The Deck Wall of Fame

It was amazing to hear from Emily Davies of Think, Try, Do earlier in the week to say that the University of Exeter is putting together a “Wall of Fame” showcasing student entrepreneurs past and present. I am delighted to say that a guitar that I gave to Joe Pearce when I finished my role as the Student Entrepreneur in Residence will be included in this showcase.

It was a guitar that I had bought as part of a different business idea called “Amplified Art”, where I would get local airbrush artists to airbrush famous guitarists onto guitars. I trialed this with about 5 guitars, with the one that I gave to Joe featuring Jimi Hendrix on it. While I managed to get the guitar into a local guitar shop to see if it sold the business itself never took off…turns out people aren’t really that interested in buying a guitar with a famous guitarist airbrushed onto it.

It is kind of interesting that this guitar will be used to showcase MGR Music Tuition LTD, as it was actually an example of another one of my failed ideas…of which there were many during university. So the real story behind the guitar is one of continuously trying to create business models and products. After all you only need one business model to take off – so keep making ideas and testing them out.

I would really recommend trying to gorilla test ideas and products, essentially making the lowest cost version of your product/business model to test it out. Get it out into the real world then see whether it works or not. If the answer is that it does then you can increase the investment into the idea and let the product develop from there. I have met a lot of entrepreneurs who look to gain a huge investment into their website for example, even though they have never sold one of the products they wish to feature on their website. My advice – get out on a market stall and see if you can sell the product. This is still something that I know the team at mgrmusic.com are learning – the hardest thing to do is actually get into the world and start selling, it is a lot easier to put it off. Keep focusing on developing the product etc. without doing the thing that brings in the money…which is of course the art of selling the product as it stands today.

It will be great to see how the Wall of Fame looks and I really hope that I get an opportunity to see it. If I do I will post some photos of it on here, highlighting some of the other products that have made it into the “Hall of Fame”.

A small update this time on progress. The team has been really excited to start working with a partner in the USA to feature teachers in the USA on the mgrmusic.com music teacher database. This will hopefully help us to start generating enquiries for music teachers in America, as well as here in Europe. We also had the great news of launching the Singing Lessons Edinburgh music hub with professional music teacher Joe Revell which is tremendous news. We had previously worked with Joe in Glasgow as a singing teacher so we were delighted to team up with him again to deliver professional singing tuition in Scotland’s capital city.

Posted under Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on May 12, 2019

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GDPR / Piano Lessons Bristol

GDPR – SME Panic Grows

Another week and more panic in the business world about GDPR. I think small and medium sized companies have been spooked by big companies trying to “re-consent” their users/newsletter lists. This has prompted SMEs to try and do the same, often resulting in less than 5% response from their newsletter listings. In other words, they have decimated their newsletter lists, now panic that a core sales route for their business can no longer be used and are extremely anxious about the effect of GDPR on business.

The EU is driven, in many ways, to facilitate greater trade between EU countries. What a travesty it would be if the introduction of an EU law, like the GDPR, has such significant implications that it caused a sudden drop in trade. Especially in the SME sector, where margins are often tight and livelihoods are always at stake. However, in recent days I have also seen several articles that say the “re-consenting” emails that keep appearing in our email inboxes, might be unnecessary (and in some cases illegal!).

For example, BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones investigated this subject further. He interviewed a data protection legal specialist who explained “90% of the emails are unnecessary – it doesn’t have to be re-consented unless you didn’t get consent in the first place” (GDPR: The great data privacy panic). Essentially good data practices before GDPR would be recognised after the 25th May 2018 – after all the law cannot be retrospective.

Another interesting read was a WordPress Guide to GDPR: (GDPR Compliance – Everything You Need to Know. Most interesting thing being the cost of non-compliance, that, according to the article, in most reasonable cases, starts with a Warning, then a Reprimand, then Suspension of data processing, the a Fine. Like most legal disputes I am sure it is in the interest of both parties to resolve an issue without having to go to court. This article suggests that businesses that act reasonably and react reasonably to complaints should be able to avoid more serious ends of that disciplinary process.

