
I was attending Arizona State University when I got involved in DJ-ing for dances and clubs. I graduated with a Recreation Management degree and began working for Mesa Parks and Recreation where I created and organized numerous special events and programs. After ten years with them, I put my career on hold to have kids. I would organize events here and there and DJ weddings and school dances occasionally but nothing that would interfere with being a stay-at-home mom and raising my kids. When my oldest turned sixteen and my youngest was in 3rd grade, I realized we needed some extra money to pay for car insurance and school trips and all the extra expenses four active kids bring. By chance, I met a DJ at my husband’s work party who said he was hiring DJs to expand his business. I started doing two events a month and within three years was averaging four gigs a month with numerous personal requests for my DJ service. I broke off with the DJ factory and started DJ Rachel Z Willes LLC. I have been a business owner now for three years and I love it! I have more work than I can accept. I am the preferred DJ at three venues and two school districts. I get most of my gigs by word-of-mouth and have bookings now for late 2021. It’ll be 27 years since I first dropped a beat and it’s still way too much fun to get paid for it!
I managed to get back into the DJ business relatively easy. The DJ company was expanding and needed DJs quickly. But I was just one among many DJs. As part of a DJ factory, I had to take the gigs given me without any say in where or when or for how much and I knew I wanted more control. So the biggest struggle I had was deciding whether or not I should go out on my own. The wedding industry is huge with thousands of “DJs” out there and competition is fierce. Couples often interview 5-6 DJs before deciding on just one. I was scared to break away from the sure source of income while working for the DJ company I was with. It was a huge leap of faith to have to go out and hunt for my out clients.
I am a DJ/MC/Event Planner. I DJ any event from a small birthday party to an 8-hour wedding ceremony and reception and everything in between. I am different from other DJs because I will also help you put your timeline together and act as the MC for the event. I meet with clients at least two months out from the event to help them put the perfect timeline together. We brainstorm ideas and activities (line-dance instruction, anyone?) and then create a minute-by-minute timeline of the day. Then on the day of the event, my clients don’t have to consult or think about that timeline because I will be their coordinator and make sure everything runs smoothly for them and with all the vendors working that day. My clients don’t have to worry about what time they scheduled to cut the cake because I will let them know 10 minutes beforehand and make sure the photographer and videographer are there when they cut the cake. I even make sure there is a cake knife to cut the cake! I take a very personal interest in my couples and help wherever needed to make sure their day is perfect.
I have done numerous corporate events and enjoy helping employees celebrate. I help with the formal announcements and “work stuff” then we all get partying with dancing and games.
I also really love helping kids celebrate and am the speed dial of many PTOs in the valley. I have DJ’d numerous high school and elementary school dances and provide clean versions of the popular songs they enjoy. For the younger kids, I also lead games and line dances to keep the party hopping. I received a minor in child development at ASU and really enjoy playing with kids!
I am really proud of the fact that the majority of my business is by word-of-mouth. I spend nothing in advertising and I have too many gigs to take. I was able to make great connections with venues and wedding professionals and they recommend my services to everyone. Guests attending events I DJ get my name and hire me to DJ their events. I am organized and meticulous and really care about my clients’ experience. I have earned the Wedding Wire Couples’ Choice award four years in a row. This award is based solely on positive reviews from clients and I am so proud that my clients take the time after the event to write great reviews. One bride did it on her honeymoon she was so happy!
From a business stand point I suppose I am successful because gigs are coming in steady. But I really measure my success based on how my clients feel before, during and after the events I work for them. I want my clients to be happy and stress-free through all parts of the process and when the the event is over to have all their expectations met. I think I connect better with my clients better than other DJs and I really work the event as if it was my own wedding or prom or corporate event. My success is based on the satisfaction level of the clients I work for. I have nearly 100% of my clients write reviews for me after the event because they want to help me after I helped them. The money really is secondary and a delightful bonus to be able to share these important experiences with my clients.