Sterling Henton shares entrepreneurial journey, benefits of 100Knoxville initiative

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a series spotlighting the participants in the inaugural cohort of the 100Knoxville initiative. What better person to launch the series that Sterling Henton, a former Tennessee Volunteer football player now known as “Sterl The Pearl.”)

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Becoming a DJ was a call that Sterling Henton heard at the young age of eight. His cousin Eddie, who was 20, would let Henton play on his turntables. The first time he stood behind them, he played “Special Lady” by Ray, Goodman, & Brown, and dedicated it to his Great-Grandma Rose.

“Something happened in that moment,” Henton said.

Hip-Hop culture wasn’t in the mainstream yet, he said, but DJs were starting to play at parties in New Jersey where he’s from. Henton would watch the pros work and found other friends to let him play on their equipment. Soon, he was putting two record players together and playing at grammar school parties.

He started mowing lawns and shoveling snow to earn money to buy records. Henton continued playing at parties through high school and into college, where he played football for the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His goal as a DJ, he said, is to make sure everyone leaves with a smile. He believes that music can do that.

“There’s something about it,” Henton said. “I get an opportunity to get people to forget about their problems for those few hours I got you inside those four walls.”

Henton said he had never been to the South before being recruited to play football at Tennessee. After a pro-football career, Henton returned to Knoxville to get an MBA. The people, and the city has been good to him, he said, adding that was why he launched his business here. Henton founded Rev It Up, an event company which focused on DJing. He also provides professional team building training events. He learned about operating his own business through the School of Hard Knocks, he said, and made mistakes along the way. But Henton said those mistakes have given him new wisdom that he hopes to pass along to new entrepreneurs.

“The entrepreneur world now is more advantageous than it’s ever been because there’s more information out there,” he said.

As part of the 100Knoxville program, Henton said he has been thankful for all the connections he has made. Since he was running the business on his own, he wanted to speak to mentors about making sure it was compliant, and also spoke with them about potential growth. Henton has since signed a deal to work in Las Vegas and launched a merchandise line.

Henton is using the $5,000 grant from the 100Knoxville initiative toward putting business systems in place and launching a marketing campaign. Learn more about the 5x5x5x5 program in this article.

Having lived in Knoxville for many years, Henton said he already knew many of the people on both the entrepreneur and mentor side of 100Knoxville, and that he was happy to get to know them in a different light. He hopes that future business-owners participating in the program “jump on it with both feet.” The foundation of the first cohort and what he’s learned has been priceless, Henton added. He looks forward to where the program heads in the future.

“Your first is always the worst if you want greatness,” Henton said. “I know this thing wants greatness, and they’re doing an exceptional job right now. I’m thankful to be a part of it.”

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