There is no doubt that the introduction of GDPR has caused a panic in the business world. Its impact might well be negative in regard to damaging reasonably run SMEs, fearful that they might be non-compliant simply stopping sales routes that actually are reasonable uses of data. Nonetheless, it is clear that reform around data was needed. What is most evident that SMEs need more support to understand what an introduction of a new EU law like this is to their specific business case.

Piano Lessons Bristol

Away from GDPR, this week has seen the launching of a new music hub in Bristol. Bristol is one of the most important cities for music in the UK. It has a thriving music scene with a very engaged population of Bristolians who enjoy supporting all arts. Indeed, Bristol was the second city I expanded into when I first created the business from my Lafrowda flat (something you can read more about in The Tab). Over the last few years this has been focused on guitar lessons, singing lessons and drum lessons. However, I am very excited to announce that the Piano Lessons Bristol music hub has been launched this week.

Dan Somers, who is a mobile piano teacher in Bristol, is a fantastic tutor to take on piano students in the city. With his many years teaching experience, combined with his Music Performance and Production degree from the London Centre of Contemporary Music, Dan is already one of the leading piano teachers in the city. His ability to provide students with lessons in the comfort of their own homes makes his lessons accessible to many more students across the city – including those that face mobility and transport challenges.

Like many of the music teachers I know across the UK, Dan is an active musicians. Alongside his piano lessons her regularly performs in a swing band called Ruby & Her Howlin’ Boys. It is so important as a music teacher to have a creative and performance outlet, alongside working as a music teacher. After all, if the only time you play the instrument is during beginner music lessons with students you quickly loose your own enjoyment of playing. All musicians have to continue to push themselves to continue to develop, learn new styles of music and broaden their musical horizons. I am really excited to see how we can develop this music hub in Bristol, having launched it earlier this week.

Posted under GDPR, MGR Music, Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on May 25, 2018

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GDPR / Guitar Lessons Leeds

Continuing my weekly updates on what it is like to run a small online business, you can check out below what I have been working on this week (7th – 12th May 2018):

GDPR

The upcoming introduction of GDPR was the main focus of this week. I was contacted by many of the music teachers I work with about what the introduction of GDPR meant for them, as well as communicating with entrepreneurs that I know to assess how best to approach GDPR compliance. Like most of us during the last few weeks I have been inundated with emails from larger corporations explaining how GDPR would impact the way I received communications from them.

This has sharpen the minds of many smaller businesses to assess what they need to do to be GDPR compliant by the 25th May 2018. Adapting to new legislation as a small business is certainly nothing new, all entrepreneurs at some stage will face this challenge. Often the real challenge is understanding what the legislation means and how it specifically relates to your business/industry. A significant portion of my week was assessing the GDPR’s impact within the music education industry, drawing together my thoughts for other music teachers to read: GDPR Guide for Music Teachers.

Having spoken with many different entrepreneurs over the last week about the GDPR their processes have been similar to mine. Assessing what they currently have in place in regard to securing the data they collect. Examining how and why they are collecting this data. Researching and seeking professional advice to ensure that they will comply by the 25th May. A good article to get you started on what you need to know as a small business about the GDPR can be found here: What is GDPR for Small Business (SimplyBusiness.co.uk)

Guitar Lessons Leeds

I was delighted to launch the second “music hub” this week in Leeds, UK. Based in Leeds the music school will be run by Kieran Gunter, an experienced professional guitar teacher in Leeds. This marks an important stage in the expansion process for 2018, with Kieran being an ideal guitar teacher to bring onboard to support this. I have been so impressed by his enthusiasm for all forms of guitar music, from classical guitar right through to modern genres.

His holistic approach to teaching, ensuring that students learn the many different aspects of how to play the guitar; from helping students understand the rhythmic aspects of music to teaching them exercises that build finger strength. With Kieran as Head Guitar Teacher at this local music hub I am really excited to see how it develops as a local music school with our support.

