A client of Curricula and Co’s Entrepreneur Academy. Last year, we produced a three-part series of blog posts containing an in-depth interview with Donna about her decision to start her business, and her journey towards her dream.
We caught up with her again at the start of the new lockdown, and she shared the latest developments of Legacy, how she continues to provide an escape for her clients during the pandemic, and finding a building house the business. This, and more, will be revealed in this three-part series. Here is the first instalment…
By the time lockdown had started, Donna had reached her target number of clients. At this time, she was still using her house as teaching location for her vocal coaching studio. She knew she wanted to diversify her services to include masterclasses, and she needed a space to do that in. Once lockdown was brought about in March, she decided to play it by ear, to see if she should end Legacy once and for all, or keep going…
“I was really frustrated with everything that was happening, and I did not meet the criteria for government support”, Donna said. “I didn’t qualify, partly because my husband Richard was still working, and we had some savings. Even though I wasn’t making as much income as I really needed to realistically keep going and to grow further, I was not losing money. I only lost five customers, but I took on another three who live abroad. I still had overheads to pay and was making only a small amount of profit. I had to choose between carrying on with the business as it was, or to cut my losses, and go back into sales, where I would make far bigger profits.
I remembered how I have build my business from the ground up, and invested a lot in my training and education, and given up a lot to get to where I am, so I decided to dig my heels in and not give up on all that I have gained so far. When three different people tell you to take a leap of faith and keep going, you kind of listen to them, especially when one of them is your accountant…”
Donna’s conversation with her accountant have her some clarity on how to proceed. He said she could pootle along as she was for as long as she liked, but if growth was what she wanted, she would have to expand, which would not really be possible from her house. What she really needed was a premises.
“I had been looking for a long time. Nothing was affordable or exactly right, but the accountant gave me a few ideas as to what to look for. I did another search, just on the off chance, and I happened to find the perfect building. It was cheaper because of the pandemic, and it was far enough away from neighbours for noise not to be an issue. What I needed was very specific. The location was perfect, and so was the price, and I just had enough money coming in to cover the cost of it, with a little investment from my savings. It was a no brainer”.
Donna took a risk by opening the building at a time when growth was not completely guaranteed because of COVID, but she decided to do it anyway and take the risk. While she was in this process, a long-time student of hers was in a good position to become the extra teacher she had been looking for. He seemed suited for the role, and was keen to get on board. He has been working with Donna as a singing teacher since September, working on a semi-freelance basis, bringing in students of his own. Donna takes a small percentage of his earnings. He is a kind of business partner, so this is something he is invested in part time. She has given him the freedom to pull out if and when he needs to, so there is no reason for him to feel tied down. His involvement has brought significant growth to the business since opening the building, as there has been a steady stream of new students. This is a significant stepping stone towards his career goals, as his dream is to open his own studio one day.
Donna and her business partner have big plans, to create courses, and bring numbers of people into the space. The building has everything she needs - a big room that can hold twenty people, a reception area, a kitchen, and a lounge space for people to hang out while their kids are having lessons. There is a breakout room as well. There are spaces that can be used for performance and recording workshops.
“I wanted it to feel premium and professional, like people were coming to a business, rather than someone’s house”, Donna explains. “Now that I have the building, my mindset has changed. Not only is it forcing me to commit more to the business, get my head down and focus on growth, rather than being a bit blasé about it, it’s given me extra security knowing that I am not using my personal space as a public area. This means that when I am at work, I feel like I’m at work. When people come to me, I can now legitimately advertise this professional space for them to come to. I can’t believe how close I came to saying, ‘oh well, I gave it a go, it didn’t work, lets just apply for a sales job - especially when someone contacted me about a sales job - like, here’s a job, 50K and a BMW, when can you start? I was tempted there for a moment…