While living in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina is an EXCELLENT place for kids to grow up, "there isn't much for kids to do, especially when I started my business," Courtney said.
"My husband is the band director at the local high school and he was talking to me one day about the lack of lesson opportunities for kids and how it was very apparent at places like All District band which students lived in the urban area of Asheville(about an hour away) and which ones lived in the rural parts of our state. This lit a fire in me and I decided to set out on starting a small music school where kids could come and take lessons on just about any instrument. Nothing like this had been done in my area, so I didn't even know if it would work or not."
Courtney took the plunge and opened her school in June 2012 starting with four students: two piano students and two voice students.
"It was just me and I was renting dance rooms at a local dance studio. Of the four that started, only two continued for the year(I had no idea what I was doing!)."
When the school year started, Courtney was renting space at the dance studio, renting space from a church across the street, using the high school band room, AND doing home visits! By the end of the 2012-2013 school year, Courtney had about 14 students.
Courtney said she finally found a budget friendly commercial space in 2018 that allowed her to continue to grow.
"The center grew rather quickly from 2013-2016. We went from my 14 students in May of 2013 to 80 in May of 2016 with five teachers! It was then that I decided things were going well enough for me to quit my part time music teaching job at a charter school and just do the studio full time."
Courtney said things were going really well, but of course, life happened.
"I got pregnant. And then, every single one of my teachers had a major life change. Two had to quit due to the fact they were moving away and two had to majorly step back. This cost us about 25 students and a youth orchestra we were starting but couldn't continue because the director didn't have time for it. I couldn't find anyone else to run it. I was scared to death.
I now had to support not just me and my husband but also a child and my income had pretty much just been cut in half.
However, we were able to turn it around with some elbow grease and love. I often say it happened at just the right time cause....I honestly couldn't have done any more growth and paid attention to a baby."
Where she is NOW...
Wonderworks has also also recently gone from rural to international, as they were accepted as an organization on Outschool!
"My goals now are to really beef up the art program and get a streamlined way of registering students. Before, we had a bunch of options for each age level and our group classes never grew. Now, we are only doing groups for 10 and under. So far, it seems to be going really well and people seem very interested. I also want to work on make myself not as needed as a teacher at the studio so I can be home by 5:00 everyday."
We asked Courtney if she could go back in time, what ONE piece of advice or encouragement she'd give herself...
"Advice: Don't let people control you. You are in control of your business. If it doesn't work for you, let them know. Be firm in your policies, no matter how convincing someone might be.
Encouragement: You are always going to have low points and high points. Ride the excitement of the high points. It's ok to feel excited about that. But, when you hit a low, know that, as long as you keep working, it isn't the end. I honestly thought my business was going to end when COVID hit, but there is always a way!"
The biggest thing Courtney wants YOU the reader to know:
"It's easy to see people who have outstanding growth when they first open and wonder "what am I doing wrong?" But, know that isn't the norm. It does take work to get the word out but once its out, you won't be able to contain it!
Be the teacher you want to be. If something isn't working for you, don't be afraid to cut it or change it. You went in to business because you wanted to do something cool. Keep doing your own cool!"
Thank you SO MUCH, Courtney, for sharing your story with us and leaving us all with some encouragement to keep on moving forward with our studios and our passions!