Hilltop Entertainment: Boone’s nightlife solution


Matthew Helton (left) and Alex Reese (right) pose for a photo in the studio. Photo courtesy of Hilltop Entertainment

Katie Murawski

Students and young adults of the Boone community no longer need to worry about finding weekend plans.

Hilltop Entertainment, DBA does a wide variety of events at local bars like Cilantro’s in downtown Boone and Barra Sushi Club in Banner Elk, or planned parties at a rented venue, which usually have $5-$10 cover fees.

Hilltop Nation LLC is, according to Watauga County courthouse records, the first student-run holding company and the 12th non-bank holding company in Boone. An LLC, or limited liability company has the flexibility and tax efficiencies of a partnership but the limited liability of a corporation. Helton describes this company as an “entrapreneurship that empowers others within the company to facilitate their own ventures.”

Helton said that Hilltop Nation has seven private stock owners and is the parent company of Hilltop Entertainment, DBA. Hilltop Nation facilitates other business ventures. Hilltop Entertainment, DBA is a “doing business as” company, which allows the company to run under a trade name not filed under the company’s legal name.

Though Hilltop Nation is run by students, it is in no way affiliated with Appalachian State University, its athletics or Greek life programs, but the company hopes to gain the level of loyalty that goes along with these groups.

Hilltop Entertainment, DBA is co-owned by senior music industry recording and production major, Alex Reese and senior chemistry fermentation major Matthew Helton, the president of Hilltop Entertainment. Helton is also a member of student government, the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and Minority Men’s leadership.

Reese and Helton thought of the idea of Hilltop Nation and Hilltop Entertainment when they were underage in Boone and noticed that nightlife was nearly nonexistent to students and people throughout the community who were not allowed to drink. The company was then officially established Oct. 24, 2014. Reese and Helton believe that Hilltop Entertainment can solve the nightlife conflict in Boone.

“With the lack of nightlife, unders have to choose either house parties or house parties, and not many of those parties provide liability and are generally unsafe,” Helton said. “We wanted to expand our brand and offer a service to provide an alternative and more importantly, a safe way to attend a party.”

Reese and Helton said that being college students has helped them both in their business endeavors. For Reese, it was the influence of Scott Wynne, ASU’s head of production and recording program and for Helton, deadlines for assignments has made college useful because of the real world application of deadlines for the company to plan parties. They said they believe that the people at the Entrepreneurship Center in Peacock Hall are the greatest people on campus.

“I went to college to learn, and the entrepreneurship center encourages a DIY approach to starting your own business, which is what Hilltop Nation is,” said Reese. “I got the best education from the studio where I learned about DJing, live sound producing and mix mastering.”

To build a more personable relationship with guests, the company adds incentive to those who RSVP promptly. The parties’ invitations are usually sent out via a Facebook event page; those who are on the “going” list will be considered a VIP guest that receives a free ride to the event and Hilltop merchandise.

On Nov. 20, the company hosted the “Turn Up” party at the High Country Home Builders Association venue located on the 105 Bypass. According to the Facebook page, 292 people attended the party, showing growth from the 42 attendees at a Hilltop Entertainment party in July.

The “Turn Up” party was described as a learning experience for Helton. It was the second time Hilltop Entertainment was able to reach out to the 18 and up crowd since the free “Black and White” party held after the football game on Oct. 22.

Abby Hartley, a junior psychology major, was a VIP guest at the Black and White party and said, “the party was pretty dang awesome.”

Hilltop Entertainment is currently seeking to attain full legal license to sell and distribute spirits and beer at their events. Florescent green paper wristbands are given to those 18 and up and the orange wristbands are given to those 21 and up. Helton said that if someone wearing a green band is seen drinking, they will be asked to toss out their drink. If they are caught a second time, they will be asked to leave and the police will be called immediately.

Helton said he has built a personal relationship with the Watauga County Sheriff and the neighbors surrounding the venue. Helton informs and waits for approval from both the sheriff and neighbors before having a party and he said they provide valuable insight on how to run a party event.

“The law enforcement in Boone, contrary to public belief, is not out to bust parties,” Helton said. “They have a duty to react when they are called.”

Hilltop Entertainment has expanded from themed house parties, weddings and private events to recording and producing music. Reese plans to venture Hilltop Entertainment into a publishing company that produces albums and artists right from Boone.

The process has already begun with Alex Hill aka Franco, local hip-hop and R&B artist who is set to release an EP in March. Helton said that Hill has a “J. Coleish” vibe, but his lyrics speak to current times. Hill is a father who works with Hilltop Entertainment full time.

Hill is also a part of Reese’s own DJ group the Hilltop Boyz who released an EP called May 16.

Reese and Helton both predict that Hilltop Nation is staying in Boone and in five to 10 years will be taking the wheel and having influence in society. They said Hilltop Nation and Entertainment’s overall vision can be summed up with a term coined by the co-owners “Hilltopin’” which means doing your own thing and taking it to the next level.

“When I was a little kid I dreamed about owning my own business because the thought of working for corporate America scared me,” said Reese. “Starting a business is not easy, and it isn’t readily encouraged in the music department.”

Reese said he encourages young entrepreneurs to be proactive and pursue the dream despite fear of failure. Helton said encourages these four steps: “Spend time on a vision and mission statement,” Helton said. “Have a team because no global companies run by one person. Don’t spend so much time on developing a plan – developing requires taking risks and embrace the challenge and find problem no one else has solved.”

The dates for future parties are going to be Jan. 15, Feb.12, and Mar. 17 at the Home Builders Association venue on the NC Highway 105 bypass. Flyers will be passed out the first week of classes and by bringing that to the party people will receive free entry. In the meantime, Reese plans to hold monthly performances for Hill.

For more information about booking and events visit Hilltop Entertainment’s website at http://hilltopentertainmentnetwork.com.

Story by: Katie Murawski, A&E Editor