Stephanie Leavell, founder of Music for Kiddos joins Ward to chat about how she provides resources for children's music therapists and educators via songs, courses, community, and books within her membership.
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📄 Show TranscriptThis transcript is computer generated, please excuse any errors :)
Ward Sandler 0:06
Hey, Stephanie, welcome to member maker.
Stephanie Leavell 0:37
hi ward. Thanks so much for having me.
Ward Sandler 0:39
Yeah, thanks for coming on. So what's your business and who do you help?
Stephanie Leavell 0:43
So my business is called music for kiddos and I am a board certified music therapist. So I educate music therapists and also other music educators. And I focus very closely on kind of early childhood music so Music for ages zero to six, and I provide some continuing education for music therapists and music educators.
Ward Sandler 1:07
Okay, so that's a bunch of from people there, right? There's the early childhood folks. There's the therapist, and then there's also the educator. So does that involve like three different types of membership? Or how does that all work?
Stephanie Leavell 1:18
Actually, no, it doesn't. So it's all people who are actively doing music of some sort with kids. And so there is quite a bit of overlap. And it's kind of nice. You know, initially, I was a little worried that, that by including music therapists who have a little bit of a different training than a music educator, I was a little worried that I would have to have two separate membership sites, but I decided to try it all together. And it's actually worked out beautifully because everybody has kind of a different perspective. And a big part of the membership is the community aspect of it. And so for example, we have you know, a Facebook private Facebook group and everybody kind of gives them to different perspective and the feedback that I've been receiving is that people love that there's the two very distinct perspectives in there, though I have to say that it tends to lean more music therapy heavy.
Ward Sandler 2:11
Gotcha. So that private Facebook group, the community you're talking about is you said, that's one of like, the major aspects that people really like about the membership.
Stephanie Leavell 2:19
They do. Yeah, so I call it the music for kiddos resource community. So I'm providing resources for them, but I'm also providing community so something about music teachers and about music therapists is that we tend to be like the only one of our kind in like schools or hospitals or, you know, preschools or things like that different facilities that we work in. There tends to be a lot of teachers and things that can relate with each other about the kind of work that they're presenting to kids. And for music therapists and music educators were often the only one and so the community piece of it is something that is very desirable and very wanted. And we formed a really tight knit group.
Ward Sandler 3:06
It's wonderful. And it's something I've heard from a lot of folks been on the podcast and just you know, customers a MemberSpace in general that having a community is just the glue that kind of keeps the membership going and what you're offering is certainly important and like resources, you provide PDFs, videos, etc, it's all great. But at the end of the day, the community of people is for a lot of folks their most important asset of the membership and why people stick around.
Stephanie Leavell 3:30
I completely agree and I have toyed around with, you know, kind of creating two different tiers where one is resources only and the other one is, you know, a higher level tier that has the community aspect of it. And as of now, you know, my my membership is only a year old, but as of now, I have actually opted against that because I'm able to keep people involved in the membership and I'm absolutely certain that that is because of the community involvement.
Ward Sandler 3:57
And what are your thoughts on using Facebook as Like the main source of the community, do you have any any downsides to that you can think of.
Stephanie Leavell 4:04
So all the resources are posted on my website. And then all of the community stuff happens either via zoom or via Facebook. And I can't say there's a lot of downside. I think it's been pretty good. I guess the downside is that there are some people who opt to not be in the Facebook group, because they just don't really use Facebook. And they seem to be completely okay with that. Whereas I am like, well, you're missing out on this really big benefit of the of the membership. So that is the only downside I think I have about out of, you know, I have about 108 members, and I think about eight of them choose not to be on that Facebook group.
Ward Sandler 4:42
Gotcha. Yeah, it's a pretty good ratio then, on terms of activity. Yeah. So how did you actually come into this business niche in terms of wanting to help people with this specific topic?
