Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in personal development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dr. Karali Hunter, founder of Hammer & Strings Conservatory, located in Gilbert, AZ, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Hammer & Strings Conservatory is a music school whose focus is Intentional Excellence. We don't care where you are beginning. We care where you want to go. We hire only performing artists who are passionate about teaching and sharing with the next generation but who are also active in the community with performing. Coming to us means that you will get some of the best training outside of a university.

Tell us about yourself

I started teaching music when I was a teenager and continued to do so throughout my time in college as a Piano Performance major. I knew that even if I was performing as a career, teaching would always be a part of my life, and I prioritized it highly in my studies. After graduating, my teaching started to take a bit of a turn, and I started to conceptualize a situation where I was able to expand my teaching ideals and reach. The idea of the school was born, and not just for pianists, but for other like-minded teachers of instruments and voice. I love watching the school recitals and seeing the joy on students' faces after a great performance, realizing that they can do hard things and that music is worth it. I also love the camaraderie of my colleagues that can be missing in a private studio.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

We opened our doors in August of 2019, just months before the pandemic hit. As an in-person mentorship, music lessons took a huge hit for a while, while teachers adjusted to the new norm of online lessons. As a fledgling company, those were some very scary and very difficult times, but our emphasis on quality over quantity, as well as the quality of our faculty, was really able to shine, and not only did we make it through, but we continued to grow during most of the months of the pandemic.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

The emotions. The saying "It's just business" is so misleading. To a small business owner, it's not just business. It is completely connected to the well-being of our families and our emotional stability as well. It's personal. If a customer isn't completely happy, we feel that personally. If a student goes to another teacher, we feel that loss deeply. If a student has a beautiful performance, we are elated along with them. So be kind to your small business owners. They put everything they have into what they do.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Understand taxes and how to track finances. If you aren't comfortable with this yet, plan money in the budget to hire it out or budget time and money to get help.
  2. Have a plan for marketing. Word of mouth does work, but it moves quite slowly, and most people need to hear/see great things about you Multiple times before they will act.
  3. Plan time to unplug from your business. It will take everything you have and demand more if you let it. If it can't run without you being there 100% of the time, it is not sustainable, and it will fail. Allow it time to breathe, and allow others to help as needed.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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