Mike Jurken doesn’t think he could get into the School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison – his grades aren’t good enough, and he doesn’t have time to keep up with the competitive atmosphere.
Instead, he’s busy running his own company.
Jurken, 20, owns Majic Productions Inc., an entertainment and event production firm that he founded as a high school senior.
The company’s DJ Majic division plays music at about 150 shows per year, he said. Its Production Majic group manages about 80 events each year such as corporate gatherings, special concerts and private parties.
A third division, the Majic Web Group, reviews concerts around the country.
Jurken declined to say how much money the company makes. He did reveal that he has 20 part-time employees, ranging in age from mid-teens to mid-50s, and that this year’s sales already have exceeded those in all of 2007.
He’s also a full-time student who hasn’t picked a major yet – though he’s thinking about political science. He also sings with a touring a capella choir and fits in his fair share of parties.
Most 20-year-olds would dream of having his résumé – except he’s never put one together. Jurken is taking his first business class at Madison this semester.
Jurken broke into the events business in sixth grade after seeing a disc jockey at a wedding and thinking the job looked like fun. He started working as a DJ at local church events, school dances and private parties.
In high school, he expanded into event production and incorporated Majic Productions in 2005.
When Jurken graduated from Marquette University High School and headed to the University of Miami on a musical theater scholarship, it looked as if the company was finished.
“My goal was, ‘Let’s slow this down.’ I thought we were done,” he said.
Jurken’s first semester in Miami in the fall of 2005 was interrupted by a series of hurricanes, however, and he found himself at home for several weeks.
With school on hold, Jurken went back to work and found business to be plentiful – enough so that he squeezed his spring class schedule into a three-day week and flew back to Milwaukee every other weekend.
That kind of commute wasn’t sustainable.
“I would take the night flight out Thursday, work all weekend and fly back down Monday night,” he said. “It was killing me.”
Jurken transferred to UW-Madison that fall. He drives to Milwaukee several times a week and operates out of an office in Brookfield.
He still has to skip the occasional class to do business, and he said he draws mixed reactions from professors when he does so.
“Some are really cool with it. Others are like, ‘school or work – choose,’ and I’m like, ‘both,’ ” he said.
But if the choice is between work or enjoying life as a college student, Jurken said he’ll always pick the latter.
“If it’s make another sale today or go on a date or go out with friends, I’ll choose friends,” he said. “I don’t want to miss out on that. I’m already missing out a little bit.”
The cost of fitting it all in? Phone bills and sleep: Jurken said he spends 60 hours a month on the phone, gets 80 emails a day and gets by on four hours’ rest a night.
It was Jurken’s passion for music that put him in touch with Joe Sweeney, managing partner of Milwaukee-based Corporate Financial Advisors and one of Jurken’s mentors.
Sweeney’s daughter attended Divine Savior Holy Angels High School and became friends with Jurken through musical theater.
“He’s mature beyond his years,” said Sweeney, who said he talks with Jurken a few times a month to offer advice and share ideas. “He plans, he thinks through things, he does a lot of strategy.”
Buck Jurken, a salesman for a local company and Mike’s father, is another of his son’s business advisers. He said while he’s helped keep his son on the right track, Mike makes his business decisions himself.
“None of this has come easy,” the elder Jurken said. “He works very, very hard.”
Ken Hudak, general manager of Milwaukee event-service company Canopies Events, said he first worked with Majic Productions about a year ago and was skeptical that the then-teenage Jurken could get the job done.
“When I first met him, I was like, ‘Oh, man, where’s this guy going to come up with all the equipment?’ ” Hudak said. “But the talent was there. The equipment was there.”
His one challenge in working with and advising Jurken has been getting him to shed his tennis shoes and “dress older than he is” for the sake of professionalism.
Jurken acknowledged that his age sometimes handicaps him, and he strives to make his service better to compensate. He’s not afraid to ask for advice, he said, because as a college student, he’s not expected to have all the answers.
At other times, he finds unique ways to leverage his youth: Jurken recently invited clients to his upcoming 21st birthday party.
He said Majic Productions is working on expanding into Madison and Green Bay. In the long run, he said he wants his company “to get huge.”
“I want to give all my friends jobs,” he said.