Business

Small Business Success Story: Boise Music Lessons

Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Angie and Marcus Marianthi didn’t miss a beat.

Malcolm Hong Apr 23, 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic first sent the world into lockdown, many people demonstrated solidary through music, whether it came from balcony performances or live concerts via Zoom.

It’s clear that music helps build strong communities — which is the mission of Angie and Marcus Marianthi, owners of Boise Music Lessons.  

Because of their passion for music, the Marianthis didn’t miss a beat during the pandemic. They pivoted to online learning and implemented safety precautions to retain in-person learning.   

Angie and Marcus share lessons from their entrepreneurial journey and provide insight on running a small business during challenging times. 

What do you want people to know about your small business?

We’re passionate about educating students and we realized there was a need to provide learning opportunities to adults, teens and tweens. There’s a common misperception that music needs to be learned at a young age and many people regret not learning to play an instrument as a youth. But we believe music is a skill that can be learned at all stages of life.  

We’ve found that teaching adults and older students helps entire families to play music together. This helps adults pass along a love of music to the next generation and instills teamwork as each family member plays their part.

How have you adjusted your business model in light of COVID-19?

When COVID-19 triggered a surge of lockdowns, we moved entirely towards online learning. We also taught lessons outside, safely distanced with masks, as conditions improved. We continued to teach group lessons online and at local parks for in-person classes. When a student learns to play with people early on, they recognize what they can contribute to a jam session and develop mastery of their individual parts.   

To help our community, we launched our give-back "Virtual Sip & Strum" program last March, inspired by the Sip & Strum classes we used to host live at local tasting rooms before the pandemic. It's an online happy hour where we learn a song together. We use this program to promote local businesses by offering optional beverage pairings (wine, kombucha, and mocktails, with options to ship anywhere) and raise funds for nonprofits.  We have supported the Boise Hive, the Treefort Live Music Relief Fund, and Musicares.

Many small businesses that use video conferencing had customers that experienced “Zoom fatigue.” How have you overcome this challenge over the last year of remote learning?

Moving our classes online provided a few advantages we didn’t have through live classes. For example, our sessions are recorded, so our students can play back the tape for future practice. Our students also appreciate the convenience of connecting to a session from any location. One student is a doctor and called in from his break room in full scrubs! 

To meet the needs of students who want to connect in person, we’ve offered in-person learning through our Lawn Lessons and the open-air studio we remodeled during the pandemic. Our studio includes air purifiers and a layout that allows for social distancing for individual or family lessons. 

We want to expand our ability to offer in-person classes for larger groups, which is why we launched a crowdfunding campaign for the outdoor community classroom we’re seeking to build.

We’ve put together a compelling reward tier that includes personal group classes and use of the space for custom events.

What tips do you have for other small businesses seeking to grow?

There’s a lot of great resources out there for business owners and I recommend taking advantage of the workshops, coaching and training offered by the Zions Bank Business Resource Center and other community organizations. It’s also helpful to network with other business owners and ask them questions about the resources they find helpful.

Finally, listen to customers and the questions they ask you. Before we launched our business, we heard many people share that they have an unrequited wish about learning music in their youth. This validated our business model and gave us the confidence to move forward with our offerings.

What was your experience working with Zions Bank and how did it help your business?

Working with Zions Bank has been fantastic. The insight I’ve gained from its Idaho Business Resource Center has given us practical ideas to apply for our business and the nonprofits we support. We also appreciate how Manager Gina Bessire has helped us make valuable business connections.  

Looking to start or grow your own small business? Zions Bank offers online business tools including business templates, columns, videos and financial calculators. Our Business Resource Centers in Salt Lake City and Boise provide counseling and training for entrepreneurs.

Zions Bank’s team of relationship managers can help you find the right SBA loan* for your business. Apply for a business loan online anytime or visit a local Zions Bank branch to learn more.

*Loans subject to credit approval and SBA approval. Terms and conditions apply. See a banker for details.

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