We recently caught up with Michael Hughes, graduate of MMBE, who was awarded a £5000 start-up loan from Virgin Money for his business Music Tutor Direct. Initial pessimism from those outside the business has made Michael even more determined to make it a success. Boasting over 125 clients, the business is certainly on its way up.
What is the programme you have gone through with Virgin Money?
The programme that I went through is called ‘Start up Loans’. It’s brand new and I’m one of the first people to go through it in the first batch of businesses. Only 35 businesses have actually been a part of it so far before it gets rolled out properly. The reason we’re getting so much publicity is because it’s new, and to advertise the start up loans, so the fact that they’re choosing us is great.
Did Branson offer you any pearls of wisdom when you met him?
I went into tunnel vision and went straight to shake his hand, and he almost dropped the cheque!
He was saying well done, and good luck for the future. He replied to a tweet I sent him not long before, so he said keep tweeting and keep in touch. He’s not an intimidating character to be around, really down to earth, and seems really people orientated. He’s known through Virgin as Mr. Yes, and I hope one day I’m known through Music Tutor Direct as Mr. Why Aye!
What do you plan to do with the £5000?
We’re going to use it mainly to gain more customers, and to improve the website and the management of the business. We’re growing that quickly I’ve now got to utilize technology to come in and do the hard work so I’m using things like an iPad now, whilst before it was all on paper. I was using the whole Amazon Rainforest!
Before I set it up people said it was a bad idea, and we then also had 7 months with no customers… but since March 2012 to the present we’ve gained 128 customers. Bit of a ‘I told you so’ to some people, and it illustrates the quick growth that Music Tutor Direct has had.
How did MMBE help you with Music Tutor Direct?
To be honest what kept me going was the support from MMBE. After going through the course it gave me some confidence. Deep down I knew it was going to be successful. The MMBE gave me more knowledge about the music industry. If you want to be successful then you’ve got to have the knowledge, or it’s the equivalent of having a one hit wonder like ‘I Am the One and Only’ but in business!
Tell us a little more about the business model of Music Tutor Direct…
The best way I can describe the Music Tutor Direct business model is that it’s changing the way people are learning to play an instrument. Normally music tutors would work in a 5-10 mile radius but with Music Tutor Direct we can cover a much wider area. In the near future we’re hoping to expand outwards, so definitely within this year we’re going to be opening it up in more city centres. A big advantage to Music Tutor Direct is that because there are plenty of tutors covering various areas, we don’t need the main premises; all the central business from my end is done from home. Therefore a massive overhead is gone and it helps to put more money into the actual business itself.
Any highlights then so far?
Well because of all the negativity that was sent towards the business plan in the first place, if someone had said in my second year of business I would meet Richard Branson I would be like…erm! We’ve also had publicity in the Sunday Sun, which I’ve framed.
To be honest there are not many businesses that have done what we have and it’s not only because I’ve kept so dedicated, but also because the tutors are so fantastic. They’re the unsung heroes. I ask them what could be done better, and what we do wrong and they tell me. They’ve really got behind Music Tutor Direct and they are one of the things that have made it so successful.
Getting a virtual office to take and organize customer contact details is a big help. The future is looking really fantastic, especially because we’re still growing in one of the biggest recessions that we have ever had. There is also something planned for the future in our services and I can’t wait to reveal it very soon. It’s the next step in Music Tutor Direct.
Sounds brilliant Michael, anything else you’d like to add?
I’d just like to say thank you to everyone, who instead of dismissing it as a business, accepted it and helped it grow. Thanks to Generator, MMBE, and everyone who believed in it. We can’t wait to expand even more and provide an even bigger and better service.