Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jennifer Buchanan, founder and president of JB Music Therapy, located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

JB Music Therapy is a team of certified Music Therapists (MTAs) who collaborate, design, and personalize therapy plans to boost mood, decrease stress, improve speech after injury, increase focus, develop learning, reduce anxiety, and recover lost memories. We empower and connect every person (from infants to elders) to their best selves regardless of circumstance. We champion music therapy through excellence in clinical practice and public education, transforming lives one note at a time.

Tell us about yourself

I am the Founder of JB Music Therapy (JBMT), a music therapy company that has been instrumental in the implementation of hundreds of music therapy programs throughout Canada for 30 years and that has been thrice nominated for the Community Impact Award by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. JB Music Therapy currently employs a diverse team of 18 Certified Music Therapists.

As the author of two award-winning books – ‘Tune In‘ and ‘Wellness Incorporated, ‘I feel fortunate to be a trusted source for media outlets across North America and have been featured in publications such as The Guardian and The Huffington Post. My latest book, Wellness, Wellplayed: The Power of a Playlist, was written for all of us who love to make the biggest impact possible while getting the most out of life – it equips busy, mindful people with tools and supports to engage with music in a deeper way.

As an invited keynote speaker at national and international conventions, I speak on music and mental health, music therapy, and health entrepreneurship to a wide variety of education, healthcare, government, small business, and corporate wellness audiences.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Creating jobs (salary + benefits) for certified music therapists is certainly one of the most meaningful accomplishments as a business owner. Also, writing books and sharing resources for other health entrepreneurs to scale their practices sustainably and also resources for improving organizations to support their team's best health and well-being through music.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Ensuring I always have enough margin to lead our team through unexpected challenges. Problem-solving takes energy and critical for the CEO. This means building in margin, achieved by incorporating self-care, on the days I feel able. Through all my years of working with people who have been blindsided and are facing difficult unexpected life transitions, I have come to feel that we all need a margin, a space for the unexpected, for random adversity. It sounds simple but is not easy.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. When a bottleneck shows up...LEAN IN:
    Seth Godin says this best, "You lean into a problem, especially a long-term or difficult one, by sitting with it, reveling in it, embracing it and breathing it in." As a business owner, we can identify external problems, glitches, and weaknesses through customer surveys, focus groups, or personal interviews. Through these, we carefully assess our customer's perception regarding our reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and overall care. Internal bottlenecks can be found by walking through your procedures using flowcharts, storyboards, and team brainstorming sessions. Once the bottleneck is revealed, we can often feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to fix it. By leaning into the problem, breathing it in, you will eventually no longer feel paralyzed by it but see it for what it really is - something that can and will be fixed.
  2. When you need to refuel, it may be time to revisit your mission:
    In 2012, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, realized that he "felt lost because TOMS had become more focused on process than on purpose." Mycoskie went on to describe these feelings as "concentrating so hard on the 'what' and 'how' of scaling up that we'd forgotten our overarching mission, which is to use business to improve lives." Due to this realization, Mycoskie took a six-month sabbatical and used the physical and psychological separation to do some soul-searching and to re-connect with his mission. He found it and came back with confidence and direction. I have found that taking more frequent sabbaticals throughout the year, something very new to me, has been quite helpful in helping me stay connected to our mission. Doing this often means thinking back to my earliest beginnings and first few clients. I can imagine those moments so strongly that they truly feel like yesterday, rather than 30 years ago, and these images immediately remind me of my company's purpose of why we do what we do.
  3. Remove money from the ultimate equation: In a social purpose business, money is never the goal, nor is it the problem - it is only one of the tools to be used and measured. At JB Music Therapy, we relate a lot to the owner of Impakt, Paul Klein, who has structured his measuring stick quite similarly to ours: only do work with purpose and have the courage to walk away from opportunities that compromise that purpose work with people (employees and clients) you authentically like and respect compensate people fairly and have fun. In addition to the above, we also measure our company's impact by the results of our client's experience and the number of people we serve based on need, and regardless of age or ability. Like Klein, we have found that "profitability is qualitative" and always aligns with and accompanies the other measures.

My motto: you don't have to have it all figured out to move forward.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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