By Heidi Carreon -
Even the best of us can forget a deadline or miss a meeting. From filing the paperwork to marketing your brand, running a business requires a lot of mental energy and memory. But imagine waking up one day without knowing how you started your business in the first place?
Jaimee Kort, DJ and owner of Edge Entertainment in Los Angeles, experienced this in late 2014. After two emotionally taxing events, Jaimee was diagnosed with complex retrograde amnesia.
“I don’t remember what it was like to be a kid,” Jaimee explained to us, but she returned to running her business soon after her diagnosis. Today, not only is her business flourishing, but Jaimee also dedicates part of her time to being a princess model for Disney artists. Fascinated by her story, we sat down with this DJ princess to discuss the past five years and insights on her success.
Forgetting The Music
Jaimee has been DJ-ing throughout her adult life. While she has no memories before October 2013, what Jaimee does know is that she created Edge Entertainment in 2005, performing as a DJ and MC for weddings and corporate events.
But her life took a different turn when her mother fell ill. When Jaimee’s mother passed away in her arms in 2014, she knew she needed to take a step back. On her best days as a DJ and MC, Jaimee drives the energy of celebrations, helping the itinerary move along without a hitch and keeping crowds dancing throughout the night.
“After my mom died, though, I just couldn’t perform...and I knew people deserved to have just as good of an evening [regardless of my personal life],” Jaimee explained.
She soon delegated tasks to the other DJs employed under her, which allowed her to keep the lights on as she took time to heal. But Jaimee’s life took another turn when she lost her father in November 2014. Between the unexpected loss of her father and the pain of losing her mother earlier in the year, Jaimee bawled uncontrollably in the middle of her kitchen. The last thing she remembered was her husband comforting her.
“The next morning, I woke up without a past,” Jaimee said. She could remember who she was, and the day before, but episodes of her earlier life, like her childhood, were completely wiped out. After visiting doctors and taking tests, she learned that she had complex retrograde amnesia. “My husband and I hoped that it would last for a short while.”
Finding a New Beat
But it wouldn’t be a short while. In the weeks afterward, Jaimee’s brain “skipped.” Emotions from events long ago felt as if they just happened; in one instance she yelled at her husband for an incident resolved 10 years prior, even though they rarely fight today.
“I thought it would take a month, and I would wake up and everything would come back,” Jaimee said, “But that didn’t happen.”
Luckily, Jaimee didn’t lose all of her memory. She still knew how to tie her shoes and other details such as the names of loved ones. But remembering specific events was hazy, and often impossible. She had to re-familiarize herself with her employees since she only had one years’ worth of memories with them. She had to relearn songs that would fit her clients’ tastes. She needed to freshen up her DJ skills.
Even though navigating the world with partial information was a bit hard, one thing was certain for Jaimee: she was returning to performing.
“Life needed to move forward. There are going to be things that hit you out of the blue,” Jaimee said, “You can’t go back and undo anything...I didn’t want to be stuck in my life.”
With that newfound fire, Jaimee set off to navigate her new normal and grow her business over the next four years. And, as she puts it, “I have been through the ringer.”
Because of the unique circumstances of her condition, Jaimee went through years of testing and experimental procedures with doctors that often left her feeling ill after each session. She learned to carry the emotional burden of having amnesia. For instance, innocent comments such as “Do you remember this?” makes her very uncomfortable because she doesn’t. It’s even harder to hear what her life was like before she had amnesia.
“You don’t want to feel like you’re in someone’s shadow because the pre-amnesia person is talked about as though they had no faults,” Jaimee said, “You have people feeding you information and no way to know if it’s true or not.”
Even though Jaimee still experiences rough emotional patches associated with having amnesia, her business is thriving. Today, Jaimee and her staff are hired for celebrations all over Southern California, most notably this year’s Rose Bowl pre-game celebrations for both University of Washington and Ohio State. Her company featured on Disney Fairytale Weddings, My Fair Wedding and David Tutera’s CELEBrations. In her free time, she also takes time to model for Disney artists and DJ as a princess, and you can see her fairytale and performing adventures all over her feed.
When it comes to managing her time and resources, Jaimee has a few tips for women entrepreneurs:
Play Your Strengths:
There are few DJ companies led by a woman, but Jaimee never let that bother her.
“A lot of DJs are good at what they do,” Jaimee said, “But what you’re getting with me is a business that has a very detailed-oriented structure, and clients like that.”
Her detailed-oriented trait made her company particularly successful in the wedding industry; Jaimee empathizes with anxious brides. Rather than having engaged couples pick out their own DJ, for instance, she takes time to personally match clients and DJs.
Take Time To Recenter:
Even though Jaimee is a night owl, she wakes up at 6 am every morning before the rest of the world starts the clock at 9 am. She considers this her sacred time and uses it to set her focus and relax her mind, whether reading, journaling or writing notes.
“I will still get myself up because I want to have those three hours to myself in the morning,” Jaimee said, “I’ll set goals, what I want to accomplish, what I need emotionally for that day.”
Jaimee usually sets about five or so things that absolutely need to be done that day. She celebrates when she’s able to cross off everything on the list, but she also recognizes there are days when only three things can be crossed off.
“But if you structure yourself first in the morning,” Jamiee said, “Your productivity is going to go through the roof.”
Collaboration, Not Competition:
Jaimee is generous with the spotlight when it comes to her success, crediting her team for doing a great job at stepping up while she mourned her mother and when she eased back into DJ-ing. Inspired that Carol Burnett always hired strong performers for her show, Jaimee’s secret to having a great team is to always hire people who were just as good as her, if not better. She thinks women entrepreneurs shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.
“You’re the one driving a machine, a community,” Jaimee said, “You never know when they might carry you and when you’ll carry them. Often, it’s both.”
Even though Jaimee already found much success and fulfillment in her career, she’s looking towards an even bigger future as her business continues to grow.
“My life motto is that I’m a work in progress,” Jaimee laughed, “I’ve got a lot of ideas running through my head, and I’m excited to see where this goes.”