Meet NFIB Scholarship Winner Colton Sleister of Iowa

Date: August 02, 2016

Teen wins honor for his music instrument business.

Meet NFIB Scholarship Winner Colton Sleister of Iowa

For the last three years, Colton Sleister’s small business has been music to his ears.

The recent high school graduate founded his business, Sleister Brass, in 2013 after noticing how expensive it was to buy an instrument online or from a music store. With the help of his high school band director, he gathered up 15 used trombones, polished and repaired them, and sold them to families in his community for a fraction of the price they would have paid elsewhere.

Sleister operates his business out of the basement of his parents’ home in Ankeny, Iowa. The company has grown substantially over the past three years. He started out by selling his first batch of 15 trombones, and this year, he has already sold 100 instruments, he said.

That success led NFIB to honor Sleister with a college scholarship, the NFIB/Iowa Leadership Council Young Entrepreneur Award.

Sleister’s business is all about making instruments accessible to young people who want to get into music, he said. Trombones can cost as much as $1,000 in stores, he said, but he sells his refurbished instruments for between $200 and $400. For him, it’s a way of giving back because music meant so much to him growing up.

“Getting to be a part of making a complex, glorious band sound is incredible,” Sleister said.

Armed with an expansive toolset, he sets to work repairing secondhand instruments he purchases online to make them look display-ready. Once he’s done, he’ll sell them to families around Ankeny.

“When I get it, it’s so disgusting on the inside it’s probably a biohazard, but I clean it up and get it ready to sell,” Sleister said.

Not only has his business greatly expanded in three years, Sleister has also honed entrepreneurial skills. Negotiating with customers more than twice his age used to be the most intimidating aspect of running his business, he said, but he’s grown much more confident with it.

Sleister hopes to continue his business even with a busy freshman schedule at Drake University, where he plans to complete three majors. He’d like to eventually advertise in larger markets such as Chicago, where he said he will have a competitive advantage because of his reasonable prices.

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