In the groove

November 29, 2021

ALUMNI

David Slenk’s first big purchase as a kid was a radio system with a three-CD holder and a built-in CD burner.

“I would spend hours and hours in my room making these CDs. That's what I did. I've always loved music,” he said.

The 2008 grad works full time as senior director at EY-Parthenon, but after a few years on the job, he couldn’t help but wonder if he could start his own music business.

“I thought, it’s a bummer that we can't make mix tapes, mix CDs as easily anymore,” he said. “Digital music took over and that special way of sharing music got lost. It's not the same to just say, ‘Hey, listen to this playlist on your phone.’”

He was talking it through with his wife one day, when she said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you could do that on vinyl?”

Six months later, after research and development partnerships all over the world, Freestyle Vinyl was born. It’s a company where customers can submit playlists of purchased music, and Slenk and his employees turn it into a vinyl record.

“I’ve always had a passion for creating,” he said. “It’s fun to see that actual product go out to a customer, and be part of life’s memorable moments.”

Customers submit their purchased music on the Freestyle Vinyl website, and can customize everything from the record sleeve to the track names and order. They typically are ready in a few weeks and cost $100 per record. Slenk has created vinyl records for dozens of proposals, anniversaries, and weddings.

“The most fun creations are always those with personal messages or original songs,” he said. "I love creating mixes for my wife based on concerts we've been to or trips we've taken. We're helping put smiles on people's faces and create and preserve memories. And that's a very special thing.”

He says his time in the business school at Richmond helped prepare him for life as an entrepreneur.

“I got a little taste of everything: organizational behavior, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing, all of these things. And they have stuck with me,” he said. “As an entrepreneur, you have to do all of these things on top of each other. And I think about those principles in everything I do.”

He’s scaled his business to work directly with artists to create vinyl versions of their records. He’s also got two full-time employees, and a brick-and-mortar office in Chicago. But he thinks back to making those mix CDs in his room as a kid as his inspiration for his business. 

“I've always been passionate about music and even making mixes and having that as a way to connect with people,” he says. “And we figured out a way to do it on vinyl.”