Stephanie Leavell 4:52
I am my own target customer, for sure. I did a kind of a career shift about four years ago and I you know, music therapists, for example, they can work with people at really all stages of life, they can work with ABS all the way up to elderly people in hospice. So as a music therapist, I was making a pretty big shift. And I was going from being a medical music therapist in a hospital to working in preschool or so I was going one on one music therapy in a hospital, to these large groups of like 20 to 25 kids. And even though I was still working with kids, it was such a huge learning curve for me to make that big shift, and a very, very challenging shift. And so I started researching, you know, specific resources for what for the new job that I was going to do, because I didn't want to create everything myself, and only to find that I really needed to create everything myself. So I started to create a resource library and eventually turned my resource library into you know, the big part of the membership site.
Ward Sandler 5:51
I love that the organic nature of that of building something like a resource library to help yourself and then others wanting access to that and all of that. So From there, what have you actually charged in terms of when you first launched the membership until now.
Stephanie Leavell 6:04
So when I first launched the membership I started at, you know, I opened up 50 spots, and I started at $179 a year so very low. My target customer doesn't tend to make a whole lot of money. I didn't want to overcharge and I really wanted to kind of test the waters. So but I gave only that option I gave only the annual option at $179 and I gave people the option of paying one time 179 or equally split every six months. And I had most people take the every six months payment. And then you know six months later when I launched again, I raised the price slightly to 197. I think that was a good move. And I have told people all along that you know when the limited number of slots are are gone, that I will continue to raise the price every six months when I launched, and so it was 197 But then I also opened up a month. payment option for $19 a month, but made it very clear in my marketing, even though I can't really enforce it, I made it very clear in my marketing that they were committing to 12 months minimum and it's a recurring payment plan because they didn't want to, I didn't want to have to resell again to those same people 12 months later. So yes, those are the options that I currently have my last lunch $90 a month or 197 a year.
Ward Sandler 7:24
Yeah, the idea of saying, okay, it's monthly, but you have to do it for a year. That's always a tricky one. I've spoken to a bunch of people about that, because it's like, yeah, you could write any contract you want. It's only as enforceable if you're willing to go to court. But the, you know, almost always isn't worth it. So, it's kind of just you're asking people to, you know, be cool, and, you know, commit to what you said you're doing, you know, but that being said, if at the end of the day, someone could always also just call it their credit card company, right, just do a chargeback. So it's it's tricky. If somebody really wants to stop paying you. There's not a lot of good ways besides just kind of guilting them, and reminding them of the of the obligation and that they made. So yeah, for folks out there, I'd say it's better instead of kind of doing the whole legal threatening idea of like, Oh, well don't make you take the quarter. It's, you know, it's in your contract, you would this is illegal to not pay. Like, I don't think that line of reasoning and that kind of an argument is going to get people to resonate. I think that would make people more defensive and kind of double down on their position. I think a better approach is to say, you know, listen, I'm a small business. Part of why I offer the monthly is to help people with cash flow reasons, but you know, I also there's an expectation that it was for a year I made that clear and that's what I need to keep providing this this community and this these resources for everybody else. I would really appreciate if you could honor that commitment. I think that's a better way to approach it. I don't know if you have any thoughts there.
Stephanie Leavell 8:48
I completely agree and and part of it is, is pretty clear. You know, I I do a lot of work ahead of time before people join my membership. They know exactly what they're getting before they come into the membership because I have a list A lot of free resources also. So I haven't actually had anybody with paying the monthly fee. Tell me they want out, which is really interesting. And a lot of people took me up on the annual the one 197 instead, because they save about, I don't know, 3540 bucks a year. So I made it a good enough deal for the annual one that most people opted for that anyway. And you know, and then there's also the piece of it that I really want people who would like to be there to be a part of my membership because it is a smaller membership and more exclusive. And I have a waiting list. So it's the type of thing where, you know, if somebody does end up approaching me and saying, you know, this isn't a great fit, I'm just gonna say, okay, that's fine.
