Michael Shutkas

What is your official title?

During the day I am a Clinical Sales Consultant for Thermo Fisher Scientific IDD (Immunodiagnostics Division). And then at night, it’s the record label I started, so I am the CEO of N-cendiary Entertainment Group.


What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?

I’m up at about 5:45 or 6:00 everyday, regardless of when I fall asleep. I know it’s cliché, but everyday is different. Because I’m in outside sales, I create my own routing for the local physicians, stretching from the lakeshore all the way to Jackson, Plainwell/Otsego, and then I stop at the Michigan/Indiana border. It’s the perfect little rectangle of Southwestern Michigan. Typically I’m out the door by 7:30, because you never want to get to a doctor’s office too close to 8:00am. But let me rewind. For Thermo Fisher, the IDD division is Immunodiagnostics; we are the world leader in lab diagnostic equipment, and it’s the Clinical Sales Consultant’s job to educate the doctors on preventative medicine and diagnostic testing to help them in their diagnosis of the various ailments they treat. So that’s my 8-5, then I go straight to the gym, and I’m there till 6:30 or 7:00. After that point, I either grab dinner with a friend or get roped into some shiny object catching my attention – ha! I get home at dark, and then I’m on the computer for both jobs till about midnight. And that is the average day.


Tell us more about the record label.

I started it in 2008, and at one point I was representing three artists, but I currently only focus on one group. It’s a hip-hop group, a group of local guys. They’ve been doing their thing for a number of years prior to working with me, but didn’t have structure. They have really great material, but didn’t know the best way to market it, so I came in for the business aspect of it. It works, because we all share the same passion. When I was in school at Western, I was in the Honors College, and in the Honors College you have to do a thesis, and I did my thesis on the exploitation of hip-hop culture through marketing and certain branding campaigns using select images or preconceived notions of the culture to sell product. I take it back to the real roots of hip-hop culture and where it was born out of; it was a tool for the marginalized to use to get their voices heard. And unfortunately, for the masses, the first thing they heard in hip-hop, it was groups like The Sugarhill Gang – it was all about having fun, and nothing really worthy of material. You see some usage of the culture in mass media appropriately used, and some is way off, and they are just trying to sell product. So the group read my thesis, and they loved it. We all found that we were on the same page, and that it was their goal, too, to use hip-hop as a tool in the right way. So I’ve been working with them, and as of recent, I’ve found a local female singer who I am hoping to be working with soon! Within my role, though, I do everything aside from making the music, so anything related to producing, I’m out. But when it comes to booking studio time, getting albums pressed up, setting up shows, that’s all me. I’m the guy running around during the shows, and if I’m not video taping, I’m in the audience selling CD’s.


What kind of projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently working to try to get this female singer in the studio, and the hip-hop group I work with, Dezert Eez, they just released their sophomore album with me. I’ve been doing a lot of online marketing for them, running their Facebook and Twitter pages, looking at different avenues to get internet exposure.


What do you love most about Kalamazoo?

I’d have to say number one would be its location. For me, being as ADD as I am, if I can’t find something that intrigues my attention here, whether it’s 45 minutes north, east, west, I can find something close to keep me occupied. I grew up in Three Rivers about 30 minutes south, so Kalamazoo is everything I know; it’s got it’s only little spot here, it’s got diversity. We’ve got the college kids that bring in the youth, but you’ve got established people with local companies and organizations as well. Thermo Fisher is headquartered here – it’s just funny that it’s here in Portage, MI. There are so many big name companies that have deep deep roots here in little Kalamazoo. It’s nice to say that we’re not some little podunk town with a university here. There are places to go and places to work once you graduate.


What can be done to improve our beloved Kalamazoo?

I love that this is the next question. I don’t want this to come out sounding cynical, there are definitely things to do here, but I think there’s a huge void for 25-35 year old age group, so your young professionals. I go to the yp things as much as I can, and there are things to do, but there’s one meeting a month where we are talking to that age group. I’ll be the first to say charge me a cover some place; this group isn’t afraid to pay to do something of substance here more than once a month. It’s way too little, and there needs to be more. One thing I was thinking about was Cityscape – they have the coolest space there. If there was a way to get contact information for the young professional population and send out emails of events that are happening; things ARE happening in Kalamazoo, but how are we supposed to know about all of them? Emails or texts – that’s simple marketing, and it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality with this group. It seems like this town goes dormant after the summer. I know it’s difficult because we have great outdoor spaces to utilize, but we need to look at what we have available to us in other places too. Let’s find ways to get together for a purpose; I think we need to have something more than once a month. But maybe that’s just me – I need entertainment, constantly, I’m like a Jack Russell.


