Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Yulia Berry, Founder of The Babel Flute, located in Boston, MA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am a professional flutist, independent educator, publisher, and website developer. I have combined all my skills into businesses that complement each other and stimulate growth in all areas involved. I founded two flute schools in Massachusetts, Quincy, and Sharon. My students are flute lovers of all ages and levels, from 5 to 75 years old. I offer an enriched music curriculum that, in addition to individual lessons, includes regular group lessons for all students, music theory, history, rhythm development, fun music activities and games, and ensembles. I work with professional pianist and performing arts coach Miles Fellenberg and organize at least two formal recitals a year for all of my students.
During the pandemic, my partner Onorio Zaralli, a renowned Italian flutist, composer, and writer, and I founded The Babel Flute, an international flute magazine, and community. It's free, available in 100 languages, created by flutists from all over the world, and open to everyone. The name Babel Flute comes from the legend of the Tower of Babel, but our concept is the opposite - to bring all flutists from all over the world to the roof of one platform, erasing language barriers, thanks to the powerful and exceptional high-quality translation function on the Babel Flute website.
For 1.5 years, the site was visited by more than 140,000 flute players and flute lovers from 146 countries of the world. In addition to the magazine, we offer a flute forum, a board of jobs and collaborations, announcements, classifieds, a digital music sheet store, a business directory of deals and offers, and a historical flutist calendar.
In addition to my computer work on this project, I have also written and published quite a few articles in The Babel Flute magazine. Our next step, which we are currently working on, is to release the Babel Flute Online Courses on a dedicated platform with the same powerful translation feature. Flutists and musicians from all over the world can enroll in these courses and study and read them in 100 languages. The first two courses written by Onorio Zaralli will be ready for student enrollment in November. The course "The Flute of Oz" is devoted to playing the flute and music artistry, and "A Tale of Music" is for all music lovers and dedicated to the history of music from ancient times to the present day, very well organized and enriched with interesting facts, videos, illustrations, flashcards, quizzes, and valuable observations. Both courses offer certificates upon completion. We plan to offer more courses in the future.
Tell us about yourself
I have come a very long way in professional music education. I graduated from the State Conservatory, named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov in St. Petersburg, Russia, with a Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A., five years), after graduating from the Mussorgsky State Musical College with a Master's degree (4 years). Prior to that, I studied full-time at the state music school for 12 years in parallel with the regular school. I also got all sorts of music experience playing in symphony orchestras, performing as a soloist and as part of ensembles in the best halls in Russia, and even playing in an ethno-rock band.
When I moved to the USA, I had the opportunity to try myself in other fields. So I mastered computer, web design, mobile application development, graphic design, and marketing by myself. I also wrote an internet bestseller about alternative health and started painting with watercolors. In 2013 I made the Mobile application "All about the flute" and Mobile applications for some music artists. The coolest feature was to send pop-up notifications to users' phone screens to announce music news, which could include text, pictures, videos, and links. Unfortunately, it was too much ahead of its time. The public was not ready to appreciate the incredible potential of such applications - many did not even have smartphones at the time.
Meeting Onorio Zaralli resulted in our first joint project, "Web Flute Academy," founded in 2017 when virtually no one else taught music to live online. We constantly exchange innovative ideas, and in our plans, there are incredible projects that we will definitely start in the near future!
The biggest motivation for us is the great support of the flute community! There are so many talented people around us who are passionate about the flute and music! The Babel Flute magazine is created by professional flutists from many countries. They share their knowledge and experience with the world for free and for the benefit of all! We are all doing great and necessary work together.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I am very happy and grateful that my flute studios have wonderful students and supportive families. The best change I've made is structuring and enriching the annual lesson curriculum and running it as a school instead of just offering private lessons in the traditional way. It also allowed me to have stable hours and income, which in turn gave me stability and confidence that I could pay for the studios where the lessons take place. The students also benefit greatly from the new structure because they get all kinds of musical education and experience, and as a result, they grow faster and better as musicians and flutists.
The Babel Flute has great potential, and we hope that in the future, our investments and hard work will pay off. We already have huge traffic and offer an incredible amount of information on all sorts of music topics, as well as many necessary flute services that are not found anywhere else.
If flutists, music businesses, and institutions support it with advertising and sponsorship, it will help us continue to offer it free to flute players and fund our non-profit educational projects. One such project was carried out during the summer for middle school students in Peru. It was an essay competition in response to an article about the musical culture of Peru in The Babel Flute magazine. We have a report about it on the website, and we also published the students' works.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I will not be original if I say that this is a search for funds or the risk of investing your own money before your business really brings in a stable income or good profit. You have to stay calm, see it as a larger picture, and keep trying different ways. Any of these will bring the desired results. There is a very good saying: "Under the lying stone, water does not flow." It is always a good idea to consult a financial adviser.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You have to believe in your idea, even if everyone else says it's impossible, or too hard, or just doesn't understand it. Innovative ideas take time to be accepted.
- You must find the right people along the way. Not everyone shares or understands your passion for your idea or business. Finding the right people, attracting them, and getting their help is a great help for your business and motivation for further growth.
- Be patient while waiting for the results, but don't be afraid to take risks if it's necessary and your gut tells you. Most people are risk-averse, but they don't come up with great ideas either. Keep this in mind when someone gives you advice that brings you down and goes against your intuition.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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