Welcome to our founder lessons series. This week, Taylor Robinson Music Lessons CEO and Founder Taylor Robinson reveals how he started and built the platform. Taylor Robinson Music Lessons connects music students with local music teachers for lessons in voice, guitar, piano, drums, and more. Today, they have more than 8,000 instructors in 50 cities across the country.
How did you start Taylor Robinson Music Lessons
Taylor Robinson Music Lessons started as just a way for me to make some money when my band wasn’t on tour. In the early 2000s, I was in an alternative rock band in Dallas, Texas called Fallen From the Nest. We had a record deal and a decent fanbase, but we weren’t making enough money to live off of the band full time. My bandmates had day jobs waiting tables or working construction, but I decided to start a business teaching guitar lessons.
It ended up being a huge win-win – I got to make money with music, my students (especially the kids) thought it was awesome that their guitar teacher was in a real live rock band, and the parents loved how much their kids were enjoying learning to play an instrument. As my schedule started to fill up, I roped some of my friends in the Dallas music scene into becoming teachers as well. Before I knew it, I had a real business on my hands.
The website originally started in 2008 as a way to showcase our instructors for potential students. As we started expanding nationally, it became a hub where students could pick out a teacher, buy lessons, and schedule with their teacher all in one place. The idea of paying for services online was pretty new then, but we found that parents liked the security of working through a third party, and the teachers liked that they didn’t have to worry about billing or advertising. The market is a lot more crowded now, but we’ve managed to carve out a niche for ourselves and we continue to grow!
What are your biggest success factors
We had a really big break in 2013 when we were featured on the ABC show Shark Tank. We didn’t get funded, but that kind of exposure was huge for a company like ours. Our segment on the show still re-airs every few months and it always results in a huge spike of site visits.
That being said, though, the biggest contributor to our success has been our commitment to our mission. Our motto is “Learn To Play from the Heart.” We believe that the best way to develop a life-long love of music is to learn from people who are experienced and passionate. This philosophy allows us to be true to our customers as well as our teachers. When you keep your eyes on the goal, you can be flexible and roll with the punches without letting it bring you down.
What challenges have you faced launching and running Taylor Robinson Music?
When you’ve been in business for over ten years, you certainly encounter a lot of setbacks! Probably the biggest challenge has been dealing with limited funding. We’re a bootstrapped startup without any venture capital or outside investment, which means that we can’t always do everything we want to do because of budget constraints. It’s not easy, but the independence ultimately allows us to stay true to our mission.
Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
Without a doubt, the right team. Your team can make or break your project. You can have an amazing product with a great market, but if you don’t have the right people working with you, it’s going to be hard to see long-term success. Markets change. Products develop and depreciate. But if you have the right team, you’ll be able to adapt to those changes and grow as a company.
Final words for those chasing the startup dream
Play the long game. If you want to get in and get out, you’re going to miss out on a lot of the lessons that you learn along the way. Starting a company is hard. You will make mistakes. There will be incredible successes and huge disappointments. You might end up going in an entirely different direction than you ever imagined, but if you stick it out, it’ll ultimately be a positive experience. My company was built around following your passion, and that’s ultimately the driving force behind startup success.