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The Entrepreneurial Journey

The Entrepreneurial Journey

Nobody likes talking about themselves but I’ve been asked to expand so here it is!

When I was in high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had always loved music and had taken piano lessons since I was four. During high school, I played many instruments from saxophone, clarinet, French horn and flute! I decided to go to College for Applied Music and auditioned to Mohawk College for their three year program. This was one of the best decisions that I ever made because it introduced me to the love of teaching.

I began teaching in 1998 as part of a Teaching Methods class at Mohawk. We were given students and pretty much ran our own little business with a final report on how it went. I also took performance classes which I discovered I did not like doing and that I was meant to be a teacher!

From there, I transferred to McMaster University where my plan was to get my BA in Music and move on to Teacher College. University proved to be much more complex then College and I was more of a hands-on learner. After graduating from McMaster with a major in Music and a minor in French, I moved to Toronto and proceeded to take some elective classes to boost my average and apply for Teachers College. I absolutely LOVED the classes I took. They were Science based but in the Humanities program. I learned the foundations of Physics, Astronomy, Greek & Latin in Scientific Terminology and Geology without having to do all the math! I began teaching part-time at various music studios in Toronto and advertised myself for my own personal students eventually growing my own in-home teaching service to 60 private students teaching 7 days a week! I decided to ditch the idea of going to Teachers College because working for myself was way more satisfying!

This was exhausting, though, and I expressed that to clients of mine at the time. It ended up that I expressed myself to the right people because they were also entrepreneurs and one of them just happened to be the president of the Woman’s Entrepreneurial Society in Toronto! Ruth and Michael guided me through the process of hiring on another teacher and the rest is history. Featherstone Music was born! We soon had a dozen teachers working for us and a few hundred students thanks to a private school that we began teaching at, running the after school music program.

Then, the pandemic hit and we all moved to Zoom, FaceTime and Skype. My teachers expressed their frustration which I then expressed to my former accountant. He then told me that he could help me develop a video conference platform for teaching online and he knew all the people to get it funded and built. He took the regions and offered himself as a partner and CFO and got it all started. He would later disappear, leaving me to learn the ropes of running a new tech company which was a complete nightmare for many months but thankfully, with the help of great advisors and lawyers, everything is smoothing out with less and less resistance so that I can focus on the product and my fellow teachers.

So how does one start a tech company? If there was one sound word of advice I could give to someone it is to not trust individuals with little experience in this field. There are many well funded organizations that support entrepreneurs and especially woman in tech (we are a minority!). I don’t know where I would be without the support from Haltech – an organization for woman in tech – or the great advisors I have met along the way that have supported me through many sleepless nights when nothing made sense. Accelerator programs are also a good place to start. They teach you everything you need to know when you don’t have an MBA and they refer you to connect with people to build your team.

10 things woman in business should know:

  1. Educate yourself. Before jumping in, do an accelerator program or reach out to your local startup organization.
  2. Write a business plan or executive summary. You can find lots of templates online and have advisors read it over.
  3. Learn what profit and loss statements look like and how to read them. Learn about projections and what that means.
  4. Work on a pitch deck and record yourself. Show it to everyone and get their opinion!
  5. Learn what the acronyms mean. There are so many of them and business leaders as well as developers use them a LOT. Today I learned about EBITDA – look that one up!
  6. Network with everyone. Even if you’re tired, even if you think you’re not good enough, even if you just don’t want to. This is not a business for introverts! Always say yes!
  7. Be yourself. I tried to become someone I was not and it just made me stumble more only to find out that people liked my energetic personality!
  8. Be resilient. I don’t know how many times I said I just wanted to throw in the towel because it was all too hard yet I’m still here! It is such a great feeling to climb that hill and feel like you can’t take it anymore only to wake up the next day, ready to conquer!
  9. Do not forget yourself or your family. Learn to shut off, take days off, take vacations and weekends to do something else. It can all wait.
  10. Don’t let men belittle you. I once had a man who had started several startups. When I asked his advise for some trouble I was having, he told me to nuke it and start again – “it’s just a hobby, right?”. This is what he said. I’ll never forget it because I thought wow, if this is definitely NOT a hobby. It’s something I take very seriously and I’m not about to just give up. Looking back, I wish I had responded differently then the blank stare but there is always next time!

So that’s it, folks! I hope this has inspired someone. Never give up on your dreams no matter what. You do YOU. All of these challenges only make you stronger (that’s the teacher in me!)

On another quick note, as a piano teacher, I always thought that nobody ever understood me and would get deeply hurt when someone questioned my rates or didn’t agree with a policy or didn’t like the way I taught. I have to say, that since I switched careers and now serve music teachers, it’s exactly the same problems. People are people no matter what industry. Learn from every experience and grow.

Enjoy these pictures below and getting to know a little bit about me!

Teaching my first class at age 16 in Jamaica where we brought down school and medical supplies and taught a lesson on Canada.

Mr. Angus McLeod, the most dedicated piano teacher I know. He taught me all through high school out of a church room and even travelled to me in College to finish off my Grade 9 RCM exams.

Mohawk College Graduation 2000.

McMaster University 2002

One of my earlier recitals. These kids are all in or done University now!

Featherstone Music Spring Recital 2016

My first digital piano purchase while I lived in a condo on the waterfront in Toronto. Those were the days!

My little family in 2019, the last photo shoot we did before Covid hit. I was homeschooling my kids, teaching piano and managing my school during their nap time! It was a beautiful life.

The “devs” and I in Ottawa from Arcane Four Studios. That’s Deric on the left who was our lead developer for iOS. Graham in the middle worked a lot on the Grand Staff feature and Jonathan on the right managed the entire project and worked though the collaboration between the screens.

My online studio!

Covid teaching in-person at a social distance. Not very effective. Now we do hybrid lessons – in-person once a month and online the rest! Works well for everyone. With the right platform online can be very effective and engaging for the kids. Good for the environment too!

A video shoot we did for the launch of iOS. This was a lot of fun and the first time I ever had to memorize lines!

Our first conference all the way in Nashville for Summer NAMM during a pandemic!

This was a fun one!

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