The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: Valerie Sheehan, President and Chief Executive Officer, ToneRite Inc.
Valerie Sheehan has a remarkable history as a successful businesswoman. Her past ventures include work in real estate, marketing, investment banking, technology, leadership, and much more.
Upon graduating from the University of Florida in 2012, Valerie’s impressive resume and skills, combined with her tireless efforts to better herself and her community, led the founder of ToneRite Inc., Augi Lye, to tap Valerie as the company’s new President and CEO.
The ToneRite is a device invented by Lye, who is a violinist and electrical engineer, that vibrates on new wood stringed instruments to create a vintage tone. Describing Valerie as an entrepreneurial “rock star,” Lye’s choice was proven correct when Valerie led ToneRite Inc. to be chosen by the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce as the Best New Business of the Year in November of 2012.
Learn more about ToneRite Inc. at http://tonerite.com.
WiMN: Can you tell us a bit about ToneRite and how you became involved with them?
VS: ToneRite Inc. is a leading research and development firm in the field of Acoustical Physics. Its product, the ToneRite, is the world’s most advanced and premier play-in device. Significantly accelerating the play-in process and providing increased tone, playability, and balance, the ToneRite makes all of this available in a nearly silent, high quality, and portable manner. ToneRite Inc. manufactures a line of ToneRite models for nine different string instruments and has just released the first model from their percussion line, ToneRite for drums. The ToneRite Signature was the first commercially available product from ToneRite Inc. in early 2007.
I graduated from the University of Florida in spring 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a specialization in education and a minor in entrepreneurship. An avid entrepreneur with a generous spirit, I became actively involved in the Gainesville entrepreneurial scene, organizing events for UF’s Entrepreneurship Club and its Innovation Hub incubator, the Gainesville Area Innovation Network and the Gainesville Technology Enterprise Center. After graduating, I dedicated myself to running ToneRite Inc. I am devoted to the company and its customers––to the point that I crossed the continent twice last year just to “spread the ToneRite love” by visiting clients, hosting clinics, and hand-delivering ToneRite systems to a few lucky artists and musicians.
WiMN: What is a typical day at ToneRite like for you?
VS: From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep, I am passionately working for ToneRite Inc. My days are all encompassing. Basically, the only thing I do not do is the manufacturing itself. I absolutely LOVE working with people and helping them however I can.
WiMN: Do you have a favorite string instrument or player?
VS: My favorite string instrument is the violin. I played when I was very young. I recently purchased a classical guitar to learn how to play. I am looking forward to expanding my musical talents beyond just performing in the ToneRite Hummer driving across the country.
WiMN: You have a widely varied business background. Can you talk about some skills learned from your other business ventures, and how they apply to your work in the music industry?
VS: My experience in entrepreneurship and my passion for business amplify each other; it is my unwavering determination to overcome obstacles that has given ToneRite Inc. the multi-national prominence it has today.
I remain committed to the business and to improving ToneRite products while creating and maintaining relationships with clients. I hold three core values as influence to my work ethic and promote these values throughout the company. They include personal entrepreneurship and accountability, customer focus and bonding, and collaboration and teamwork.
My hard work and steadfast commitment have allowed ToneRite Inc. to achieve recognition from musicians both across the country and around the globe.
WiMN: What are your impressions on the difference between working with a small start-up business versus a larger corporation?
VS: I have always either had or worked for smaller companies. For me, it’s a matter of preference. I had the opportunity to work for Microsoft after I graduated from college but preferred to go with ToneRite Inc., a smaller company where I could foster a sense of community and a unique company culture. I think it’s rare to maintain a unique tech startup vibe within the music industry. At some point, you must grow to remain viable.
WiMN: What advice would you offer to a young woman who desires a career in the music industry?
VS: My advice for a female in the music industry would not be different from my advice to females in business in general. Each business has its own strengths and weaknesses. Follow your passion and figure out a way to spend your life doing just that. Maintain focus yet remain flexible towards other opportunities to grow personally and professionally.
WiMN: Do you have a female role model that you aspire to be like in your work and/or life?
VS: My mother has always been a role model for me. She was a Captain in the United States Air Force, put herself through school, and raised four children with my father. She is an amazing wife and loving mother. I would say I got my work ethic from her. I look up to her very much.
WiMN: Being active in the community is important to you. What are some causes that are close to your heart?
VS: I truly enjoy giving back and being active. I also enjoy public speaking as a way to inspire others to overcome challenges and obstacles in their lives. The fight to cure Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) is very near and dear to my heart. I am also an advocate for people with disabilities. I am an active member of the Learning Disability Association of America and was a member of their Young Leadership Team while I attended college.
A non-traditional student, I transferred into the University of Florida after working for an investment banking firm. I discovered early in my academic career that I suffered from learning disabilities and ADHD, and have worked tirelessly to overcome these challenges. It was important to give back while I was going through these challenges––I started the resource library at the Disability Resource Center at UF, as well as founded Club DRC, motive, organizing, and educating students with disabilities through interactive leadership.
What may appear in your life as a challenge will in fact become a stepping stone. Surround yourself with positive and supportive likeminded individuals. From that community, amazing growth will occur and you will overcome.
WIMN: What are some contrasts between working in the music business and a more traditional business setting?
VS: Everyone is passionate about music! I absolutely love that about working in the music industry! Luckily, our product helps musicians, so this makes my world absolutely fantastic! I honestly do not ever want to work in any other industry. It is extremely exciting!
WiMN: We’ve talked a lot about your accomplishments and business experience. Tell our readers something fun about you!
VS: Oh wow, something fun…hmmm. Well, I would say my job is fun. I absolutely LOVE what I am doing! For me, life started on a farm just outside of Pittsburgh, PA. I enjoy all the outdoor stuff––hiking, camping, boating, fishing, dirt bikes, four wheelers, football, you name it! I am proud to say I can live out of a duffel bag in the middle of the woods for an extended period of time.