Back from the Bench (continued)
The Metro Detroit resident has the communications business in his blood. His father, William E. Davis, Jr., owned his own local radio television business in Ecorse, Michigan, and growing up, young Butch watched and listened as his father conducted his business.
Today, thanks to the Michigan Employment Loan Fund (MELF), Butch's dreams of following in his father's footsteps have finally come to fruition.
"It's a challenge that I'm enjoying tremendously," the longtime
sportswriter and announcer says of his "Butch On Sports" radio program.
Given his journey to get here, Butch's radio program is much more triumph than challenge. His journey started about five years ago, when he was diagnosed with diabetes, and soon found himself unable to work. Butch decided to file for Social Security disability, and was approved after four months. But his desire to work had not diminished. One day, he received a letter about Ticket to Work, a federal program that helps people receiving Social Security benefits find and maintain employment. "I thought, 'Whoa, this is cool,' " said Butch. " 'They'll help me get retrained and I might get a job.' "
Butch started to work with Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) to utilize the Ticket to Work. However, he resisted the suggestion to just take any available job. "I didn't want that," Butch explained. "I said, 'I've been doing disc jockey work, I've been doing communication work, I've been in sports now for doggone close to almost 25 years. Why should I throw that down the drain because of what someone else wants me to do?' "
Butch has never been one to back down from a challenge - especially one involving his passion for sports.
As a youth growing up in Detroit, Butch was always interested in athletics, playing hockey, football, baseball and basketball. He graduated from Detroit Southwestern High School, and won a scholarship to play football at Portland State University, where he minored in radio and television communications. That was where he also began his career spinning records at the local station.
"I was nervous as heck, but that was the beginning of my relationship with radio," says Butch. He eventually took on his first radio job at the Portland station as a jazz disc jockey.
In 1995, Butch moved back to Detroit, where a knee injury left him on the sidelines. Unable to work for about a year, Butch eventually went back to college full time in his early 40s, earning a degree in journalism.
During that time, Butch was also spinning records at a college radio station in Dearborn. When his show was moved to the evening slot, "that's when I got my notoriety there," Butch said with a laugh.
Butch got to know many people in the business during that time, and did many freelance assignments, gaining experience all the way. In the late 90s, Butch took a step into a new field. "There was a neighborhood newspaper called the Telegram News, and they were always printing about things that had nothing to do with the neighborhood, so me, being the clown that I am, I went down there and complained about it," Butch recalls. He ended up with a job, and eventually became the paper's sports editor. He is still a contributor to the paper to this day, volunteering his writing skills.
But Butch was raised on radio - and blessed with a gift of gab. He knew deep down he belonged back on the air.
He said the idea to start a radio show came overnight. "'Why am I working for everybody else when I can work for myself?'" he continued. "'I've got all the skills in town, I've got all the accolades, I'm very well-respected by my peers in Michigan, why am I doing this? Why am I throwing myself away?' And that started the process. I've been doing sports for years; I want to have my own radio show. I can't depend on other radio stations to hire me because this is a competitive business."
Butch said the idea for a radio show was a first for someone working with MRS. "I thought, 'I'm almost a Guinea pig on this,' " he said. "You have many people who were doubters or didn't understand the concept of what it is to do a radio show. I was very comfortable with the concept and all of what I needed to do."
One of the major things he needed to do in order to work with MRS was to write a business plan. "I'm a good writer ... but a business plan? Oh boy," said Butch. He spent about two years working on a plan, only to find it wasn't acceptable. "I got turned down a couple times there, and I just kept on plugging away," he said.
Finally, after doing some research, he discovered that he had the right to have someone write him a business plan. He had one written up, and at the same time started thinking about what resources of his own he could bring to the table. He had some equipment, but not everything that he would need. So he turned to the Michigan Employment Loan Fund, a program of UCP Michigan.
Butch is very positive about his experience with UCP. "Your organization gave me the key to start the car," Butch said. "If it wasn't for your organization doing what they're doing, I'm not sure I'd be where I'm at right now, at all."
As soon as everything was finalized with MRS and his loan from MELF, Butch went out and purchased a laptop computer, a digital recorder, and other essential equipment. "It made things a lot simpler to have that loan," he said. "I was able to get the major things that I needed in order to get started and be self-reliant." He put on a pilot episode of the show in November, 2010. "That's where I discovered what I need to do in order to enhance the show, so by the time I got the money I needed from your organization, the game plan was already set," he explained.
Despite his health challenges, Butch remains positive about running his business. "Do I have to arrange things where things are going to be comfortable for me?" he said. "Yes. But you get out there every morning, you get the work done, you try to advertise your business the best you can, you keep battling. You've got to stay positive in this stuff."
Staying positive is a philosophy Butch has embraced throughout his life, as he melded his passions for sports and radio. Butch is thrilled that he has been able to turn his love of writing, radio, and sports into a job that he is passionate about. "If you don't have a passion for what you do, don't go after the money," he said. "If you have a passion and you stick to the passion and learn the system and do everything right, the money will be there."
Butch's next goal is to expand the show from a half hour to an hour, which would most likely involve a move to a different station. "It's easier to carry it over, to say, 'Look, we're proven' rather than break the show down and have nothing and have to start all over," he explained. Butch is grateful that the show's audience is growing, and is hopeful that an increase in advertisers will follow. He is also looking at innovative ways to create revenue sources, such as podcasting.
In the meantime, Butch said he is having fun and is pleased with the outcome of the show so far.
"Sports are one of the things that make a lot of people happy, no matter what their problems," he said.
You can hear "Butch on Sports" on radio station AM1440 WDRJ Detroit between 6 and 6:30 p.m. You can also listen to the show via the internet. Butch has covered the Detroit Pistons, Tigers, Lions, Shock and Red Wings, plus the NBA Finals, WNBA Finals, NBA All-Star Game and other major sports events including the 2000 Olympics in Australia.