Business-in-residence Spotlight: Red Panda

curt red panda

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The Roles of Red Panda:

Red Panda is a design and manufacturing business which constructs guitar pedals that enable experimentally-minded musicians to create new sounds.

Who’s in Charge?

Curt Malouin, the creator of Red Panda, who previously held a career as an electrical and software engineer.

The beginning of Red Panda:

Writing software for the audio industry as his day job and writing music software at home, Curt realized he missed working with hardware (which he had done during college). Yet, one day in 2009, as if sensing Curt’s rising unfulfilled passion, a friend sent a Youtube video of an organ player, playing with a guitar pedal, and it clicked. So he combined his three loves, computer programming, hardware design, and music, which make up the core of Red Panda (considering the guitar pedals are basically small computers with the ability to process sound).

The Name of the Panda:

One day while strolling through the Central Park Zoo, Curt and his daughter, who was nine at the time, ended up in front of the Red Panda exhibit. Earlier in the day, the two had brainstormed various names for the new business with no luck, and standing there in front of the fluffy creatures, Curt jokingly asked, “What about Red Panda?” With the quick wit of a nine year old, his daughter replied, “Red pandas are cool.” Seeing as how Curt’s only criteria for the name was no embarrassment when writing checks, making bank visits, or speaking with customers, the name fit like a glove.

The goals of Red Panda:

According to Curt, as a creative music product designer, Red Panda’s main goal is to release a stream of innovative products, each one more ambitious than the last. When asked if moving into a larger space was his goal, Curt replied with, “The company will grow as necessary to support my product dream,” not the other way around.

The path to Red Panda:  

At 10 years old, Curt was smitten with three very appetizing interests: local DJ The Electrifying Mojo, computer programming, and electronics. As a result, from an early age he knew he wanted to be an electrical engineer. While Curt believes he could have created Red Panda without a college education, he says that college was beneficial to him for two reasons: first, it helped him learn the method behind the madness. Second, college provided him beneficial resources such as textbooks and like-minded people, that he calls upon when in need of aid today.

My Thoughts:

When I first began writing this, the sole topic I wanted to discuss was how adorable Red Pandas are, and after conducting this interview, those two words have become the most popular search on my computer. Yet, what I probably should discuss is… nope, I can’t. It must be said. Red Pandas are the most adorable creatures in the world! *drops mic. Walks away. ‘nough said*

But on a more serious note, passion and college are usually such prevalent subjects in this section of the Business-in-residence spotlight, and today makes no different. But I must say, the greatest lesson I have learned from writing the spotlights is that there is another choice. To elaborate, during my high school career I have been presented two pathways of life: employee or military. At my school, we learn how to be the best employee we can be. We learn how to follow directions, take initiative to ask for tasks, and how to ace an interview. But when is someone going to teach me how to be an employer? When will someone introduce entrepreneurship as an important topic? Because students have become so conditioned to believe that the only way to work in America is under someone else. But I sincerely thank businesses like Red Panda, who have taught me that being an employee, although admirable, isn’t my only option.

Want to learn more about Red Panda’s innovative products? Check out redpandalab.com. 

Green Garage business-in-residence spotlights are written by Nehe-Miah Scarborough, a student at Detroit Cristo Rey High School who’s working with the Green Garage during the 2015-16 school year.

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