Broadcasting was something Joe Vyzourek knew he wanted to do since he was a kid.
Joe’s idea to manage his own business came from a conversation with his dad years ago.
‘’My dad and I were listening to a baseball game on the radio. During a pitching change, we started talking about working for yourself,” shared Joe Vyzourek, owner of KYVZ radio in Atwood, Kansas. “My father has been working for himself for over 40 years as a farmer. He told me that as long as you work for someone else, that person will always determine your pay and hours. When you work for yourself, hard work will pay off.’’
What you may not know about Joe Vyzourek is that he’s visually impaired. Joe never let his visual impairment stop him from achieving his goals.
After receiving his degree in broadcasting from Colby Community College, Joe landed a job at Colby’s local radio station KXXX. Joe was recognized multiple times as one of the main radio personalities of the network.
One evening in September of 2013, Joe was reading information on the FCC website, and noticed an upcoming auction for a construction permit for a radio station in his hometown. Joe recalled that day. ‘’My mind went back to when I was a kid. I jumped at the chance and purchased the construction permit while dreaming of the day I would turn on the transmitter for my own radio station.”
Vyzourek was excited with the possibility of making his dream come true, but he knew he needed business assistance to be able to obtain the funds required to make it happen. ‘’My banker told me to contact the Kansas SBDC to help me put together a loan package,” said Joe. “My consultant at that time helped me develop a strong business plan and effective financial projections. The result was that I was approved for a commercial loan and an e-community loan; and when we first went on the air, we were already cash flow positive.’’
Joe had to overcome multiple challenges along the way that tested his perseverance and confidence on his project. ‘’The largest challenge I faced was finding a tower. I worked for several months trying to find a tower owner that would rent tower space to a small radio station in this area. Finally in March 2015, I thought I caught a break. The Kansas Department of Transportation had a tower 12 miles west of Atwood and gave me a reasonable quote. Unfortunately, they had some internal changes over the following weeks, and no longer were willing to rent tower space for my antenna. By then, I had already quit my full time job in Colby.’’
Joe did not let that event discourage him from pursuing his dream of having his station on air by the end of 2015. He actively continued to look for a tower to purchase. A few months into his search he found a small tower company in Texas that was able to provide a tower and travel to Atwood to install it. His parents provided the funds and let him use part of their land to build the tower. ‘’My parents, my wife Becca and our marketing coordinator, Chelsea, were my strongest support during the journey, I wouldn’t have done it without them.’’
In 2016 Joe spent the last months filling out the required paperwork, getting the station ready and supervising the tower construction. Finally, on March 17th, 2016, KYVZ radio went on the air.
Running the only locally-owned and operated radio station in Western Kansas and Southwest Nebraska, and being recognized as an example of entrepreneurship in the region, are only a couple of Joe’s successes. If you ask Joe one of his biggest accomplishments is in the support and what he’s been able to give back to his community. ‘’It is gratifying to me that our station can support area projects. We have been able to donate to the local 4H dog training, playground equipment, local cheer squad, high school sports clubs, and other projects that help our small town move forward.’’
Joe believes that his secret of success lies in patience and planning to fail. ‘’Honestly, I think a lot before investing, I did a lot of research on equipment, I was able to purchase good used equipment and that saved me a lot of money. I look for alternatives, talk to other independent radio owners to get their opinions and make more informative decisions. Also, I have always been told to plan to fail, never fail to plan. Looking back to when this journey started, I am glad I did.’’
Joe’s advice to entrepreneurs and small business owners is to “get ready for an emotional rollercoaster ride. One day you are full of excitement, and another day you ask yourself why you are doing this. You are going to face many obstacles, but never give up. Remember to do your research, and then when you think you are done, do more research. Talk to as many people as you can that are doing what you are trying to accomplish. Fight the battles that you can’t afford to lose. If you know that the future of your business depends on you doing a project, make it happen, don’t be afraid to go out on a limb from time to time; but at the same time, learn to know when it’s the right moment, both financially and strategically, and for that you have to be patient.’’ In a challenging industry, KYVZ radio continues to grow. ‘’I plan to keep growing, add more employees and features. I want it to be the best independently-owned radio station that I can make it to be.’’
Currently, Joe and his Kansas SBDC advisor are working on a website where people will be able to listen to his station live while reading the latest local and state news. ‘’I believe that the future of broadcasting goes hand-in-hand with the internet. You need to make yourself available for listeners on computers and smartphones. I think it helps with the exposure of the radio as an important communication medium.’’ Joe and his advisor have already planned their next project, the KYVZ Android/iOS app.
More about KYVZ Radio
Kansas SBDC Advisor
Mariel Huasanga, FHSU