“Mason Music started out with one couple driving around Birmingham to give music lessons. Now, with three locations and a staff of more than 40, Mason Music is one of the most popular places in town to learn to play piano, guitar, drums, and violin…” – Birmingham Magazine (courtesy of AL.com).
Will Mason – a former guitarist with rock band Moses Mayfield – met his wife Sarah, while visiting Birmingham and the two bonded over their love of music. According to the couple’s public profile:
Will and Sarah married in 2007 and settled in Birmingham. Working as a waitress and searching for a job in music, Sarah began teaching piano part time. What began as a side job driving to and from client’s homes to teach piano or voice, quickly developed into an exciting opportunity. Will had been working part time in construction since leaving his band, and as Sarah’s teaching schedule filled, she referred students interested in guitar to Will. Suddenly, husband and wife were both teaching music and the couple saw their profile in the community rise and their client list increase. Mason Music grew quickly by word of mouth, and by the fall of 2008 the couple’s teaching schedules had swelled to capacity. Tapping into their network of friends in the Birmingham music scene, Will and Sarah recruited new teachers by targeting talented, high character musicians who performed and recorded regularly and had a passion for music.
In early 2011, the couple reached out to the Alabama Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network through Tye Warren, Director of Capital Access. The couple had a vision for a concept that would allow students to come to a facility where they could learn almost any type of instrument and associated musical activities – a deviation from the traditional model of in-home lessons focused on one instrument only. They wanted to focus on a whole music community – not just a “business.”
In 2012, with SBDC assistance related to strategic and financial management planning, as well as site selection and business modeling, the Mason’s opened their first studio in Cahaba Heights – a Birmingham area suburb located in Vestavia Hills. After being open only mere months, the couple already had to put families on a waiting list due to the popularity of their services, which included – at the time – lessons and day camps for children. Today, Mason Music has two additional locations in Mountain Brook and the Bluff Park area of Hoover, offering a booking agency for bands and equipment for various events, additional classes and camps for children, recording studios for budding artists and a “Rock Band League” that plugs their students into various performance opportunities throughout the area.
When recently asked in a Birmingham Magazine interview what advice he would offer to entrepreneurs, Will Mason responded:
Get ready to invest everything you have—time, energy, and money. It takes a huge commitment and a lot of sacrifice to get a new business off the ground. Also, a good friend recently shared a formula: Anxiety = Stress/Resources. If you are thinking about starting a business, get ready for some stress. The best thing you can do is find some great resources to support you. Find some business mentors, (the Alabama Small Business Development Center is a GREAT resource), establish an Advisory Board, talk to close friends about what’s going on—don’t isolate yourself. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. Also, just know that as the owner and manager, you set the pace. If you aren’t growing personally, your team can’t grow either. Set aside some time to read great business leadership books and find some podcasts that can be a source of new ideas, fresh inspiration, and motivation for you.
The couple continues to be featured in various forums both in print and online – including in a recent Portico Magazine – for their continued work in the business and music community, and for their success as entrepreneurs. There is no doubt that Mason Music has a bright future ahead of them, and the Alabama SBDC Network is honored to be able to continue to work with them.