What have you been jammin’ to recently? What’s on the iPod?

Everyone that knows me well is going to giggle when I say Justin Timberlake. I’m a huge country fan, so currently Brett Eldredge, Jana Kramer, man, do I love her. This is a tough question for me, though, because I’ll listen to anything. I had Toad the Wet Sprocket playing yesterday, and probably like 15 hits that you heard back in the 90’s. My taste is pretty eclectic. John Mayer is another big favorite of mine, and he’s coming to Grand Rapids in a month, so I’m pretty excited about that. So it’s anything from oldies to pop music.


How do you take your coffee?…or do you?

Are you kidding me, absolutely no coffee, for your sake and the safety of human beings around me, I do not consume caffeine. All of this natural energy is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes you just want the brain to shut off and it’s very difficult for me to do that.


What is your favorite app to use?

I’d have to say it’s a tie between I Heart Radio and Facebook. I Heart Radio is amazing. I’ll go ahead and say I Heart Radio is greater than Pandora – I’ll back that up any day.


Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?

I guess my “Cheers” would be the Hangar. I live right by it, so I’m a fixture there. But if I want to go downtown with friends, usually my starting spot is Burdicks, and then we go from there.


What is the best reaction you’ve gotten to the name “Kalamazoo”?

My reactions to Kalamazoo have been through work. I work for a company that is headquartered here and has deep roots (I used to work for Pfizer, so it’s the same story), but have locations all over the country. It’s more of just talking about Kalamazoo and having pride for it when I talk with my coworkers who aren’t as familiar with the city. A lot of people are surprised that Stryker is right next to Thermo Fisher’s headquarters, and there’s a University, there’s a mall, and so on. So when people are in town for trainings, we just pile in my car and I take them around on a little tour to show them that we have a pretty cool spot here.


What community affiliations or passions do you have?

I recently just moved off the board for Gryphon Place; you can do two consecutive terms with them, and I’ve been on the board for six years. I would’ve never known a tenth of the stuff they do had I not been on the board. They have such a litany of things they do, probably the most prominent thing the community knows that they do is the 211 help line. They’re trying to move away from calling it a crisis hotline, because it can be used for anything, such as how do i pay my bills, how can I better support my children – they are going to be the hub for any resource in the area. If they can’t directly help them or tell them what to do, they put them in touch with people who do, so I think it helps out a lot of people in this area. It’s not just a suicide hotline, it’s more than that, but they are trained to handle those situations as well. It’s very, very intense training. The people in the phone room are strictly volunteer, and it’s rigorous training, so they can be very selective about the interactions and make sure the right people are on the end of the line to handle different levels of severity. Beyond that, in the schools there is peer mediation, crisis intervention groups, there’s a team that can go out and recommend further counseling for crisis events.


How did you get involved in this organization?

My first job right out of college was in radio advertising sales, so through that I got to know a lot of local business owners in the community. My manager at the time was about to be out of his affiliation with them, and said that this would be a great group for me to join to do some really good community service. Unfortunately, I have to take at least a year off if I want to go back on the board, but it’s a great organization, and they aren’t incentivized by money at all; it’s their passion to work in the community, similar to teachers. They work harder than anyone I know. They work on a small budget, and the decisions the board makes are way more critical than you might think.


If you could bring any national or global event to Kalamazoo, infrastructure aside, what would it be?

Selfishly, the I Heart Radio Music Fest. I was out there last year and it’s insane. The main performance is at the MGM Grand, but there’s a concert or an event going on all the time. It’s a giant fest of music for a full weekend, and you just can’t get bored when you’re around all of that.


When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I truly didn’t ever think about it. And looking back it’s kind of sad, like I didn’t want to be some crazy occupation as a kid. So as I got older, I was told, hey, you’d be good for sales, and so I went for it. The one thing I do know is that I want to entertain people, I want to be making people laugh, and showing them good music – that’s my passion. Maybe I knew that all along, but as I kid I was so shy that I never actually thought about doing something where I would be the direct center of attention. It’s funny how things change, especially looking back, but now it’s about doing what I love and doing it to the best of my abilities.


Michael, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.