From our occasional diarist, Anthea Kreston:
How to start a new business during the pandemic. Begin by asking yourself a few key questions.
1 What am I good at?
2 How do I or my friends/family feel?
3 What are we going crazy by, what do we crave, what are our problems and what might our problems be in a couple of months?
4 What resources do I have?
5 Do I have the energy and drive to learn many new skills?
6 Do I want to be very busy?
7 Am I ok with failure?
8 How can I protect myself from loss in the case of failure?
9 Am I optimistic?
I am teaching a student in Chengdu, China, online, and after getting some heavy exposure (Slipped Disc and NYT), I was approached by several schools, asking me to design summer programs for them in the States. I had a lot of meetings, designed some detailed programs, but when I suggested that we also design a completely virtual option, it met with blank stares or was knocked away. It was also thick and tangly – the number of people I had to cajole or compromise with – my vision, which I feel strongly about – was left a weak, spineless version of what I had so passionately believed in. In the States, in mid-March, they couldn’t understand me when I said we need to prepare for the virus here – it is coming here. They were booking dorm rooms and talking about flights and per diem, and I was talking about Skype and online conferencing platforms.
And so, I turned down contracts which would have offered financial stability to my family. I lost sleep over that decision as I saw my spring and summer engagements slip away, one by one. As my 30 students went online in mid-March, I was happy that we were ok financially, and I went into kindof a stupor for a couple of weeks. Then, one day, my husband said during breakfast, “just do it yourself“.
And so I did. And am. And I am so busy learning and managing and dreaming and building, I hardly have a moment to spare. I started by asking myself the questions above. And those answers, and the ideas that came from them, filled a the spare school notebook of my 8 year old.
I knew what I wanted – a long-term online international learning platform for all ages and levels, easily accessible, flexible, extremely varied, and with the ability to continue and change for years to come. I believe we will be in some sort of Inside state until 2025, and so I want a quick fix and long-term options as well. I decided to call it Inside Music Academy, during one of my long jogs into the hills of our small, rural town in Oregon. Academy because I want the future, not just the now.
I bought and designed a website. I threw away any ideas of what a summer camp normally is, and looked instead at what we need. Laughter, physical movement, new friends, short attention-span projects, demanding work, learning new skills, silliness. And I went to work. I designed a module platform, hired a person to run the books, then a personelle director. I added interns and now have upwards of 30 people working on this Academy. I can’t open my phone without new orders coming in – from Germany, North and South America, and enquiries from New Zealand and Singapore.
I invited my friends to teach. I designed short, inexpensive, rolling sessions in 4 different categories. I added Suzuki, conducting, composition, baroque. The electives module is so fun, I want to take every one – from Blast from the Past (silly music history – make a wig of famous composers out of toilet paper) to composition and community outreach taught by an El Systema teacher. I thought of the people who make me laugh, and I asked them to teach. My colleagues and my students and my teachers. I saw that my students were lethargic so we started to do scales while doing sit-ups or squats, and we take Victory Laps around the room every time we have a success in a lesson. I am now pre-recording our Rise-and-Shine daily warmups – bowhold burpees, high-knee running in place arpeggios. It’s silly and it’s fun and it’s actually a workout, but lead by a moderately-in-shape mother-of-2 in her mid-40‘s.
I have a lawyer drafting privacy documents, a Google Classroom specialist helping me design our virtual classroom, loading the virtual library, setting up the live Webcasts for our 12:12 Nanoconcerts (5-minute live concerts – guest superstars, selected students – it’s a surprise!). We have a full Suzuki wing, and Adult Learners are signing up. It’s a place for us to all be together, to laugh, to challenge ourselves, to learn new skills and to find solace within ourselves. I can’t believe how much I have already learned – we go live June 15, and we will jump into this new world with curiosity, ready to break free of our physical confines, and to expand our minds – the biggest and most free expanse in the world.
Director, Inside Music Academy
Virtual Summer Festival