Ward Sandler 9:43
Right? Yeah, it's nice to come from a position of strength and not one of desperation when it comes to these things. Yeah, so let's talk about that waitlist you just mentioned, maybe I didn't quite hear it. When you offer this you do a launch and there's only was it 50 spots you said that are available at a time or how does that work?
Stephanie Leavell 9:58
Yes, so my first line There were 50 spots available and it sold out in about 48 hours. And and then in my second launch I, I led about 55. And you know, I'm not I wasn't very good about also like closing it right at 55. And so I ended up getting I have a total of 108 members now, but But yeah, I'm letting about 50 folks and each time I launched, and my reason for that is because the community is such a large part of it, and I'm really in it for the long game, you know, I'm in an understanding that with each launch, if I can keep the members that I currently have, it'll be growing into something that can be very, very sustainable for a very long time. And I really see that happening. So you know, but I am launching again in July and I think I'm going to let 75 members in this time because now that I've done it a couple of times I'm seeing that it's working and that we can have a few more people in there.
Ward Sandler 10:55
Yeah, I think that's smart, you know, to keep it limited as a launch because it Let's really focus on those folks and kind of build up systems or tweak your existing systems to get it ready for scaling up higher, like that 75 group that might be coming in July. I think that's something for a lot of folks to maybe think about. Because there there's something to that scarcity principle to have saying, oh, there's only so many spots. So make sure you get one. There's a marketing angle there for sure. But just from a trying to make the best program you can the best membership you can the best unity you can. By keeping it limited, you're able to keep it more intimate and to do more for each person in it. And then to help kind of build up scalable systems from there. So I think it's smart that you're going about it that way.
Stephanie Leavell 11:35
Thank you. I think it's been good. You know, it takes a while to figure out exactly how to make all of those things work in your community. When I launched, it was very much, you know, letting people know that this is like developing as we go. And so I really took a lot of feedback, especially that first six months, and it was really different. The second launch in the second six months and all better, you know, but it's amazing. And now I feel like Like, it's it's, you know, we're, I don't know, about 10 months and I guess and we're, we're hitting this really great stride right now, where it is now very clear to me what the membership will, you know, most likely be for the next year at least. And that was not the case when I launched it at first I wasn't really sure what it was going to turn into. So I'm grateful that I didn't have this huge influx of people while I was figuring it out. Right.
Ward Sandler 12:24
So how did you actually build this audience initially, right? You said you were a teacher, and then you shifted to doing this membership. But what what happened in between those, how did you actually build this audience? And how did you actually transition to having a membership business?
Stephanie Leavell 12:37
I provided a lot of free resources from the get go. And one of the very best things that I did was I started growing my email list right away. So I created something for me called the song of the Month Club, where I professionally recorded a children's song because I'm also a children's musician, performer. I professionally recorded a children's song once a month, an original song and said it out free to my email list. And then so if you're on my email list, then you get that song. I eventually release albums, but not have all the songs. And so you either get it in my email list every month, or it's in my membership site, but it disappears. You can't just buy it, you know, anywhere on the internet after that. So that song of the Month Club, it was really, really an easy way for me to grow my email list and it still is, it's still I don't have to work too hard at growing the list because people are interested in receiving that song every month from me. But I've done some other things too. You know, on social media, I do a monthly giveaway. And for my people that I work with that is very exciting to them because I put together something really neat. Every month, I collaborated with another music therapy based company that has a really big market share and we did a big collaboration of a course together and so their audience got to know me very well. So You know, it's it's taken me a couple of years to grow it. But by the time I launched the membership, I had a really healthy following because of that.
Ward Sandler 14:09
Yeah. And I love that you're able to have this nice creative outlet, the song of the month on top of running a business. So that's kind of cool attributed to both things. And it makes so much sense to offer something like that for your audience, right, who are obviously care about music, and children. So it's like this perfect harmony of like, creating something for yourself. It's interesting, providing great value to your customers and potential customers. And just getting yourself out there, I guess also probably keeps you accountable, having to like be creative each month and produce something.
