Sharon Hennessey was introduced to the music industry at a young age. As a child, she often visited her father, who worked at the Ovation factory in New Hartford, Conn., along with her brother. "It was really interesting," she said. "We had a complete run of the factory. Nobody was in there except ourselves. My brother and I actually pretended to be businesspeople. I was a businesswoman and would call him on the phone. 'Send that report over,' I remember having said."
When Hennessey was 12, her father Jim founded The Music People! That was not an easy decision, considering he had four children at home. But he took the entrepreneur route because what he had learned when he attended many concerts during the Ovation days was, "There were so many guitars on stage and nothing really to hold them up," Hennessey said. "His first passion was to create the first double and triple guitar stand. As a young child, we did our first mailing promoting the products he designed. I remember licking stamps in the basement of our house. I continued to have some involvement through junior high school and high school. I would come by after school. I worked helping returns and inspecting cables."
Hennessey became more and more involved with The Music People! by working part time while she attended school. But Hennessey said she never attended college thinking she would work for The Music People!. "Nor did my father ever ask me to work for the family business," she said.
Hennessey pursued education and special education in college. She planned to become a teacher. Hennessey graduated from college and served as a teacher for one year. That's when something changed in her life. "I had an opportunity to go to my first NAMM show," she said. "My father knew, once I had that exposure, I'd probably want to go to work for The Music People!. I was 21 or 22 years old. I got to hang out at the pool the entire day. I didn't have to work at the booth or set up the booth."
Hennessey vividly remembers walking into the Anaheim Hilton and attending a concert. "I saw the energy level and the vibe," she recalled. "I had a great week in Anaheim. I met a lot of great people with whom I'm still friendly today. My father knew a lot of people in the industry and he introduced me. I saw how friendly people were to one another."
Hennessey went home to Connecticut and didn't talk about her wonderful NAMM experience for some time. But, a few months later, she liked what she saw so much that Hennessey joined The Music People! She started in the return authorization segment of the business. Hennessey also learned the business by serving as an assistant in many departments. "After working there full time for two years," she said, "there was an opportunity to open a West Coast distribution center. My father asked me to do it. When I look back on it, it was a pretty big deal at 24 years old to pick up and move to California. We had no connections there. I didn't have a place to live."
Not only did Hennessey open a West Coast distribution center, but she also built a sales force there. She recalls the first day she walked into the Long Beach building that was empty. Hennessey lived with the Pollard family in Seal Beach, whom she had met at the NAMM show on a couple of occasions. They had helped set up The Music People! booth.
Hennessey soon found an apartment that she shared with two male surfers in Sunset Beach. She made deliveries to local music stores and also unloaded containers. The distribution center became a huge success. But there were challenges. Hennessey had to overcome her shyness, for example. But she had the passion needed. She believed in the company's products. "I felt retailers wanted affordable pricing, quality products and profitable items that can help support your overhead," she said. "The service we provided became the forefront of my entire career. I became an advocate of the retailer early on. When I moved back to Connecticut, I handled sales for the top stores in the United States. I took ownership of several accounts. I was on the road and in the trenches. I really got to learn what a retailer's needs were."
"Nobody can believe I was really shy back then," she added.
An Engaging Industry
Relationships are what first interested Hennessey in MI. It's also one of the main drivers that has kept her in our industry. Perhaps not everyone has had an "Only in MI moment." However, Hennessey certainly has one. "I would never go into a bathroom and leave my wedding and engagement rings on the sink," she said. "But something in our [Nashville Summer NAMM] booth stuck to my finger. I took them off so I could wash my hands. I returned to the booth and had a meeting with a top company in the industry. I had never met them before. I began the meeting and, about 20 minutes later, I turned completely white and realized both of my rings were gone. I walked in a complete panic back to the bathroom. They weren't there. I knew I was in big trouble. NAMM had a place I could go to. [NAMM President and CEO] Joe Lamond made an announcement over the intercom that I lost my wedding ring and engagement ring. Sure enough, an hour later, a dealer turned in the rings to NAMM. I had them back."
The next morning, Lamond used that example during a breakfast session to describe how amazing our industry is. "What other industry could you be in that you could lose something of that value and have it returned?" said Hennessey. "What an incredible industry we are in."
Speaking of NAMM…
Hennessey was elected as one of NAMM's new board members on Jan. 15. She was nominated and voted upon by retailers. "I'm honored," she said. "I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of people, getting a lot of information and creating value. I've been in the industry for more than 20 years and there are still so many people I don't know. I'm excited to meet those folks and share stories. It also is another avenue for me to continue to be an advocate for dealers."
When Hennessey is not working at The Music People! or traveling, she can be found out on the golf course. In fact, she met her husband because he was the golf pro at the Hartford Golf Club. The future couple was going to play golf on their first date. "I went golfing at another course early in the morning with three gentleman that day," she remembered. "I had such a great time on the front nine that I called [my future husband] and told him I had to reschedule the date because I was going to play another nine holes with the same gentlemen. He later told me that he said at that time: 'I'm in love. I just met a woman who blew me off for golf.'"
Think fate doesn't exist? "On our first date, he bet on a horse named Hennessey's Best and the horse won."
Hennessey claimed her golf game has progressed so much that she is now better than her golf pro husband.
The Hennesseys have a 6-year-old son named James Hennessey Mullarkey. Sharon Hennessey showed us the family holiday card she sent out in December and then said, "He has a desk at The Music People! He knows 40-footers and 20-footers. He understands 40-footers are more cost effective for freight costs."
Hennessey also serves on another board: the one at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford. "The industry served as a great stepping stone for me to help to give back," she said.
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