A catch-up with Donna Kirk, founder of Vocal Coaching business Legacy over a year after featuring in Sharing Success…
When I last interviewed Donna Kirke, founder of Legacy Vocal coaching, she was just starting her business journey for the first time. She was in the middle of studying for her Level 1 IVA vocal coaching qualification, and she was teaching in her small terraced house in Failsworth. At this point, she had left behind a ten year career in sales that made her a lot of money, but which she hated, and was not fulfilling to her in any way.
In the early days of Legacy, things were tough, as she had to fit her teaching around her home and her personal life - teaching people in her living room while her husband was coming home from work...logistically, it wasn’t really sustainable. It was around this time, nearly three years ago, that Donna took on some hours at the studio of Heather Baker, a big name in the coaching world. Heather is one of the founders of the IVA vocal coaching company, that runs world class coaching for singers, and public speakers. She has a studio in Cheshire, and at the time, when Donna was learning from her, needed someone to teach at her studio. Donna took some time on a Wednesday to use that facility. This opportunity was definitely worth the long drive, for the business ideas that she gleaned from Heather, as well as the high quality training. Heather is highly experienced in what she does, and is very well known and respected. “There’s worse people you could be working with than an IVA founder!” Donna laughed.
To those unfamiliar with the world of vocal coaching, IVA is a collective of master teachers from across the world, who are well known in their field, with around 120 years experience between them. They all joined together to create this unique organisation with the aim of providing training to vocal coaches - essentially teaching teachers how to teach - and Heather Baker is one of these founders.
This opportunity came about roughly around the same time Donna and her husband Richard moved to their current house in Bolton, the location of this interview. They were specifically searching for a house that could double up as a premesis for Donna’s growing business.
“We were looking for a premesis, that was separate to the house, that would look a bit more professional to my students, but would also allow us to have a normal life. It had better equipment, and was just more professional going forward. So we looked at loads of houses with different lay-outs, and this was the best one. We needed to be in Bolton for Richard’s work, so it had to be here, and it also had to have the space and everything we needed”.
Donna very kindly showed me her teaching space. I was super excited to see all her signage and branding. As I walked in her front gate earlier, I had seen one of those swinging signs like what you see outside a shop - with the Legacy logo and strapline on it. The teaching space could be entered through a separate entrance to the one Donna and Richard use for their living space. It was essentially a separate wing. Donna’s IVA qualification certificates were hanging up proudly on the wall. The main teaching room was fantastic! She had her recording equipment set up next to the keyboard in one corner. There was a guitar, and a table. There was a huge mirror on one wall, and loads of floor space for people to stand. Donna had definitely achieved that professional look and atmosphere she had been aiming for.
Of course, great as this is, it’s not the long term goal for her business. It’s quite a normal and accepted practice for IVA teachers to use their homes as teaching space. Working with Heather at her Cheshire studio had had a big impact on Donna. “I would love something like that one day”, she explained, “with a couple of students working for me, and things like that”.
Around the time of the move to the house and premesis in Bolton, everything seemed to come together for Legacy as a business. Donna passed her placement as a student teacher, and her IVA level one course, meaning she was a certified tutor! She had a premesis and a strong track record of experience from working with Heather, as well as a core base of about 4 students who she used to teach at her old home. Finally having the space she had needed, she was able to advertise and promote her business more, as she now had the facilities to take on more. So, she upped her marketing. After this, she took a step back for six months, to look after some more personal matters relating to her family - but in the last year and a half, her student base has been growing slowly and steadily. So far in 2019, she has started to become very busy, and to fill up quite significantly with customers. Right now, Donna is ready to take her level 2 IVA test, that she has been working on behind the scenes. After this, she will be able to raise her prices.
After all this growth and progress, Donna is exploring new areas that she could branch into. Though her years in sales jobs had not been something she enjoyed or thrived in, she is beginning to see some ways that it could benefit her business now. In her sales days, she would do a lot of public speaking, giving sales pitches, presentations, etc. Reflecting on this, she has identified a gap in the market. The techniques for vocal training that she teaches and practices when coaching singers can be applied to actors, comedians, and public speakers - including those in corporate spheres. She has already begun to test this theory out, and tap into that slightly more niche market, and already is getting a significant amount of interest. Donna is researching separate courses she could do in order to gain more knowledge on this different branch of vocal coaching.