It’s been an uphill battle for student group Stu­dents in Free Enter­prise and Hillsdale busi­nessman David Horton in their quest to attract more business to The Dawn Theater, but they’re not giving up yet.

Since the Hillsdale College orga­ni­zation part­nered with Horton this year to host con­certs downtown, it has struggled with sched­uling, can­cel­la­tions, and low atten­dance.

Horton esti­mated that for an event at The Dawn to be prof­itable, SIFE would need to sell about 100 tickets. For the three SIFE events so far, average ticket sales have num­bered just more than 50.

The dis­crepancy does not worry Horton — in fact, he said the showings are important business expe­rience for the student entre­pre­neurs.

“I think SIFE’s efforts are a great entre­pre­neurial effort. And in any entre­pre­neurial effort, there are the risks that things will not turn out quite as antic­i­pated,” Horton said.

He said this is a very normal part of the process.

“In any series of events, there is what’s known as audience devel­opment,” Horton said. “In the beginning it requires a bit of an investment of time and effort in order to develop an audience that is inter­ested in coming to future events.”

Sophomore Nick Allen, SIFE project manager, said the shows have clearly shown an increase in audience devel­opment. He said he thought student bands were beginning to inde­pen­dently book The Dawn more than in the past.

“I think we’ve been able to do a lot to get stu­dents there more often, which I think long-term should really help The Dawn,” said sophomore Jonathan Slonim, who has worked with Allen on the project.

In the last couple of years, the only concert that has drawn large numbers of Hillsdale College stu­dents to The Dawn was Megan Moss and the Latest Ruckus in November, 2010, which sold over 250 tickets.

Allen said he has learned from recent efforts to plan ahead and keep in better touch with bands to prevent sched­uling con­flicts. For instance, the latest event, a Battle of the DJs, went south when freshman disc jockey Wyatt McDonnell had to pull out because of music fra­ternity Phi Mu Alpha’s ini­ti­ation, leaving the “battle” to become a hastily impro­vised rave concert by Allen and sophomore Robert Ramsey.

Senior Kate Olson said she loves the theater itself, and attends almost every concert held there. She thinks the dis­tance from campus, slight as it is, might deter stu­dents from coming.

At a recent concert by campus band The Cutoffs, Olson said atten­dance was low.

“I feel like it’s kind of dead when we go. Maybe if they had some music playing when we get there, before the real band gets started, just to up the atmos­phere,” she said. “As soon as you enter the building, it feels like we’re waiting around for it to start, instead of ‘You’re at a concert! This is going to be great!’”

Olson said she thought beefing up the open bar could also improve the events.

“They didn’t have any hard liquor, and they didn’t have a great beer selection. They had three or four kinds of wine, and that was it,” she said. “I feel like even if they expand the bar just a little bit, it would be really worth it, because it’s a cool atmos­phere.”

Horton and SIFE members are encouraged by the baby steps.

“I think the guys and the girls have done a great job in putting on events,” Horton said. “I’ve been very pleased … I think it’s been a win-win sit­u­ation.”