This blog entry is late for the #MusicTherapyBlogger Challenge hosted by Julie Palmieri at Serenade Designs. Better late than never! I skipped Week #4 post, but I will get back to it. There are so many books that I love. I just have to choose one. For Week #5, I chose to create a list of 5 things about my current experience in preparing to open a music therapy location in Duluth, MN.
At the beginning of July 2015, I signed my first lease for a physical space to expand my music therapy services. It was an exciting and scary experience all at once. I am now responsible for paying rent and the “extra” prep work that comes along with taking on a brick and mortar location. That “extra” came in the form of a marathon renovation tearing down walls, sanding, re-carpeting, and a lot of painting. That’s a lot of physical work, and boy, oh boy it is taxing on the body and mind. I’m so very excited about seeing the development and getting the work done, that at the end of the first week, I was crashing every evening. Thankfully, I have a wonderful, strong, supportive husband to help me with the physical work. Otherwise, I don’t know that I could have done this on my own. In this journey, I have already been blessed with so much experience and a little wisdom about the work involved that I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far in just 5 “little” suggestions. My first one is…
#1: Don’t overwork yourself. Get help from others. Take breaks, relax, and listen to your body.
If you don’t do this, you may end up somewhere like the emergency room with kidney and bladder trouble, as I did after the first week. Exhaustion can take a toll on the body.
On the business side of things, make sure you have plenty of time to get organized. I’m sure you will have groups to plan, sessions to schedule, financial planning, and marketing to roll out. I have given myself 1 1/2 months in total to prepare for my opening. I feel confident in that timeframe. I have been working with the NE Entrepreneur Fund to assist me in preparing financial projections, program calendars, navigating Quickbooks, and start-up funding. I have found them to be an invaluable resource which leads me to my second tip.
#2: Work with an entrepreneur organization that can guide and educate you.
I manage my website myself, so in preparation, a month prior, I hired Carrie Schaefer of carrieschaeferdesign.com
to create a new logo for Access Music Therapy, and I love it. Totally worth the investment!
For my online presence, I’ve added an online registration for groups and classes to my website. This should cut down on my time taking registrations and organizing payments manually. The new system will take payments online for each individual class. For anyone who is interested in the WordPress app I am using, it is called Event Espresso (under $100).
It’s even more important to create marketing materials. I must get the word out that my services exist. So, I have created flyers for each music therapy group that will be offered starting in September. In person, I’m offering brief presentations to specific populations. I’m participating in community events, posting updates of our progress, and building anticipation with my storefront windows to get the word out and impart information about my services to the community. I might even try an online contest from my windows!
There are so many things to plan, and if there were not enough time, I would imagine it could be disasterous! My third point pretty much sums it all up.
#3: Be organized, have a plan, plan again, and plan some more.
I love being creative! If you have storefront windows as I do, design them creatively. Think about the foot traffic, privacy, and educating the community about your services by way of your window display. One tip I learned is that vinyl lettering on the outside of the window versus the inside is more visible. My large group area is visible through the windows, so it will be important to provide confidentiality and avoid distractions through smart design. I love Pinterest for getting ideas for designing the inside and outside of my studio. I created a board with all of my colors and fabrics to keep me focused when looking for things. You can view my “AMT Studio” inspiration board at @AccessMT on Pinterest.com
I have a large group room, a 1:1 room, and an office as well as a kitchenette and bathroom. It’s an adequate amount of space, although I could see myself growing out of it eventually, so I must be smart in the storage of my equipment. I love to sew, and refinish wood, so I put my skills to work in some of the needed storage equipment in order to save money. And, that leads me to tip #4.
#4: Don’t be afraid to make your dreams come true. Be creative!
Celebrate the opening! Have an Open House. I’m planning mine for August 24. I’ve created a low cost budget with a marketing plan, food & drink, activities and contests. To get the word out, I will use Facebook, send postcard invitations to the community through snail mail, email invites to friends, family, clients, and networking agencies.
To gain attention from people passing by, I made a chalk sidewalk sign out of picture frames I bought at the Goodwill and will attach balloons to it. This sign will be awesome on a daily basis too!
When the open house is over, I plan to send thank you cards out to everyone who attended. I think an open house will be an excellent way to inform, educate and celebrate the opening of my music therapy location!
#5: Celebrate! Have an Open House.
There you have it! My list of 5 important things to keep in mind when you are opening a brick and mortar music therapy location. Personally, I am still walking through this process as I write this. I know there are additional areas of business that I haven’t covered here, but I wanted to keep it short. There are many music therapists out there who have already opened a music therapy location (or multiple locations), and have many pearls of wisdom. Please share in the comments