Sue Avant perhaps needs a letter added to her last name. That’s because she is a savant. As the definition says, she is a learned scholar. But there’s so much more to the president of Avant Electronics. Her background, her admiration for music and her love of participation in two other activities, completely unrelated to our industry, makes for quite a story.
Avant’s life immediately got off to an exciting start. She was born at Camp Pendleton in California and was delivered by two marine sergeants. When she was just 3 months old, her family moved back to their native Texas.
Life continued to be fascinating. How’s this for a story? When she met her future husband, Ken, 17 years ago, Avant discovered both grew up in two nearby Texas cities. They grew up two blocks away from each other. In fact, both went to the same preschool.
Here’s the kicker: they had never met before. They met for the first time after Avant returned to live in California. Two former Texans who could walk to each other’s homes both moved to California and met each other. How’s that for fate?
But wait, there’s more. The two would see each other on occasion because Sue was the national credit manager for Alesis and Ken was managing Guitar Center’s pro audio department. “He’d come to our seminars and I’d see him walking by,” Avant said. “I even served him and his girlfriend hot dogs and beer. I wanted to meet southern California dealers and develop relationships.”
The couple, who were on a romantic collision course only Hollywood could conjure, met again at a subsequent Winter NAMM show. “We met on January 15. On February 20 (of the same year), he proposed,” Avant said. “On April 9, we were married. We were both married before, so we knew what we didn’t want. It worked. Here we are today.”
A couple of years later, Avant hurt her back and Ken decided he didn’t want to commute to Los Angeles anymore because he didn’t have a commuting partner. “We decided to come home and work in retail,” Avant said. “Ken used to own three music stores. We worked in retail out of our house and, later, Ken suddenly began to provide advice to three different manufacturing companies about products.”
Ken Avant has been designing products since he was 16 years old. After helping the three manufacturers, Sue asked Ken if he was ready to start his own business. “We incorporated in 2003,” she said. “We spent two-and-a-half years in research and development. We shipped our first product in 2006. We launched our Mixcube and three accessories. We just grew to the product line that we have today.”
That microphone product line consists of the three original accessories, its Passive Mixcubes and Active Mixcubes. “We just redeveloped our drum microphone line, which is coming out shortly,” Avant added. “We also have a new Abbey Series studio monitor line coming out.”
“I believe in my husband and what we make,” she continued. “He has great vision and is eclectic about what he wants to make. We are very picky about what products we release. We won’t make a product unless we’d use it in our studio. And we quality check every mic before it leaves here. We also want people to make good music affordably. If you can’t afford to make good music, you will be limited. Our goal is to make affordable, top-quality products.”
Avant is a trailblazer. She became the No. 3 female credit manager for Pacific Finance (now TransAmerica Finance). Even more impressive, she earned that title at the age of 21. “Women just weren’t in that field,” said Avant.
She stayed in the credit manager role, but moved on to different industries, including Gallo wine and a plastic materials company. “I spent about five years each learning those industries,” she said. “But music was always in my heart. I was a music major in college. I lucked out when I got an interview at Roland Corp. I worked at Roland as a western regional credit manager. The moment I joined Roland, I knew I never wanted to leave the music industry. From there, I became the national credit manager at Alesis. When I joined Alesis, there were 32 people. When I left Alesis after a three-year period, there were about 300 employees. There truly was explosive growth. Because of the incredible growth, we all needed to wear many hats. I learned most every aspect of the business. That put me in really good stead for the future.”
Of course, Avant knows women are in the minority in MI. But she looks at everything as a challenge. She never thinks of anything as male versus female. However, Avant did say this: “Women can even do a great job running a shipping department. I joked with my husband and the male employees that they couldn’t make the warehouse as efficient as I could. They couldn’t fit half the things I could in there. As a woman, I’m tidy and a clean freak!”
“But everyone has a strength or weakness. I never think of things as male or female. The only time I’ve ever thought about that is regarding international people who have preferred to talk to a man on occasion. During those times, you might need to have someone else step up for you. But 99.9 percent of everything that happens are things I can handle.”
Don’t Bet Against Her
When not shaping up Avant Electronics’ shipping department or enthusiastically discussing the company’s excellent future, Avant has two very different hobbies: playing Texas Hold ‘Em poker and rescuing animals. “I like to donate money to animal rescue efforts,” said Avant. “Animals can’t speak for themselves. I’ve bottle-fed and raised 19 cats and rescued two dogs. I currently have three cats and one dog, all of which I’ve rescued.”
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