Student drums up new business venture

Allan Fausnaught demonstrates how his hand-made drums work at a recent event hosted by Penn State Harrisburg's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Credit: Penn State Harrisburg / Penn StateCreative Commons

Mechanical engineering technology is Allan Fausnaught’s major. But music is his passion, and it has driven him to combine his affinity for working with his hands and his entrepreneurial spirit into a business –Woodland Percussions – creating handcrafted drums.

The Penn State Harrisburg junior has received help in establishing his new business from a student club for prospective entrepreneurs and the campus' new Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, headed by Professor of Practice Kevin Harter, the center’s director.

The club lets students network, collaborate and support each other in endeavors from making drums to “creating the next great internet sensation,” Harter said. The center, which includes dedicated space for student entrepreneurs in its Innovation Den, provides student innovators with educational and advisory opportunities and helps connect them in the local community.

Harter assisted Fausnaught by reaching out within the community to find contacts in the music industry. Matt Bloom, founder of CrimeWatch Technologies, offered up several good contacts. One of those was Jason Rubal, owner of Seventh Wave Studio, a recording studio in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. Rubal now has one of Fausnaught’s drums in his studio, and it has become a favorite for clients from around the world, he said.

“When I told Allan what I wanted, he nailed it exactly,” Rubal said.

Rubal asked for a snare drum with both a bright, crisp sound and a low end, chesty deep thump. “Usually a snare drum is good for one or the other. He was the first to give me both,” Rubal said.

Fausnaught said he first started banging on drums when he was three years old. With music-loving parents, he grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. He got more serious about learning to drum in middle school, and loves anything rock and heavy metal.

Last summer, Fausnaught decided to build a drum from scratch as a hobby. The prototype turned out well. He took it to Dale’s Drum Shop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for an honest opinion. The owners not only liked it, they put it on the shelf for sale.

Fausnaught has now made a half dozen drums, and each one gets better. He starts at the lumber yard to choose the type of wood he wants. He cuts it into staves, glues it into a cylinder shape, and mills it with a lathe. He drills the holes for the hardware, which have to be very precise, and he stains the outside to make the drums look rustic but classy.

His promotional brochure describes them as “handcrafted solid wood drums with one-of-a-kind finishes” that he made “using little more than a decades old table saw, a few hand tools and an extraordinary amount of patience and determination.”

The first drum took him about 40 hours to make, but he now has it down to 12 to 14 hours. He is selling them for about $650 each.

Fausnaught is also learning marketing. The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center provided him and other students with opportunities to talk about their business ideas to people within the University community, including Penn State President Eric Barron and his wife, Molly, who have become fans. Barron highlighted the efforts of Fausnaught and other Penn State Harrisburg student entrepreneurs during a presentation for the Penn State University Board of Trustees in March, to which the students were invited guests.

Fausnaught, who also is planning a professional video, continues to approach drum stores and attend music conferences to promote his fledgling business.

He plans to find a job in his major when he graduates, and make the drums on the side unless and until it looks like he can make a career of it. It’s not really about the money, he said, it’s about the music. He would like to join a professional band when he graduates as well.

Rubal thinks Fausnaught can make a living with his drums. One has already been used on albums by musicians from Berlin, Belgium, Los Angeles and other locales.

Harter said he does not know much about the music industry, but he is sure Fausnaught will be successful in whatever he does.

“Allan is all substance,” Harter said. “He is a hardworking student and committed. I gave him a couple of contacts, but he did all the follow-up, which is impressive for a young person.”

Last Updated July 20, 2016