This week also saw the start of a potentially interesting relationship with the Trinity College exam board, in relation to their Rock & Pop exams. As our music teaching community are are mainly focused on teaching “contemporary” music styles, due to the high student interest in modern genres, there might be some really exciting opportunities to explore with Trinity College.

Posted under Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on May 12, 2018

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MGR Music Progress Update & Guitar Lessons Manchester

Progress Update – Introduction

It has been over six-months since I wrote my last progress update on the development of the national music teacher database. As we are edging towards the summer again I thought I would write a group of mini-blog updates on how everything is develop in real time. This will give entrepreneurial students a real insight into how businesses develop day by day, week by week. I have found from first hand experience that while progress can feel slow on any one day, by making multiple good business decision overtime that progress is multiplied dramatically. Conversely, the consequences of a poor decision can significantly impact speed of growth, especially when the pace of growth increases.

In this mini-series of blog posts I will take you inside each of the key decisions made each week, providing insight into why these conclusions have been reached and analysing the results of these decisions. By doing this I hope to take you with me in my entrepreneurial journey. Enjoy!

Think, Try, Do – News

One exciting development away from the business is that I will be working with Emily, Katie and David of the Think, Try, Do team on a new project that will be released later this year. The project will focus on interviewing 50 current and former University of Exeter student entrepreneurs. It will not only explore their “success stories” but also examine the motivations behind their entrepreneurialism. Asking some of the more philosophical questions behind what really makes a successful entrepreneur and how can we help develop other students with this mind set. There will be more on this to follow in due course, with the first interview of Matt Morley, of Savvy, having been the first to be interviewed for the project.

MGR Music – Six Months of Development

In my last post (August 2017), I talked a lot about trying to get the national music teacher database off the ground. Comparing it to a plane taxiing along the runway, not fully knowing if when the plane stopped and the throttle was applied the plane would take off. I also talked a lot about my determination to make the platform into an online community of music, using it as almost a “Facebook for music teachers”.

Nearly six months on it is really interesting to reflect on this (part of the reason why I write this blog!). Firstly, I am pleased to say that platform has taken off, developing as a place where students can find highly-qualified music teachers in their location. Interestingly, having trialed the platform during early 2018 as a “social media” platform for music teachers, I ended moving away from that idea completely.

Two reasons became self-evident; firstly, put simply music teachers didn’t use it (or want to use it) as a social media platform. While we have forums on mgrmusic.com that are active, music teachers continue to prefer to post questions and seek advice in our Music Teacher’s Group on Facebook. As much as I wanted our music teacher community to engage with the platform as a the location to create the community upon the true was Facebook provides a better frame work to do that. A realisation therefore was we should concentrate on developing the Facebook group since that is the place where music teachers feel comfortable to engage with one another.

Secondly, being a small team we cannot compete with multi-million pound online social platforms. It sounds obvious when you say it, but when you are developing something that you really want people to use you can convince yourself that people will use it. However, compare it to a platform like Facebook and you can see the limitations of our platform. Matt Morley summed this up perfectly to me – “users expect the speed of Google and the user friendly app feel of Uber”. The platform we made was good, nonetheless, it isn’t our core business to provide a social media platform for music teachers. It is obvious to those music teachers that the platform, while being full functional, isn’t as good as Facebook…and why should it be, considering the cost investment of the two platforms.

Two months ago I have such a clear thought. It was a true moment of realisation; “as a small business we should only concentrate on our core business”. With such a small team we don’t have the luxury to input a lot of time into projects that are not absolutely central to the business. Reflecting on this I would say that over the last two years I have developed a lot of different ideas, with an array of success, however very few of these ideas where absolutely central to the core business. Once I realised this it became obvious for me what I needed to do; sandbox projects that did not contribute to the core business and re-focus on making the core business awesome.

MGR Music – Guitar Lessons Manchester

Refocusing on the core business was the significant change of business strategy that has taken place during 2018. Specifically, this has meant the planned creation and launch of local music hubs. Each music hub will have a high-qualified and experienced music teacher, offering lessons to students in that area. I am very proud to say at the start of May 2018 we officially launched our first music hub, Guitar Lessons Manchester.