Stephanie Leavell 14:38
Oh, 100% because I never have time to do it, you know, to write the song and record the song and get it mixed and all of that, and I never have enough time to do it, but I have to. So it's wonderful. And some of the best songs I've written have come out of that for sure.
Ward Sandler 14:53
Yeah. Would you say just as a kind of an aside here as a creative person yourself? Do you feel like having constraints helps you create better art because from someone like myself who isn't, you know, doesn't do any traditional art, at least not anymore. I think the common the common thought is Oh, and artists is just kind of they work when they're when they're feeling inspired. And that's when they do their work. But is that not really the case?
Stephanie Leavell 15:15
For me, the inspiration thing is long gone. I had that when I was a teenager and had a lot of time to daydream and all of that. But for me, it's, it's sitting down with deadlines. And in practice, the creativity comes with practice and actually sitting down and taking the time to do that. So in my case, absolutely. The creativity comes out of taking the time to sit down and do it and you know, out of every five songs I write, maybe I get two that I like, but but the more that I just actually actually write the more good ones I end up getting.
Ward Sandler 15:53
Yeah, so structure, discipline, showing up being accountable. These are all kind of universal principles that can be applied to anything business. Creativity, whatever. So that's interesting to hear from from that perspective. So after we got kind of past this, the audience building, what have you done along the way? I know the membership still, you know, relatively new, but is there anything you've done so far? That hasn't really worked out?
Stephanie Leavell 16:14
Oh, sure. Yeah, I think I have overcommitted myself at times, being too active in the Facebook group, for example, you can really wear yourself out trying to do everything for everyone. And so something that I did you know, after I launched, the first group, is that I kind of came up with a clear calendar of when people could expect things from me and then how the best way to request resources and things like that so that I wasn't just having this never ending list of resources that people in the community would like, because I felt like especially when I first got started, I felt like I need to show them that they're getting their value and they're getting their money out of their investment but Over time, I have really come to realize that they are getting an incredible value out of their investment. And then I don't have to do nearly everything that is requested of me. And they're still incredibly happy to be there. And they can also get a lot of those resources from their peers in the community, too. Yes, we're actually playing the launch community for MemberSpace as well. And that's one thing that we've been doing some research on is that, at first, a community requires a lot from the person who's creating the community, you have to be posting a lot of the initial messages, you have to be doing a lot of the replying, because the community's not active yet. It's not really alive. But eventually, it gets to a point where it's self sustaining, and the members are the ones posting topics, and it's the members that are applying to each other. And it kind of starts to run itself and grow itself. So when do you kind of agree with that and to do you feel like your community is at that point where it's kind of running and growing itself or not quite yet. I completely agree with that. And you know, there are times where I can choose to take a few days off and people don't notice because they can rely on each other Other in the Facebook group and I would say that it is getting to the point where like, I'm not worried at all about my next launch. I mean, we're in the midst of Coronavirus right now and a lot of a lot of people are having job loss. So there is a little bit of unease as far as you know how many people were are going to renew? I think I could lose a few people in July. But overall, I'm not worried at all because the people in my community are now my best marketers.
Ward Sandler 18:27
Yeah. And that's the beauty of having happy customers happy community members is that they become evangelicals for you. And they're like a miniature, authentic Salesforce and there's nothing better than that.
Stephanie Leavell 18:38
Yes. And they're happy to do it to you No, need i don't i don't have to ask them. They're just they're just thrilled to do it.
Ward Sandler 18:45
Exactly. Cool. So to wrap up here, Stephanie, what's the best way for people to learn more about you?
Stephanie Leavell 18:50
So everywhere I'm music for kiddos calm and Facebook I'm on music for kiddos and Instagram. I'm on music for kiddos and yeah my if you You have kids even if you're not a music therapist or a music educator, I have a lot of parents on my email list and they get their, their music monthly their free children's on monthly.
Ward Sandler 19:09
Great. Well, thanks for spending time with me, Stephanie.
Stephanie Leavell 19:11
Sure. Take care