Client Spotlight: This Entrepreneur Built A Business Turning Music Education On Its Head

, | May 24, 2018 | By
Client Spotlight: This Entrepreneur Built A Business Turning Music Education On Its Head

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In the early 2000’s, Aaron Sizemore was living the life many young musicians dream of. He was making a living doing what he loved: performing. He dabbled in blues, R&B, funk, and rock, but his true passion was jazz—his instrument of choice, the jazz guitar.

On the side Sizemore taught private music lessons, as many musicians do. Although he loved mentoring the next generation of musical minds, he felt strongly that something was missing.

Aaron Sizemore“It’s kind of like an ugly little secret among musicians,” Sizemore says. “We know that private lessons are a totally incomplete educational experience. It almost misses the whole point of music.”

Music’s Ugly Little Secret

It’s something that Sizemore and his wife, who was also a musician, talked about and puzzled over at length.

In private lessons, the student and teacher talk mostly in theoretical terms. They practice scales. They rehearse and repeat. But as Sizemore explains, that only begins to scratch the surface of what music is all about.

“Music is a language,” he says. “It’s probably the most social art form and it thrives in a community. Everybody who’s ever gotten serious about music did so because they tapped into some kind of community, not because they were just practicing in their bedroom.”

In other words, private lessons were a good starting point, but for serious musicians they could only go so far. Sizemore and his wife Katrinka—they weren’t yet married at the time—began to mull over the idea of an entirely different format for teaching and practicing music.

“We thought, wouldn’t it be fun to dive into something different, something that feels so ripe for disruption that also happens to be something we’re passionate about?”

The concept behind Music House School of Music was born.

Building A Community—And A Business

The Sizemores opened Music House School of Music in January 2007. It’s built around the belief that musical passion and advancement thrives within a vibrant community through diverse exposure and interaction.

In addition to your standard private lessons, the school offers group lessons, performance opportunities, specialized bands and ensembles, and a diverse catalog of free weekend classes, all designed to drive the learning of music as a language to be shared, not just spoken to oneself.

“We created our own method books, online practice tracks, and a variety of different programs that interface and connect with one another,” Sizemore says.

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In addition to building out a school and curriculum that would change the format of musical education, Sizemore was undergoing a big transition of his own: one from musician to entrepreneur. Like most new business owners, the Sizemores took on everything themselves, including the books.

Eventually, though, they decided to bring on help and hired an enthusiastic student to manage their accounting. It was helpful for a while… until it wasn’t.

“Like most business owners, I was learning everything on the job, including how to hire someone to do accounting,” Sizemore says. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good fit and it kept leading to frustrations.”

Finally, Sizemore turned to the internet and began researching outsourced accounting. He happened upon Ignite Spot and soon after, became our client.

The Language Of Accounting

If music is Sizemore’s language of choice, then accounting is ours. Just as a musician communicates through cadence and melody, we communicate in margins and cash flow, and work to help our clients do the same.

Controller Nelson Shendow manages Music House School of Music’s account. He says part of working with any client is making sure you’re speaking a language you both can understand.

“This varies from client to client but is a universal issue: vocabulary,” Shendow says. “One of the things I work to learn with every client is how they understand accounting vocabulary. What we call an invoice, they might call a purchase order, and so on. I work to adapt to every client so we understand the same words to mean the same thing.”

Once a shared vocabulary has been established, that’s when meaningful conversations can happen. Nelson says every week, he and Sizemore go over a few key aspects of the business.

“We talk about what areas of the business he’s doing best in and where he’s losing ground,” Shendow says. “Because we talk about these things once a week, he can get a really good understanding of actual trends and what’s happening in his business.”

Additionally, every week Shendow sends a summary report containing four items: what Ignite Spot has accomplished that week, what we’re still working on, what we need from the client and the agenda for the next discussion.

“That way when we get on the phone, we don’t have to waste time on those things. We can spend the time focusing on the more important things, like growing the business,” Shendow says.

Sizemore says he never realized communicating about accounting could be done so clearly.

“It was like, ‘oh, it can be like this,’” he says. “My standards have completely changed.”

A Psychological Hurdle

More than a decade into running the school, Sizemore has obviously come into his own in his new role as an entrepreneur and business leader. In the beginning, though, he says his biggest challenge wasn’t practical, but psychological. It’s something many would-be entrepreneurs grapple with.

“We all assume that others who are doing what we aspire to have some hidden talent or some special knowledge that’s beyond us,” he says. “That’s one of the things that stops people from doing something bold. I’ve learned it’s not that at all. It’s commitment. It’s passion.”

Sizemore says his biggest lesson has been coming to terms with the fact that you don’t have to be a genius to run a business. You just have to be willing to commit to an idea and see it through, which is where most new business owners fail.

“I was constantly surprised by how normal other entrepreneurs are. They’re just a bunch of humans like me. The hardest part is just maintaining that level of focus and work.”

Related: Entrepreneurs Share Their Number One Business Lesson

Leaving A Lasting Legacy

Today, the Music House family includes several dozen teachers and more than 600 students.

In 2013, the Sizemores opened a second location, and Aaron has his sights set on a third. He’s taking his time to find the right location that will support the growing community.

“As opposed to opening separate locations that feel totally discrete, we’re trying to connect them,” he says. “We want the third location to be like the completion of a triangle.”

He’s also considered the possibility of franchising, but says it would have to be done in a way that would maintain the Music House values and the ideas that started the school in the first place.

Sizemore’s most important goal, however, is to continue doing meaningful work. In 2016, his wife Katrinka passed away after fighting metastatic cancer for several years. Sizemore says her legacy lies in the founding of the school, and she’d be pleased to see him continuing to work toward the greater good.

“If I was happy in my work, that would make her very happy,” he says. “That is my goal: to do meaningful work and to live a life that matters.”