This is a follow up story for Lessons By Brooke & Company. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
My name is Brooke Schrager and I am the Founder and Studio Manager of Lessons By Brooke & Company, where we provide customized, in-home private music lessons to students of all interests, ages, and ability levels.
You can read more about us here in our first Starter Story feature. Since our previous follow up in the Summer of 2022, we’ve grown to an instructor team of 28 serving over 300 students in the Chicagoland area and virtually.
Our revenue has grown steadily since last year too, and we’re grateful to have an increase of 70K in gross profits so far, only halfway through the fiscal year.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
Since our follow-up Starter Story feature last June, we’ve grown our staff from 22 to 28 incredible teachers and a Director of Creative Operations, we are continuing to teach just over 300 students throughout the Chicagoland area and virtually.
Our team and clientele have grown strictly through word of mouth referrals and I’m so grateful to be able to hire folks that we have established connections with. It allows us to have incredible rapport from the beginning and creates a close knit community despite us seeing our students and their families on an individual basis aside from performances and community events.
Last but certainly not least, we’ve launched a non-profit organization!
In the past year, Lessons By Brooke & Company has participated in multiple community events (like singing for Chicago Dogs and Chicago Wolves games), fundraised for our non-profit both virtually and in person, and put on 3 wildly successful student recitals in both virtual and in-person capacities.
We love to offer a variety of opportunities for our students to perform and come together with fellow musicians, as 1:1 private music instruction can feel a bit lonely at times!
Cadence Music, NFP was co-founded by LBB&C Instructor, Ella Braceroand LBB&C Founder, Brooke Schrager, both hailing from Elmhurst University in Elmhurst, IL. Cadence is on a mission to provide opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds, ages, and ability levels to unlock their future in the world of music through education, inspiration, and exploration.
Since 2019 we’ve seen an increase in financial need within our student base and that only increased during the pandemic and years to follow. The cost of everything has gone up, and we’ve done our best to keep our lesson rates reasonable while paying our instructors well for their hard work.
Music lessons have traditionally been looked at as a luxury service, and we want to change that and make them accessible to all students.
We began working with a consultant in December of 2021 and we officially launched the organization in August of 2022. We primarily do so through our Private Lesson Scholarship Program which has allowed us to offer over 350 lessons at sliding scale pricing in our first year as an organization.
Students in need of financial assistance apply for a scholarship here through our website and from there we determine their level of need. The majority of our scholarship students receive a full ride, while others pay 50% and some pay a flat amount that is comfortable for them.
It is our goal to make these scholarships and sliding scale prices accessible for families and meeting them where they’re at is very important to us. We can’t wait to continue to grow and serve our community so that music education can be accessible to ALL!
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
Running both a for-profit business and a nonprofit organization at the same time has been incredibly rewarding but also challenging and exhausting! LBB&C has grown so much since we opened back up for in-person lessons in June of 2021 and it has been nearly impossible to keep up.
I currently spend the majority of my time working on scheduling, which includes adding new students to teachers’ schedules and navigating necessary schedule changes for current students and teachers, as well as planning events for both organizations and networking to grow!
I mentioned this in our follow-up from 2022 and I’ll say it again now - having to tell eager music students and their parents that we’re on a waitlist basis and do not have a teacher for them is so difficult and sad.
Being 100% transparent when we aren’t able to take care of something for our clients has been a game changer for my mindset.
Our instructor team has been working above and beyond to ensure we can reach as many students as possible, but burnout has been a struggle for us all, including me!
I know that the 2023-2024 program year will bring us so many exciting things, as well as the usual struggles. My goal is to balance everything and be able to have more time for myself and my family - lofty, I know!!
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
My biggest takeaway from the past year is that we cannot be everything to everyone. I’ve set better boundaries for my personal and work time and a big part of that was getting a separate business phone line - thank you, Google Voice, haha!
Delegating is not my strong suit (call me a control freak! I own it, haha), and I’m working on it so we can keep things growing and going. I am so grateful to have Lesson By Brooke & Company’s Director of Creative Operations, Taylor Okey, to lean on for support as well as Ella Bracero, Cadence’s Executive Director and Co-Founder, to steer the ship for the non-profit!
Along those same lines, we cannot possibly serve the specific, unique needs of every single student/client. Outsourcing and referring out, as well as being 100% transparent when we aren’t able to take care of something for our clients has been a game changer for my mindset.
We provide private music lessons and all that goes along with them. Period. Some may call this “niching down” but I like to think of it as just being very good at what we do and honing in on that.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Continuing to grow our instructor team on a referral basis (which has already been happening the past month or so!) is a huge goal of mine. I’d like to never use Indeed or a recruiter again if at all possible - wishful thinking, haha!
Ramping up Cadence Music so we can continue to make good on our current scholarship promises and grow our reach within the community is going to be another huge focus. Aside from those two things, we’re going to keep doing the best we can to take care of our students so they can continue to learn and grow.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
I read Business Made Simple by Donald Miller for a book club group and loved it. I highly recommend working through the daily tasks and videos that they provide (FOR FREE!) while you read.
Some of it doesn’t apply to LBB&C since we aren’t a product-based business, but I was able to learn a lot about how I want our story to be told and how I want everyone to experience LBB&C from the inside out, which has been life-changing!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Take the leap in a mindful way. I never planned on opening a nonprofit organization, but here we are, and I know that it will only help our for-profit business grow and thrive.
That said, it takes a lot of thought, planning, and care to create that and while sometimes you can jump and the net will follow, in the current climate, I’m opting to be mindful about how and when we take risks and make changes.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Same as in our follow-up last year - we are always interested in talking to potential instructors and I am happy to talk anytime! Feel free to contact us through our website and let us know why you’d be a good fit. I can also see the very near future hiring an office manager and/or logistics professional to help us with scheduling, routing, etc.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.
- 4,818 founder case studies
- Access to our founder directory
- Live events, courses and recordings
- 8,628 business ideas
- $1M in software savings