Welcome to the first of a regular weekly feature, “Wednesday Winners” where we sit down with somebody who has taken the plunge into the scary world of self-employment. We ask them all about their venture, hoping to learn a trick or two, and find out about the challenges, and rewards, of setting up their own business.
This week, we had a chat with the awesome Adam & Rachel Atkins, founders and directors of ‘Anthem Music & Creative Arts’. After realising during university that they could supplement their humble student allowance with extra income working as private music tutors, they gradually earned an outstanding reputation for delivering high quality instrument tuition. They began to generate their own business by delivering music-based workshops in schools, inspiring the next generation of youngsters to take up an instrument. Their story speaks of their dedication and professionalism, and highlights the importance of a good reputation.
Adam: We are a music service whereby we find work in High Schools as well as create work in High Schools by doing promotional assemblies and demonstrations. There are 3 main parts to our company, we do high school tuition, private tuition, and the ‘bandHUB’ course that we run in schools and in the community. We create an interest for high school students that want to take up an instrument by taking a live band into their school and putting on a good show to show them how fun live music can be. Then what we do, is we’ve got a database of tutors that we have, and we find the most appropriate teacher for that school and for what instruments are in demand and we’ll send them into the high schools to teach the students, so as a company our job is to create the work, and then send the appropriate teachers into the schools to teach. We also do private tuition as well.
JUKU: What inspired you to to take up this venture?
Rachel: I think it was kind of accidental rather than we decided we wanted to be teachers, it was more that it fell into our lap really. To us, we’re passionate about our instruments so we were really happy that we would be doing a job in music but it wasn’t at that point that we thought we really wanted to teach. It just panned out that way. Throughout the year, we’ve kind of figured that, we love to gig, but the way the music industry is at the moment it pays more to teach. So although it was accidental that we fell into it, we’ve kind of crafted our whole lives around that because we do enjoy it as well.
JUKU: Can you explain to us how the ‘bandHUB’ course works?
Adam: We have these devices called Jam hub’s, whereby a full band can plug into this one device and they can rehearse through headphones. It means that you can have multiple bands in one room, all rehearsing silently, but in their headphones they sound like a full rock band or pop band, or whatever they want to sound like. It enables a tutor to teach multiple bands at one time, which makes it really accessible for students, it helps to keep the price down because lots of students can take part, and it means you can have a full-on lesson as a band without a drummer making tons of noise, or the guitarist making tons of noise because everyones on headphones.
JUKU: What have been some of the challenges that you have faced in your venture?
Adam: One of the biggest difficulties has been people management and figuring out how to get the best out of people so they can provide the best service and a good name for our company as well.
Rachel: I think the nature of what we do now is placing a lot of trust in other people to kind of carry what we want them to carry, the culture of our company, that sort of thing. Obviously everyone’s human, and no matter who we have working for us, no one is going to be perfect. Its only small things, we’ve never had any huge issues. Because Adam and I are still working full time at the moment, its all about trying to juggle our jobs, and manage other people doing jobs for us. When they are sick and can’t do it, we have to find cover, and when we’re trying to do our jobs at the same time, it just becomes that little bit harder to do 2 things at once.
Adam: There are certain points when it dawns on you, “its all relying on you”, you’ve not just got a pay packet coming in at the end of the month. Its on your own head to keep the work coming in and to keep your reputation up. There are certain points when you hit certain milestones and you have a little think and it seems like a massive challenge. But we believe in what we do and we enjoy what we do so we keep it up. It seems to be going well so we just keep going for it really.
JUKU: What dreams and visions do you have for your business?
Adam: The one ambition that we came up with when we set the company up, is that we’d like to able to find 10 teachers full-time work, so 5 days a week in schools. It would mean that myself and Rachel would take a step back from the actual teaching and we would focus on promotion and performing for the kids in schools. We’d just like to be able to run the company and provide the work for people, and just be able to create the interest in music, and inspire the next generation of people to start learning instruments. It’s exciting to work in an industry like music, when a kid picks up an instrument that could be something that changes their life. It’s really exciting to be able to give that to people, and to able to provide work for people with the economy the way it is at the moment.
JUKU: How do you think being married affects the way that you run the business together?
Adam: I think with us working as a partnership, just our general personality traits compliment each other. I’m very passionate and enthusiastic about the music side of things and Rachel is very organised and driven in the business side. If it was left up to me, I’d be creating these incredible chord charts and backing tracks for students but I’d never get us into to any schools. Whereas if it was up to Rachel, she’d have these incredible spreadsheets and business plans, so together with Rachel’s business head and I’ve got this enthusiastic creative side, I think we compliment each other really well in a way that pushes the company forward. I think it would be detrimental if you and your partner had exactly the same character traits really. I think opposites really help the business move forward because we’ve both got different corners of the business covered.
JUKU: Adam & Rachel, thank you for talking to JUKU:Vocation! All the best with your future endeavours!
Interview & Article by Ed Jervis