National Business Awards & Wedding Band
There has been a lot happening since my last post in August 2015! Firstly, I was very privileged to be able to join the University of Exeter at the National Business Awards in November, where the university had been nominate for the Duke of York Award for University Entrepreneurship. Despite Exeter missing out on the award to the University of Leeds I think our invitation and nomination was testament to the progress that the University of Exeter had made in recent years in terms of entrepreneurial support, with the likes of Joe Pearce and Tracey Costello needing to take a lot of credit for driving forward this programme. I was joined by other current or graduated students that had benefited from this investment, both financial but far more importantly in terms of an investment of time and skill development. While not all of the “student entrepreneurs” can continued to run their businesses post graduation everyone of them that I spoke to talked of the impact that it has had on their career being involved in creating a start up business.
That evening was also made very special by the keynotes speech given by Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on The Moon. Buzz, spoke with passion about the “space race” and the ingenuity and invention needed to achieve dreams that no one had thought possible before, alongside the respect needed for those that had achieved feats of human endeavour (for example his respect for Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space) as well as the often unseen consequences of achieving these feats. Clearly his experience on The Moon had deeply impacted him as he talked about the “magnificent desolation” of The Moon’s surface that was covered in a “soft grey talcum powder”, indeed, with something so profoundly different from any experience another human had had (apart from a small number of NASA astronauts) I was left wondering whether Buzz’s life thereafter had shown signs of undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder – a topic that I had studied at university in regard to WW2 soldiers.
Two things he spoke about will always stick with me – firstly a story from Buzz that upon hearing that the USSR had successfully got the first man into space in 1961 President Kennedy was determined that the USA should demonstrate their space capabilities…by sending their astronauts to Mars. Gathering his scientists together he sent them away for a weekend to plan it, only to have the news presented to him on the Monday that the scientists didn’t think it was possible and that the USA “should shoot for The Moon instead”. Kennedy was devastated (according to Buzz), but eventually came onboard with the new plan – one that Buzz Aldrin was able to execute alongside Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins.
Secondly, that Buzz was utterly convinced that the human race should be aiming to land astronauts on Mars, as well as set up a colony on Mars as soon as possible. Indeed, he had even written a book about it noting the benefits that such investment in space travel would bring in terms of technological advances, advances in communications, medicine and material designs. While he acknowledge it was not for his generation he made clear that the future of the human race depended on it – such passion for an idea that I am sure many of us would say is a bit barmy (though one that he & Kennedy might well be right about!) was interesting to listen to because the initial reaction is simply to dismiss it as “too crazy”. However, this really only goes to highlight our own barriers in terms of what we think is possible and of what we think the human race is capable of – strangely while many of us around the table agreed that “humans will one day live on Mars” none of us thought it should be our generation that took the risks to go and work out how to make it possible! Overall it was great night, with Buzz’s talk something I will take away with me for the rest of my life…after all it isn’t everyday you get to listen to someone that has stepped foot on The Moon!
Here at MGR Music Tuition I have been working very hard over the last few months creating a centralised platform to enable the teachers I work with to complete the admin side of things; specifically reporting the lessons that they have taught and making payment for these lessons. I was really excited to launch this in February 2016 – the platform also enables teachers to engage with one another in an interactive forum, a space where they can share best practise and gain advice about the many challenges of being a private music teacher. The team of teachers I work with has now grown to over 125, likely to peak at 150 later in the year, when the business will reach its full potential in terms of music teachers within the UK. Once that is reached this will mark a different stage of the business, moving from a start up business, through a phase I have jokingly referred to as the “teenage years” (sometimes temperamental but certainly more mature than early on) to something that is more akin to mid-twenties individual (more independent, with characteristics of its own). The analogy of comparing the life of a business to a humans, with a “birth”, early stages where the business needs constant attention before it can slowly become more independent, is one that I have heard about from other entrepreneurs and I would certainly that this has been my experience as well. With the music tuition business become more settled I thought I would explore launching a “project on the side” to work on during 2016.
With many of the teachers that I work with being active local musicians, driving their musical careers forward alongside their teaching, I decided to explore whether I can help them develop this aspect of their careers. Knowing that many of them generate revenue from “function band” performances and having researched the area thoroughly I decided to launch WeddingBand.co.uk, a website where local bands can list themselves, enabling clients to select them for their live wedding / reception music. Having spoken with a lot of the teachers that do wedding gigs that major complaint was that often the gigs where long distances away from where the band is actually based. Therefore creating more gigs in the specific area where the band resides would be an incredibly useful service for these musicians. The website is just at a prototype stage at the moment but I am excited to try and develop it over the next 12 months to see if I can get bands onboard and ultimately make their experience as musicians even better!