October and November are a blur. MTMS opened on 9/26/2010 and skyrocketed to well over 100 students in two months. Our Holiday Recitals are already upon us, and compared to our 1-hour Spring Recital and our 1.5-hour Summer Recital, our Holiday Recital will consume 6 hours crossing two days. Once again, we are enormously grateful to our host, Potbelly Sandwich Works at Stoneridge Plaza, and we encourage you to buy lots of steamy soup and tasty milkshakes for you and your hardworking performers.
Personally, the business has consumed my time. My Potbelly performance schedule has dropped from six days per week to five days, and I passed up a great opportunity to perform again for Sunny 95’s Girls Night Out event, which was so much fun this summer. And I haven’t added a single new Christmas song to my holiday repertoire this year, nor written a new original song in over a year. And clearly, blogging has taken second place to hiring teachers ,scheduling students, and planning events like the Mifflin Township Fire Department Open House, the Gahanna Holiday Lights! Festival, and our 2010 Holiday Recitals. Make no mistake: Starting a small business takes up all of your time. Here are a couple of tips that I have found help make a business start-up successful:
1. Have a plan. Then have a contingency plan. Then have five more contingency plans.
2. Have at least double the funds you think you need. Have a lending source on standby, because you will be shocked at the financial needs that suddenly arise, even with a plan and six contingency plans.
3. Have a support network made up of family, friends, and – surprise! – clients. Volunteers are everywhere if you know where to look. Use them – AND APPRECIATE THEM. That’s all they want from you.
4. Keep it fun! A fun work environment motivates you, your staff, and your volunteers to do much more than you thought you could do with the budget you have.
5. Marketing: Location! Location! Location! and Know Your Target Market. I can’t express these enough. It’s Marketing 101, and yet, until you’re in the midst of it, it’s hard to understand how important these concepts are. When we open our second studio – and, yes, we plan to open a second studio – we know the recipe for a successful start-up. Our success in Gahanna was part design and part luck. We hit the nail on the head, and next time we open, we’ll be very careful to do it again.
and, finally, 6. Don’t share all your secrets online with your competitors. (D’oh!)
All jesting aside, we have had suspicious queries ranging from innocent-sounding phone calls asking how our lessons work to a woman who literally walked into the store, looked around, commented on the atmosphere in the lobby, asked how on earth one teaches songwriting (don’t you just have to have talent to do that?), and then asked how we pay our teachers (and she was apparently not looking for a job.) *awkward*
People, we have no secrets. We teach music lessons. We hire highly qualified teachers, and we pay them to teach students. We have a nice studio with a comfortable lobby. We have competitive pricing right around the same range as everyone else in our category. We advertise all our products and pricing online for our competitors – and more importantly, our customers – to see.
We love our jobs. Literally, every single office staff member, teacher, and volunteer loves their job. That’s our secret. And if you’re thinking of starting a business, that should be your secret, too.