Monday, September 24, 2012

Spotlight on Mommy -- Karri Gregor of KinderBach

I have been eagerly awaiting to share this week's Spotlight Mom with you since I began using her products a few weeks ago.  Karri Gregor is the creator of KinderBach, a fun creative piano teaching system for children ages 2-7 years old.  Now you are probably thinking how can a 2 yr. old learn the piano?  Well, I thought the same thing, until I began using Karri's DVDs and You Tube videos with Savannah, who turned 2 in July.  She is not a piano maestro yet, but she loves playing the little floor piano we picked up for her.  Head back here on Friday, when I will share more about Karri's KinderBach products, offer a discount code to use towards a future purchase through her online store and share a giveaway.  But, in the meantime, I want to share my interview with Karri Gregor of KinderBach with you.

Before, I do, I wanted to provide a few YouTube links for you to visit before or after you read my interview with her, to get a feel for Karri's piano learning system.

And, now my interview with Karri.  Enjoy!

Name: Karri Gregor
Company Name/Product/Service: KinderBach
Company Location: Le Claire, Iowa
Company Website:
Twitter Handle: @KinderBach
Age of Company: 6 years
Favorite Inspirational Quotes:
I’m on a Maya Angelou kick right now – such good stuff. "If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain." - Maya Angelou
Favorite Book:
I live in the present. I don’t wish things were like they were when my kids were little. I don’t say I will finally be happy when such and such happens. Therefore my favorite book is usually the one I am currently reading. If I don’t like it, I stop reading. I’m reading, “Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How many children do you have? What are their ages? Your hobbies? Etc. 

I’m a Canadian born, USA immigrant. My husband, David, and I have been married for 25 years. My children are 22 and 19 years old. My hobbies are also my work. I was a fairly well known portrait artist in Canada. I majored in fine art at college with a minor in drama. I also took music with a vocal and piano emphasis. Then the children came along and, as a priority choice my husband and I made, I became the primary caregiver at home. I continued to work various commission jobs and then taught music based out of my home office.

Briefly explain your business. How did it come about? 

KinderBach all started when I was looking for piano teacher for my own children. At the time they were 4 and 7, and no one would take them so young. You may have run into the same problem. I knew the importance of starting my children in a music class at such an early age. The advantages are endless! So it really baffled me when piano teachers wouldn’t take students until they could read. I wanted a strong music foundation for my kids, so I decided to start teaching them. I had a musical background so it wasn’t a complete leap into the dark. I took on other students and began lessons in a classroom. 

Well, over time my studio grew to over 150 students. It was a very exciting, but apparently it wasn’t the final plan for our family. My husband’s job was transferred, and I lost all of my students (all except my own children). When we were stationed in our next town, it seemed too much trouble to start up another music studio. When unpacking, we came across some old tapes of past lessons I had taught. Because I had had so many students at the time, I would tape every lesson. Students that had missed the class would receive the tape and then were allowed to keep up with the others in the class. I had some kids taking by VHS tape because they lived so far away. The tapes had always been a huge hit with the kids. In one case, a mother came back to me and said, “Move over Mister Rogers, because we have watched this 17 times this week!” 

After finding the tapes, I really started to consider teaching again. It would take a lot of time to build up my studio again and then what if we were moved? David and I watched a couple of the tapes and discussed the idea of starting up classes. At one point in the conversation he looked over at me and said, “Karri, why don’t we do this? Why don’t we teach piano to students by video?” It was the perfect solution! I could teach, but not have to worry about losing my students because of my location. I also could use my artistic skills to improve the videos. Thus, KinderBach was born. KinderBach is piano lessons for 3-7 year olds taught by online streaming video, DVDs, CDs, activity books, stories, coloring books, and recently iPad/iPhone apps. Children learn the notes on the piano and staff by characters rather than letters. I have taught hundreds of students, and I know that kids do NOT have to be able to read to learn piano. KinderBach not only teaches piano, but other factors of music. Music theory, note reading, rhythm, ear training, hand position and much much more! KinderBach was designed to give children an overall music foundation. A child can take everything they have learned from KinderBach and apply it to another instrument or continue further with piano. KinderBach was designed to be a spring board, taking this information and just going to endless bounds with what they have learned!

What is a typical work day like? 

I don’t know that there is a typical work day. It’s all about balance. I have been working out of my home for a number of years. I think that is the biggest chore is learning how to know when it is ‘work’ time and when it is ‘home’ time. It depends on the season and the tasks that need to be accomplished. The day to day takes a lot of organization or I can easily get caught in just putting out fires or only giving attention to the squeaky wheels.

What has been a struggle while starting up your company? 

We had a large learning curve. We came up with a unique concept that had no comparative products. Learning how to produce, market and distribute was hard. Just because I know how to teach music to preschoolers doesn’t mean I knew how to sell DVDs, online videos or apps.

What did you do in your past work life? 

KinderBach is a combination of all my experience. I worked for a greeting card company drawing cartoon characters. I was commissioned to do many portraits in graphic, oil and watercolor. I started a private music teaching studio. I volunteered with a puppet and theatre group. All these things come together in KinderBach. I love my work!

What have been some of your major successes? 

We produced over 22 hours of educational video in two years with companion workbooks. In 2007 when YouTube was starting to roll, we kept right on top of technology by converting our lessons into online streaming videos. We have stayed on top with the recent release of our iPad/iPhone apps in May and June this year. KinderBach piano lessons have been used in 110 countries around the world. However, our major success is the contribution we have made to the development, education and lifelong skills of children making them more successful in their lives.

What have been some of your major challenges? 

Adaptation is always a challenge. We have to stay nibble enough to change as the market demands. We may think that a family’s needs remain the same regardless of their time and this is true. What shifts is way a family chooses to fill their needs. We have to stay responsive to these changes and they are not always easy to identify.

On those impossible days, what motivates you to keep going? 

Notes and emails from kids and parents. I love knowing how much KinderBach has affected their lives and their love of music. It is worth it!

What is your balancing secret in managing a business and family? 

I brought my family into the business. There is no better training ground for kids than involvement in work with their family. David and I saw this principle lived out as each of us was raised on a family farm. Our children became key assets in producing KinderBach. My son learned how to film, edit, and produce video which has become his career choice. My daughter can design, write and market like nobody else and it is her major in college. KinderBach is a family business more than anything. If nothing else, this is success. Our children have learned responsibility, an excellent work ethic and honorable business practices. They have always been the priority.

What is next for your business? 

We have a lot to do. I am writing material for music classrooms. KinderBach started as a home education product but the content has multiple uses in a group lesson environment. We have started the project of releasing all the Piano Pal stories from the videos into book form. And there is more to come. Currently we have produced about one third of the curriculum I have mapped out. Reaction to the recently released apps will help determine the format of the new lessons.

Do you have any advice for other mom entrepreneurs that are starting out and struggling, or are on the fence about starting a business? 

Don’t be afraid, be informed. Count the cost and choose to take the risk. Starting a business is a gamble but you can’t complain about missed opportunities if you don’t play. What are you waiting for?

1 comment :

  1. very interesting interview, her piano learning system is awesome.