Today we’d like to introduce you to Molly Webb.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The business started out with just me running voice and piano lessons out of a studio in Costa Mesa. My dad helped me put up my first website, and I went through the awkward growth period of driving to the studio for one client and then driving home.
Over the years, business grew until I was teaching a full schedule of students six days a week, sometimes getting off as late as 10:30 PM. It was around that point that my fiancé (and eventual husband, Travis) began helping out with the business. Not a lot at first, just enough to keep me sane.
Everything from that point on happened fairly organically and in a “homespun” sort of way. My mom and I ran our first group vocal class that later became our Studio M program (it was called OC Glee back then, during the height of the Glee mania).
As my inquiries for music lessons began to exceed what I could handle on my own, Travis and I began discussing hiring other teachers. The first person we chose was a good friend of mine, Janelle, who I had known and trusted for years. Our first marketing hire was my sister Gracie. Our ad consultant and graphic designer was and still is Travis’s childhood friend Eric. Our two wonderful employees, Sarah and Anne, were poached from our first couple batches of teachers.
When we began running lessons in Irvine, it was because my former vocal student and singing buddy, Giana, asked us to come partner with her piano studio, Dancing Keys.
In 2013, we were asked by Oakridge Private School to run in-school and after-school classes there, and from there our school program was born.
Although we’ve now expanded into a nonprofit with four studios and programs in a variety of public and private schools, our business still has a family-run feel. Even now, our meetings are usually run from Travis’s and my house with donuts, coffee, and our dog Fen.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It definitely wasn’t always smooth sailing. Probably the biggest business challenge was in 2012 when my son Dean was born. Before that my teaching income had been used to help fund our other business expenses, but I decided to cut back on my hours to care for Dean. A lot of our business was funded with credit cards that year (something I’d recommend avoiding whenever possible) and it took a lot work and time to climb our way out of that hole.
We’ve, of course, faced other challenges as well. Learning how to balance what’s best for our teachers, what’s best for our clients, and what’s best for business was a learning curve. When we started, our first impulse was to do everything for everyone: allow students unlimited cancelations whenever anything came up at the last minute, offer benefits and vacation to our instructors, let teachers cancel whenever they liked, and so on. At a certain point, you realize that you have to make choices and that some things are mutually exclusive, like providing everyone with a consistent schedule and allowing unlimited cancelations, and some things aren’t, like treating our teachers as professionals and paying them accordingly and providing top-notch customer service. Our primary goal is to be as fair as possible to everyone, and to provide both students and teachers with the best learning and work environment possible.
So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Molly’s Music story. Tell us more about the business.
Aside from private music lessons, we have a group vocal program called Studio M that’s focused on the art of commercial vocal performance, including healthy pop vocal production, mic technique, and performance practice. We run these programs both at our studios and at schools throughout Orange County. In the summer, we run our annual Pop Star Camp, where we work on solo pop performance for a week and then put on a fun spotlight showcase for the parents and families.
Our recitals are known for being a lot of fun. We offer 3 kid-teen recitals a year, 2 teen-adult ones that take place at local venues like coffee houses and pizza places, 2 Studio M solo recitals, and an Instrumental Only Recital. We think it’s important that students get to consistently work toward performances so that they have a goal to keep them motivated.
I think what distinguishes us the most though is that we’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We have a robust scholarship program and run charitable events at places like CHOC Hospital. We’ve recently started a rewards program that encourages student engagement by donating to worthy causes on the student’s behalf. And we’re currently planning a very low-cost lesson alternative for people who can’t afford traditional music lessons.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Travis and I have really been extremely lucky in a variety of ways. We wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for a lot of help from family. My parents have helped in a thousand ways: they got me started after college, helped me advertise before I knew how, and helped me secure my first studio in Costa Mesa. His parents take Dean for the weekend when we’re overloaded, and stuff us with food when we’re too busy to make food happen on our own. And I’m pretty sure our employees, Sarah and Anne, are the best employees ever in the history of the world, and we feel really lucky to have them. Not to mention that a lot of the teachers we’ve found over the years have been absolutely amazing. Actually, I can’t emphasize that last one enough. We have a fantastic group of teachers. They make us look so good!
Our partnership with Giana and Dancing Keys was also very fortuitous. Several years ago, Giana had asked me to sponsor her upcoming album by giving her some voice lessons (and eventually singing backup at her album release concert). If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have the wonderful partnership in Irvine that we now have.
Travis and I also got lucky because we complement one another well. I’m extremely cautious and restrained; he’s a fairly aggressive risk taker; I’m great with the artistic and pedagogical end of our business, and he’s well versed in creating processes to get things running efficiently.
- Address: Costa Mesa studio: 419 E. 17th St. Costa Mesa, 92627 Suite 204
Irvine studio: 4672 Barranca Parkway, Irvine, 92604
Orange studio: 20241 E. Frank Lane, Orange, 92869
Riverside studio: 245 W. Big Springs Rd. #K, Riverside, 92507
- Website: www.mollysmusic.com
- Phone: (800) 581-4609
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @mollysmusicschool
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/mollysmusicschool
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/mollys_music
- Yelp: Costa Mesa: https://www.yelp.com/biz/mollys-music-costa-mesa
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/company/molly’s-music