The Avenue

Mr. Jambourine Man: MTSU Grad Kickstarts New Guitar Accessory

Recent MTSU alum Hunter Marlowe’s interest in music and innovation is making it easier for musicians to unify two beloved instruments: the acoustic guitar and the tambourine.

Marlowe, who graduated last spring with a degree in audio production and a minor in entrepreneurship, is a singer/songwriter and inventor of the Jambourine, a small sound hole tambourine made for acoustic guitars. The 22-year-old graduate, originally from Newnan, Ga., designed the guitar accessory to stay silent and out of the way until it’s activated by slapping or tapping the strings. Then, he says, you have control of both the guitar and a percussion element simultaneously.

During his time at MTSU, Marlowe landed an internship with Nashville’s Starstruck Studios, but says he grew tired of the technical aspects by the time he approached his senior year. Having performed in various bands since middle school, Marlowe decided it was time to pick up the guitar again and focus on his solo career.

Jambourine - Marlowe - 3

“I started playing every day in my room, but one night it just hit me,” he told the Pulse. “What if I could turn my slap into percussion?”

At that moment, Marlowe wasn’t quite thinking of a physical product. Instead, he utilized the skills he had acquired through the recording industry program to digitally create certain sounds through music software when he slapped the guitar.

“All I had to do was plug in my guitar and program it to make a snare sound or a tambourine sound,” he said.

That’s when Marlowe’s entrepreneur instincts kicked in.

“I did this for six months and it finally hit me again,” he continued. “What if I go a step further and make a physical item?”

A couple prototypes later, Marlowe was looking at a prospective product and a shot at $7,500 through the university’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business’ 2016 Business Plan Competition. The annual competition, which awarded a total of about $15,000 to four finalists with convincing business plans, was exactly what he needed to jumpstart the business, officially labeled “Jambourine by Marlowe.”

Jambourine - Marlowe - 2“Once I got into the competition I really had to focus on a business plan,” he said. “I might not have done that originally . . . but the competition made me sit down and focus on the nitty gritty.”

The hard work eventually paid off, he said. Many hours of planning and a couple competition rounds later, Marlowe was among the four entrepreneurs advancing to the final round.

On April 26, after demonstrating how the Jambourine worked to a panel of judges, Marlowe says he then zoned in on the business side through a series of PowerPoint slides including an executive summary, distribution and marketing plans, sale projections and an overall timeline. The Shark Tank-style final round was intimidating, he admits, but after a string of questions from the judges, Marlowe finished the competition in first place.

“I had to make a few edits and adjustments to the prototype,” he said. “So most of the competition money went toward those adjustments.”

To carry out his business plan pitched during the competition, Marlowe launched a Kickstarter campaign, which just exceeded its $6,000 goal with 113 backers last month. He then used the Kickstarter funds to purchase inventory from the manufacturer, which arrived a couple weeks ago and was soon shipped out to supporters.

Although the Jambourine is Marlowe’s main focus at the moment, he says he hopes to expand his business to include various styles, colors and models for other string instruments.

“The first step is getting [the Jambourine] out there, get people to buy it and sell, sell, sell,” he said. “But the main goal is to innovate the slap or strum into something more.”

The Jambourine, as well as a couple informational videos on the product, can be found on Marlowe’s website, marlowe-band.com.

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