Becca Schultz started developing her piano pedagogy while still a student at Portland State University. Since then she has helped hundreds of students learn to play and enjoy music, while simultaneously employing multiple musicians as teachers. Her business has grown so much in the past couple of years that they have recently had to move to a newly renovated location with the help of the PCC Small Business Development Center team. This is her story...
Thank you for joining us today, Becca. Let's start with you sharing what inspired you to start Vesper School of Music? While studying piano performance as an undergrad at Portland State University, I became interested in piano pedagogy and developed my own teaching method for children. After running my own private teaching studio for several years, I realized this could be a great small business, so I took the plunge and in 2015 became an LLC and hired my first employee.
What exciting things are happening in your business these days? We’ve been growing slowly but also steadily since we opened and realized we badly needed a larger space to operate in. After 9 months of construction, we just moved into our beautiful, custom renovated suite! This new space is a dream come true and provides a much more professional environment for our teachers and students.
I love that my business is so people-focused: more families have music in their lives because of Vesper School of Music. It’s an honor to develop long term, positive relationships with our clients who have been coming here for years; we get to see their children grow up. Many of our teachers have been working here for years as well, which again deeply contributes to our community atmosphere. We’re like a family!
What types of services did you receive and/or in which programs did you participate? I took the Business Builders program in 2019-20 and I received a scholarship from the Portland Business Alliance to attend the Advanced Small Business Management program in 2021. I have been a consulting client of Sean Harry’s since 2019 through the SBDC and also received some financial consulting from Bruce Melzer of the SBDC Capital Access Team.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your business, and what have you done to navigate your business through the adverse conditions surrounding the pandemic? Like so many others, in March 2020 we were forced to take our 150 weekly students entirely online at the drop of a hat. We only did virtual lessons through October 2021--over 18 months online! Luckily, we already had a virtual learning system in place for when students were sick or when there was inclement weather. In April 2020 we lost about 10% of our clients due to them suffering widespread layoffs and I negotiated a lower lease rate with our landlord while operations were online.
Surprisingly, 2021 came to be our highest grossing year since we’ve been in business, which I attribute to several factors: 1. We discovered a new target market: 28-35 year old men with expendable income and the need for a hobby; 2. Parents were eager to enroll their children in extracurricular activities; and 3. All of our target market clients were spending less on travel and more on activities close to home. . . like music lessons.
Currently, we can barely keep up with demand and business is booming. Our next hurdle is developing and documenting our systems so we are able to scale to a second business location, since we have already outgrown our new suite.
How has the SBDC helped you overcome those challenges? When I first enrolled in the Business Builders class, I was burnt out from years of too much working IN the business (i.e. teaching) and not enough time working ON the business. In 2021, I found the Advanced Small Business Management class to be an invaluable resource at the exact time I and my business needed guidance. It was wonderful relating to a community of other business owners going through similar issues! The in-depth Advanced SBM sessions helped me look at my business from a more principle-based perspective and showed me how to manage my business more intelligently.
With the assistance of Sean and Bruce, I was able to secure two rounds of PPP funding to keep payroll going during the pandemic. They also helped me secure funding for the renovation of our new suite.
What are your plans moving forward? We will be doing market research and looking for an area for our second location very soon. Stay tuned!
What would you say to other small business owners thinking of working with the SBDC? The classes and teachers at the SBDC are an incredible resource! Even if you think your schedule is too busy, just sign up for a class - you won’t regret it!
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Programs and services are provided to the public on a non-discriminatory basis. Language assistance service are available for limited English proficient individuals. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance. Please contact us at 971-722-5080 or firstname.lastname@example.org, to request accommodations. Oregon Small Business Development Centers are funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Oregon Business Development Department.