This was a huge step up from what we had previously offered, which was essentially a database of music teachers. This left the student to find a suitable teacher for themselves, rather than creating the infrastructure for great music teachers to provide professional tuition to students. Although some areas had consistent steams of enquiries, including for drum lessons in Leicester and guitar lessons in Manchester – as mentioned in my last post in August 2017 – I felt we could do so much more in locations where high numbers of music students were getting in touch. Therefore, in early May we appointed Dan Hall as Head Guitar Teacher at Guitar Lessons Manchester, creating our first music hub.

Dan is an extremely experienced guitar teacher, having taught the guitar for over 10 years both privately and in local schools. He is a qualified guitar teacher, having gained a FD Pop Music and Performance University of Salford. His impressive experience and knowledge as a guitar teacher is backed up by a fantastic approach to the lessons. Adopting a “no pressure” style of teaching Dan works hard to ensure are inspired to learn, rather than forced to. This approach to teaching, that draws a lot upon what the guitar student wants to learn, really resonated with me as a guitar teacher. The music hub will be based in the Stretford area of Manchester, with great transport links from across the city. Dan and I will work extremely closely together to provide the highest-quality guitar tuition that Manchester has to offer. This focus and investment in these music hubs will provide opportunities for guitarists of all abilities to rapidly progress in an environment that is ideal for guitar lessons.

It was fantastic announcement to launch Guitar Lessons Manchester with Dan this month. I have plans to launch a small number of dedicated music hubs across the UK over the next 6 months and I will keep you up to date with this progress. After nearly 6 months of development of the platform it is wonderful to feel that I am taking the next steps in my entrepreneurial journey and look forward to sharing this experience with you.

 

Posted under MGR Music, Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on May 5, 2018

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Music Teachers

Over the time that I have ran MGR Music Tuition Ltd, since launching it during my first year studying at the University of Exeter in 2009, I have always been limited to generating enquiries for music teachers located in large cities across four instruments – guitar, singing, piano and drums. This restriction put a top limit to the size of the teaching community that I could grow, indeed, as of 2017 we are almost at full capacity in terms of teaching community I can grow within the UK.

This is why over the last 12 months I have been so keen to develop a national platform to enable me to generate enquiries for teachers located anywhere in the UK, across all possible instrument types. After months of negotiations I finally managed to acquire and then develop a new national database of active music teachers in the UK and Ireland called mgrmusic.com – it is designed so that students can select the type of instrument that they want to learn and then enter their postcode, with the search results providing them with teachers that are the most local to them.

Music Teacher is a new national database of active music teachers located throughout the UK and Ireland.

Music Teacher is a new national database of active music teachers located throughout the UK and Ireland.

Having researched a lot of the other music teacher databases in the UK, I have found that they lack some of the critical information that can help inform students as to whether the teacher is suitable to teach them or not. For example information as to whether a teacher holds a valid DBS Check, up to date public liability insurance, or has the necessary qualifications and teaching experience to tutor to a professional level. I made sure, therefore, that all of this information would be included in every one of the tutor profiles featured throughout the website. Students can also leave reviews of teachers which is a fantastic way for teacher to build up an online reputation of providing high quality music tuition, that is then presented back to future students.

Leo Wood's Music Teacher profile, including the review that a student left about her private music tuition.

Leo Wood’s Music Teacher profile, including a customer review and information about whether she is DBS Checked, has public liability insurance and relevant qualifications.

Over the website provides a brilliant platform for me to continue to build a community of music teachers, as well as expand into new locations by offering piano lessons in Bristol, guitar Lessons in Leeds and singing lessons in London. It is also incredibly exciting to be able to grow the community to include saxophone, violin and other music teachers of all instruments – including some of the more unusual instruments like ukulele, djembe and cajon. My ambition for the Music Teacher website is to develop it over the next two to five years into the leading platform to find music teachers in the UK and Ireland.

Posted under Music Teachers

This post was written by Matthew Rusk on April 5, 2017

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