Qiana Coachman-Strickland (a.k.a. DJ Q Boogie) is a longtime music lover who remembers dancing in her room and listening to records on a Fisher-Price record player when she was six years old. In the late 1990s, Qiana was first intrigued by the art of DJing. She spent years refining her craft and moonlighting as a DJ and, in 2019, she left her job as an underwriter and embraced entrepreneurship.
Qiana spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about how her passion developed and when she knew it was time to take the leap.
NAN PRICE: You’ve always loved music, but how exactly did you go from underwriter to full-time DJ?
QIANA COACHMAN-STRICKLAND: It’s funny, I first became interested in DJing 22 years ago when I was at Bar With No Name, which was in downtown Hartford. I remember telling a friend I wanted to learn how to DJ. The response was discouraging, basically saying: Why would you do that, it’s for boys? Back then, I was still trying to find myself, so I set that interest aside and focused on other things, like building a career.
Fast forward to about 10 years ago, my friend and I were hosting a party and I was in charge of getting the DJ. That night I got the same feeling I had back at Bar With No Name. I was dancing with a friend and mentioned I wanted to learn to DJ. That friend became my mentor who encouraged me by teaching me the basics. He gave me some turntables, speakers, a mixer, and some records. I spent a lot of time practicing and gradually started upgrading my equipment. I also acquired some other mentors who helped me.
Around that time, a friend and I started The Ultimate DJ Showcase. We wanted to bring DJs together to present their skills because we noticed there were a lot of different showcases for people singing or playing music, but nothing focused on DJs.
We started small with about 10 DJs and the engagement was phenomenal. At first, I was contacting DJs to get them on the bill, but eventually local DJs started contacting me. It became a monthly event that got bigger and bigger. All the while, I was working on my DJ skills and learning from all the other DJs. It’s basically how I became DJ Q Boogie.
NAN: At what point did you decide transition into full-time DJing. What was that decision like for you?
QIANA: It was scary at first. About six years ago, I got business cards and even that was scary, because it made it seem real. Even back then, I remember thinking: Am I really a DJ? Am I really doing this?
I started digging deep and really going out there and trying to get gigs. People were noticing me and hyped up because I’m a female DJ. In 2019, I was 1st Runner Up DJ in Hartford Magazine’s Best of Hartford poll. I had started DJing more, which was good, but I was still afraid to leave my full-time job.
Transitions had taken place, though and it had become very stressful, to the point where it was affecting my health. My husband encouraged me to leave and focus on the DJing, which he could see I was more passionate about.
Finally, on August 15, 2019, I decided to leave my underwriter job. Looking back, I wish I had left my job a lot sooner, because I really didn’t have time to focus on what I love to do.
NAN: In what ways are you getting involved in the local business community and utilizing entrepreneurial resources?
QIANA: A friend told me about the Women’s Business Center at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center—which is where you and I met, at the 20th Anniversary event. I took a free marketing seminar there and I got so much information.
My friend Leslie Gomez of LMG Photography has had her business for about three years. She’s helped expose me to different resources and networking opportunities, including the #MakeItInCT panel series you moderate at West Hartford Coworking. It was a cool surprise to see you there!
I also went to Galvanize Connecticut in December and took a one-on-one entrepreneurship class. I connected with someone at reSET while I was there, and I’m planning to follow up.
So, I’ve been networking a lot and enjoying meeting other women entrepreneurs who are doing big things here in the Hartford area, too. I love supporting other people in the community. I’ve always loved helping people. I could always figure out what everyone else should be doing, but not myself. So now I’m focusing more on me and how to make my own business successful.
NAN: What’s next?
QIANA: I’m continuing to build my network and my business. I have been busier than ever DJing galas, women empowerment events, corporate and social Events, weddings, and parties. Leslie and I have partnered to provide an audio visual experience with my DJing and her photography. We’re also providing more lighting and sound options for clients that want to take their events to the next level.
I plan on reigniting The Ultimate DJ Showcase as an annual festival and I’m working on a video series called “Behind the Turntables” where I’ll interview local DJs and feature them on WIN-TV, YouTube, and a podcast. Stay tuned!
A few years back, I created The Art of DJing Youth Enrichment Program, an afterschool program at Dwight Bellizzi School in Hartford where I taught kids the basics of DJing, entrepreneurship, as well as life skills. I did that program for two years. I enjoyed teaching the kids and seeing them blossom into these mini/future DJs. It was an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to bringing that type of program back into some local schools.
I’m excited about what’s next. Becoming an entrepreneur is one of the best moves I’ve made in a long time and I can’t wait to see what 2020 has to offer me.