French & Music House
French & Music House is a locally owned lesson studio that offers music and French language instruction for all ages and skill-levels, tailored to the needs of their students. Below, Darren Hommertzheim shares the story of their business and how he and his wife Zoé grew a loyal clientele.
Tell us your entrepreneurial origin story.
Zoé gave the lessons and I handled all non-lesson duties. This includes forming the business, finding professional services, creating website, keeping books, accounts receivable and payable, client communications, eventually managing contractors including agreements and any other small task that would distract Zoé from teaching.
Thus far we have followed the plan we laid for our small business, even a year ahead of schedule. We built a strong client base to draw upon for steady revenue and that allows us to spend some cash on marketing to new client bases.
We like the business we chose, the flexible schedule, our business neighborhoods, and as a business with recurring customers, we have built strong relationships. One bonus, we chose a market and specific model that is completely unique.
Who helped you start your business?
We started as a DIY operation (business plan, formation, website, logo, etc.). However, we didn't want to grow too fast in the first two years: we didn't have the time or capacity. I think after about two years, promotion would have been easier with the advice, and definitely the networking opportunities from outside organizations. I found networking and other workshops aren't always about new clients or training. I rarely leave an event without a good idea I can apply to my small business, or a new and interesting contact; KCSourceLink is an example of the latter.
How did you find your first clients?
We grew our client base by word-of-mouth: client friends, children classmates, networking events and social media. Eventually we outgrew our home studio and had to look for commercial space.
What was (or is) your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is an "is." Scaling up is difficult. Our services are confined to a particular space and require at least 30-minutes of dedicated time. We can't ramp-up production/inventory, "work from home", outsource, or lease inexpensive office space and pack in cubicles. The startup costs were low but when instructors are considered, our operating costs are relatively high. his means we have to be diligent in listening to the market and offer new, creative and valued services.
What's the reward of owning your business for you?
My wife and I have slightly different rewards from owning our own business. She most appreciates the chance to spend maximum time with her family. I like this too, and I enjoy the chance to create my own schedule. If I need to adjust at 10 p.m. what needs to be done tomorrow at 8 a.m., for work or personal reasons, it's done. We work nights and weekends, but maybe not a Tuesday afternoon. For us, this is ideal.