Marc Castel just wanted a coffee one winter morning. But what the Entrepreneur-in-Residence for Communitech got was something far more stimulating than an espresso shot. Making his coffee at a Second Cup in Orangeville was Hannah Chapplain, a Canadian musician with a voice like Alanis Morissette’s, a strong songwriting talent, and a debut CD that she was selling at work to make ends meet.

Today, Hannah Chapplain is a blossoming digital media entrepreneur who recently closed over $25,000 in seed funding. She is also performing at Boots and Hearts Country Music Festival this August, alongside Carrie Underwood and Lionel Richie.

Chapplain attended the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN) Canada 3.0 in Stratford, Ontario as both a performer and an entrepreneur. She had an enviable startup experience.  During the digital media conference she launched her new website, recorded a promotional video, pitched her business at the Road to Banff Pitch-Off event, opened for Canadian rock icon Kim Mitchell, and then closed $25,000 in funding from accredited investors.  The investment will allow Chapplain to focus on music full-time. She’s now writing songs daily instead of brewing coffee, and is working with industry pros on her second studio album.

She is part of a new wave of entrepreneurs seeking mentorship through the Venture Services Group at Communitech, the enabling organization for Waterloo Region’s technology sector. She is looking to rewire what she sees as an overly-complex music industry, through a system that helps musicians manage their careers much like tech start-ups do. Hannah says, “I like to think of myself as an entrepreneur, creating digital content that is distributed through social networks and is massively scalable” – a sentiment that captures the true complexity of being a singer-songwriter in today’s online digital music industry

Castel believes that Chapplain’s experience could only have happened in Waterloo Region, where “the community here is open to creative ideas and seeing people succeed. Chapplain has developed an extensive social media plan that allows her fans to deeply engage with her, listening to new tracks and picking the songs they like, essentially allowing her to crowdsource her next recordings.  This way, she knows her fans like her tracks before they pay for them, making them more likely to attend her concerts and buy songs directly from her.

Frustrated by the thin margins with traditional electronic bookings and distribution services, Chapplain’s team is incorporating new lean platforms created by other startups to sell her show tickets, music and merchandise allowing her to retain most of the profits. An exciting fan experience is also important to Chapplain, because live shows and social media are now the primary vehicle for musicians to engage with audiences and build deep and lasting relationships with fans that can be monetized.

By performing at Canada 3.0, Chapplain took an important first step toward building her identity as both a talented musician and focused entrepreneur. Her next steps involve diving deep into her songwriting and building up her already engaged community.

Through crowdsourcing and online engagement, Chapplain is building a company that delivers the music her fans want to the venues where they want to hear it. She is focused on delivering the best experience possible to her fans, with an eye to continually adding value to the processes of creating and sharing her music.

Already making an impact on the Canadian music scene, Chapplain is working towards her ultimate exit strategy: being signed to a record label.

“With the post iTunes democratization of the music industry, running this as a digital media business is more important than ever. I hope that by learning from the approach other tech start-ups have taken in Waterloo, I’ll be able to really kick start my business,” she said.

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