How to Start Your Very Own String Music School

By Lee, Louise | Strings, December 2009 | Go to article overview

How to Start Your Very Own String Music School


Lee, Louise, Strings


Entrepreneur shares pointers on the nuts and bolts of founding your own string program

EVER HAVE THAT ENTREPRENEURIAL URGE to start your own string-music school? Dr. Lisa Chu did. Five years later, the violinist and medical professional, who had been working in the venture capital industry, is running The Music Within Us, a music school in Palo Alto, California, that teaches 30 students, ages three to ten. Private and group violin lessons, performances, seminars for parents, and group recitals are all part of the program. "It's truly a learning community," Chu says.

For those thinking about starting their own learning community, Chu shares a few considerations that have helped mold her dream into a successful program.

START WITH THE START-UP FUNDS

Start-up money is needed with any small enterprise to cover one-time expenses and recurring costs until a reliable cash flow has been developed. For example, once you've located an appropriate space for your school, you'll need to pay the rent regardless of your incoming revenue. To pay for these initial expenses, you might start by digging into your own savings. Or ask relatives for gifts and loans. If you don't want to talk money at the next reunion, apply for small-business loans from banks and other lenders, including the federal government's Small Business Administration.

FIND THE RIGHT SPACE & GEAR

The best location will offer plenty of parking or at least easy access to public transportation. If children are your clientele, parents will be comforted if the space is in a safe part of town. Consider a studio large enough to accommodate group lessons. If your teaching method requires space to dance or walk to music, think bigger. Because the studio should also be able to accommodate parents and siblings who might be watching and waiting during lessons, think even bigger. And reserve space for a piano or keyboard if you're planning to use an accompanist.

Essential classroom gear doesn't just include a few lesson books and stands; think white board, dry-erase markers, and festive decorations, too. For the office, you'll need a computer, accounting software, a phone line, filing cabinets, pens, paper, and more.

Also, purchase a personal injury policy before bringing any children into the building, If a student slips and falls, you're going to be happy you're covered.

ORGANIZE YOUR ADMINISTRATION

Laying out policies not only communicates to parents their basic responsibilities, but also emphasizes to them that, as the school owner, you've thought through your expectations and obligations seriously. Develop policies addressing lesson cancellations, attendance, withdrawals, and payment.

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