In part two of our exclusive interview with Donna Kirk, vocal coach and founder of Legacy Vocal Coaching, we chat about how her students are benefitting from coaching during lockdown, her plans for community engagement, and what it is that really motivates her to keep going…
Donna had a choice to make with the onset of the pandemic - take the easy route and go back to her high paying sales job with tons of commission and a BMW thrown in - or give up the predictability of this ‘normal’ life, and put everything back into building her business…
“Giving it all up would have been easy because I could have had all that money, but it would be hard, because I would have to give up everything I have invested in. I haven’t paid myself in three years, because everything has gone back into growing the business”, Donna explained.
It’s clear to see that the return Donna is getting from her business is more than just finances.
“Looking ahead, I know that I want to make an impact on the community. Once I am more established and can afford to, I want to open it up to kids, and people who can’t really afford coaching. Benefitting other people is what drives me. I know if I were to go back into sales I would be burnt out within another few years. Either this doesn’t work and I know I have tried, and can make my peace with it, or it does work, and I get to impact peoples lives for the better. And we are already doing just that! We are giving people self confidence, and making them feel great in ways they never thought possible.
Right now, for Donna, giving back to the community in practice looks like giving huge discounts. She markets her price far lower than what she could be charging for the standard of coaching she provides and is qualified for. This is because she is passionate about making her services accessible to more people. She knows how much it can mean to someone just to have something to look forward to during the week. During a pandemic with no end in sight, this means the world to many of her students. “If you are struggling on a low income or maybe your home life is not great, but you have that one thing that gives you hope, that you can look forward to every week - that makes you excited and happy, and gets your brain working - that makes you start liking yourself more - if I can give that to someone then I have done my job”. Donna’s eyes dance on my computer screen as she tells me this.
“I could only afford lessons because I did a really good job for a bit. A lot can’t, and that’s why I want to do more charity events, raising money for specific things. I could do a charity auction for my services, or I could hire a hall and get all my students to sing to raise money for some great causes, and make a difference. When I was working in sales, I never felt like I was making a difference. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and be like “look at all this stuff I can’t take with me”. I want to see all the lives I have impacted and see how those made an impact on other lives. This is what drives me to keep going”.
The transition from running a home-based studio to running a commercial building was not particularly daunting for Donna, as she used to work as an office manager, a large part of which involved running an office building. From the word ‘go’, Donna was ahead of the game, arranging PAT testing, checking of the fire extinguishers, and all the fiddly parts of setting up a building for public use. As well as this, Donna has been a landlady before, which was a great help.
“ I knew I needed to get first aid equipment, appoint a fire warden, and buy insurance plans for everything. My business management NVQ, which I did back in the ‘90s at school taught me the basics of how to run a business, what departments are needed - over the years, I have gained customer service experience, sales, HR, training and development, and PA duties. I am an administrator deep down. I love admin, I am weird like that! I do all my own invoicing and accounting, which comes easy to me as I also worked in credit control for a while”.
The new teacher is great with social media, marketing and SEO, which is where Donna’s skills gap is. He is surprised that Donna enjoys invoicing so much! Donna is skilled at creating systems for things, and staying organised.
“I always make loads of lists. If you’re not organised, it will bury you. You have to compartmentalise and separate everything, otherwise you will forget, and wonder what you haven’t done. I couldn’t sleep at night if I wasn’t organised. There was so much to do - ordering mirrors, getting the piano moved, sorting out contents insurance…I was very lucky with furniture - everything I needed, someone happened to be giving that thing away. Everything on my list was available to me - a microwave, a fridge, 2 desks, 2 chairs, and 2 bookcases, and in the colours I wanted as well!