Business: Mellanie Shaylor School of Music
What? A music school that is shaking up the music teaching industry
How did the idea for your business first come about?
I had some really traumatic experiences in my own music education as a child and young adult and vowed I was going to change the experience for other little musicians one day and was going to encourage other teachers to step outside the box and change lives. I'm also on a mission to make music accessible and less ego-driven so people aren't afraid to give it a go.
Traditional approaches just don't work for everyone, and no two people are alike, so why would we teach everyone the same way!?
I had a very cushy office job and was feeling really dissatisfied with my contribution to society so I decided to just throw it all in and see what I could achieve.
I couldn't find the kind of music school I would have wanted as a kid, so I decided to create it instead.
When did you have a ‘f*ck-it moment’ and decide you were going to go all-in and start your business?
In 2013, I decided to go for it. I had no idea what I was doing but I went in with the knowledge that nothing really bad would come of it and if it was a complete and utter flop, I could just try it again!
I started out on my own. I moved everything out of my main bedroom and turned it into a home studio and took on piano students, using my non-traditional approach. Before I knew it, I had 74 kids coming every week and I couldn't do it at home anymore and I needed people to join me in this approach. Fast.
That was a real 'go all in' moment. I had to turn my sole trader venture into a company, with staff, find a space, hire really good people, market myself and throw every ounce of energy at this thing. That was in 2016.
What were some major challenges you had when starting your business? And how did you overcome them?
Finding good staff that wanted to be mentored, inspired and moulded. I want all my staff to feel like they can try anything and are supported, but you really need to have teachers who want to keep learning, want to be part of a team and are passionate about not only music, but people, and the idea that we can make big changes through music.
I've always hired people in non-traditional forums. I've not actually hired any of my current staff via job boards or advertising. I talk to people everywhere I go and always meet amazing, passionate and down to earth musicians. I trust my gut when hiring and I don't try to control my staff. I put a lot of time into training, mentoring and offering them professional development opportunities and I learn from them all the time too - I hire people that are better than me at things.
Cashflow was a big challenge for me. Growth equals more revenue but more bills too! I'm not passionate about accounts so I had to learn alot. I talk to anyone I can that is good with numbers and business and processes, I read books, I try new things, I fail, I try again. Still overcoming this one :)
What has been your biggest “pinch me” moment?
At the start of this year, I realised I had 8 staff and 151 families that support our Music Tribe. I had to pinch myself because I was like "when did that happen" - I got so focused on the day to day, that I forgot to stop and look at what I've accomplished!
Starting a business can be gruelling - what keeps you motivated, and keeps you going?
The kids. The families. The music tribe.
I am so happy to be changing people's lives through something that means so much to me personally. I love seeing the community come together. I love seeing families support children in their dreams or hobbies. I love seeing friendships form between families. I melt when I see a child with depression or anxiety light up when they perform something on stage in front of hundreds of people.
When the business side gets tough, I only have to look at the faces of the people around me and I get the inspiration back immediately.
How do you create a work-life balance?
No, in all seriousness, last year I totally burnt the candle at both ends and knew I had to change things up. I took a big risk to change up how I spent my time. Less teaching, more on the business time. Instead of over 80 hours a week, I force myself to work within a 55 hour work week and this makes me much more efficient and gives me back some 'play time' which I need to keep me going!
I am still in the process of creating processes that mean I'm not needed 24/7 but its been a great exercise to take stock of all the things I do, delegate (release control of things!) and trust my amazing staff to do the things they are good at.
Words of Wisdom / Personal Quote
"the best preparation for tomorrow, is doing your best today"
Be authentic in business. People want real connection and you do you better than anyone so believe in you, be you and treat everyone as if they are special, because they are :)