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Luis Guerrero of Empire Sounds installs sound and video equipment into automobiles and tints windows. - Bob Pennell

Homegrown: Empire Sounds looks to continue growing in Medford

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? Car audio, video and alarms sales and installation and window tinting. I've been doing this for about 10 years.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I moved here about four years ago from Los Angeles.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? My parents were struggling. I decided to get a job at the age of 15, doing car audio. I worked for Shabbir Bawaney, who owned Big 5 Electronics, a car stereo business in Anaheim.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? I should have planned ahead money-wise, saving my pennies. Then I could have bought a bigger building with more room for inventory and having more out there. Right now we're kind of on a budget. I was too aggressive, working and blowing off money, but the business is still growing.

What's the toughest business decision you've made? I had to make a decision whether to keep my job or start my own business. I've been doing this at home and on a mobile basis. I wanted my own business place. People trust you more when you have your own shop. I know my stuff, but it was a very hard decision to change from a home-based business to having a storefront. I was working for another car audio shop, 9 to 5, and having the week-to-week paycheck was helpful.

Who are your competitors? My main competitor right now is Sport Audio here in Medford.

What are your goals? I want to see my business become like West Coast Customs, a Los Angeles stereo shop. That guy started with $5,000 and now he is a millionaire with his own television show on MTV. It's not so much territorial growth, but I want to make my mom feel like her son has done something with his life. I want to show people I can make this go; that's what I want to prove and I want to raise my family right. Medford is definitely a place where you can make money. I have support from Latinos to Caucasians to African-Americans. I show love to them and they show it back, and that's what it's all about.

What training or education did you need? I had street knowledge that Shabbir Bawaney taught me. He trained me to know everything and was my mentor and tutor. When I was a kid I used to mess around with my mother's VCR and that kind of stuff. I knew red is the power and black has to be grounded. The quality of the product is what provides the sound, and I've learned from years of adjusting car stereos. You work with a bunch of brands and you learn which ones sound smooth and which ones don't.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? Save your pennies. Once you save them, you expand. You try to do something where everyone likes what you have and you have the money to do so.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email business@mailtribune.com.

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