There’s a risk in putting yourself out there. Since August, when I first came up with this crazy idea, published this website, created the M@M Facebook page, Instagram account, Teachers pay Teachers marketplace, Linked-in & Pinterest accounts, I’ve felt somewhat naked. There’s a certain comfort in hiding behind a resume, or behind the reputation of the company you work for. Going out on your own, without the staff or access to resources provided by an institution and promoting your own, self-made product related to the very thing that your resume touts as your professional expertise can be not only daunting, but down-right terrifying. That terror doesn’t even compare to the financial needs that must be filled, a major influencer in starting this in the first place, and the fear of ending up even worse off financially than when you started.
And what about reputation?! OMG. The anxiety that keeps me up at night from imaginary responses of past colleagues and admired professional connections: “Poor Emily, she’s lost it,” or “Well, I guess she’s not as smart as we thought she was,” or “I regret supporting her in xyz…” or “She should know better” or “what is she thinking?!” When I look for market equivalents to my product, there are none. There are so far no for-profit online, museum education platforms (that I’ve found). I’m either a visionary or delusional. This extreme vulnerability, the unsettling ambiguity, the adrenaline rush that comes with this gamble is what so often drives (and often times sidelines) the entrepreneurial spirit. This is what I believe to be the spirit or necessary insanity that fuels the arts and sciences. Whether visionary or delusional, hopefully I can spark a new idea toward a new direction that ends up being beneficial to many.
Of course, it seems obvious to me. Singers teach voice lessons to make money. Pianists teach piano lessons to make money and so on. (I even took a course my senior year in college about how to start a voice studio and pay taxes because the university knew that we would need to make money.) Why shouldn’t there be museum lessons? With or without virtual access to collections, Museum Educators can teach the same observational and questioning skills, content and wonder away from the gallery, to enrich future gallery visits at ALL museums. I spent a good 10 years in my 20’s as a sole proprietor of a voice and piano studio that provided me my income, from which I paid taxes and was able to provide training in music to students, most of whom had little intention of becoming professionals. These music lessons didn’t lessen the work I did as a performing singer at the opera or little theater and it provided skills and exposure to a new generation of patrons for the arts. It also intensified my own skills in voice and piano as I was constantly learning from my students and having to stay in tip top shape as a musician. These music students with these skills helped to provide deeper appreciation for the mastery of the musicians on the stage. With this deeper appreciation, there is a greater value added to the experience which leads to the willingness to spend more for the ticket to see the performance. Orchestra members teaching music lessons on the side don’t hinder the orchestra’s ability to create revenue. Instead it creates an eco-system that sustains interest and buy-in to that industry. The two girls I reached over the last 6 weeks for sure, have a greater appreciation for museums and now new skills and tools to use in future visits. They will share that excitement with their parents and, voila! We build on to that eco-system for museums. Mondays @ the Museum hasn’t lessened my work at my institution, rather, it’s enriched it by providing me new skills that I can share with my institution as well as a reminder of the joy that gallery and museum education provides to me, which in the end will benefit the museum I work for(financially!) It’s a win win!
So what now? I’m approaching my 90 day review. How is Mondays @ the Museum doing? Is this viable? Where do we go from here? (plus a million other questions)
For the past 6 weeks I’ve had the intense pleasure of spending every Monday morning with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection with one 1st grader and one 4th grader. These two girls were excited and eager every Monday do learn something new. It was an amazing way to kick off every week and remind me of how much I love seeing the spark of learning in people’s eyes, even virtually and how much there is to learn from museums. I spent the past 6 weekends planning lessons, creating presentations, mapping my way through #metkids and learning how to produce online classes and making recordings. I explored all the major social media platform promotional opportunities and became versed in creating & writing marketing copy and graphics. I wrote 6 blogs, created a LLC, wrote multiple small business grants, reached thousands of viewers, even sold a course to someone in New Jersey and my business has brought in $235 total and spent over $1000. Net loss, (many) lessons learned.
I plan to spend the next 6 Mondays revising my product by amplifying the quality and content based on what I’ve learned. I plan to spend the next 6 Mondays continuing to share via this blog. I plan to spend the next 6 Mondays reaching out to new partnerships, new markets and possible profit-sharing platforms. I plan to spend the next 6 Mondays doing the same as the last. Learning and doing. (and hopefully making a little profit.)
I would love your help! If you are reading this and are interested in where this experiment is headed, I would very much appreciate your feedback and ideas!
“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”Roy Ash