A classically trained musician from an early age, Bill McRae spent many years performing and composing on keyboards, guitar and bass. After college, he became a music business executive, then a classroom teacher. In 2014, McRae decided he wanted to open a music school to share his love of music with students of all ages. Now open, the On Stage Music Academy offers introductory music classes, hands-on education in various instruments and genres, and experience in both recording and live performance.
McRae looked at other music programs and wanted to create something different—his own unique system and school. Although he grew up in a family business, and had worked as a sole proprietor pulling together teams of musicians to play, opening a business with employees would be a whole new experience. Throughout his career, McRae has always found that reaching out to others for advice and assistance pays off, so he visited the Small Business Development Center hosted by Long Beach City College for help with his idea.
SBDC Program Coordinator, Janice Grass managed McRae’s consultations with SBDC Director Mike Daniel and Business Advisors: Se’ Reed, Brad Pollak, Joseph Jackson, Laura Lara and Vi Pham. The team at SBDC helped McRae assess the viability of his idea, complete a business plan and marketing plan, research suitable locations for his startup, obtain necessary licenses and permits, negotiate the legal and HR challenges of hiring employees, and learn to use QuickBooks accounting software.
“Bill was great to work with and pushed through the [startup] process in a six-month period,” said the SBDC Long Beach Director, Mike Daniel. Combining his musical experience with his Business Advisors’ expertise, it seems McRae already has a hit on his hands. Just months after the business launch, the school already has a strong base of students. McRae kicked off his marketing using Groupon and Amazon Local offers, which attracted customers from near and far. “A good number of them have continued as students,” he says. A successful grand opening attracted the attention of local newspapers, and as word-of-mouth builds in the neighborhood, McRae is beginning to target a more specific local clientele.
Within the next four months, McRae’s goal is to be at 50 percent of capacity. Over the next two years, he plans to expand beyond the school’s beginner base and into intermediate/advanced classes, developing a music community that is varied in terms of genres, skill levels and ages.
To accomplish these goals, McRae continues to work with his SBDC Business Advisors regularly. “Getting advice from people who aren’t academics, but who walk the walk, is the biggest benefit [of the SBDC],” he says. “They are so giving.”
“The SBDC helped me find someone to work on a logo, people I could reach out to for insurance, an architect, a contractor—so many names! There is a huge benefit to removing doubt in a venture so full of the unknown. The SBDC gave me the resources, knowledge and confidence to move forward without questioning.”-Bill McRae, Founder, On Stage Music Academy