Updated: Nov 2, 2018
This week in our "Dreamcatchers–Women at Work" series, I am so excited to introduce you to my good friend, Heather Jewel Parks. Heather is the founder and owner of New Song School of the Arts in Argyle, TX. She is arguably the most talented musician I've ever had the pleasure of working with, but more importantly, someone of such drive and discipline, that her success is not surprising. And that's why I wanted to share her story here. You can find her original compositions of some familiar songs on YouTube, and her instrumental hymns album entitled Sacred Passion on iTunes. Heather is a wife, a mother of four, a business owner, and creative genius. But outside of her titles, she's just Heather, created to make music.
Essentials For Starting Your Business
an interview with Heather Jewel Parks
We're talking today about starting a small business. What would you say was the driving factor for you to take the leap?
I would say that the overall driving factor for me was that I want to spend everyday reaching my fullest potential. I want to give it my all in 5 areas of life. First, my faith. I believe that God has directed me in every step. Then, family, as a musician, as a business owner, and as a friend. I want to do everything I can to succeed in those areas. It's where I focus my limited time. I can't say that I've arrived. It's hard to keep all of those balls bouncing. I think we women have a lot of hurdles to overcome in the business world, and the kids and business demand the most, but it takes hard work, and we can do it if we set an intention to.
If you’re telling someone to go for it, how do they know it's the right time?
For me, a couple of things, really.
1. Know yourself well enough to know what drives you. What motivates you?
I was motivated by insecurities. I had something to prove. And that didn't always work in my favor, but I believe that I allowed God to teach me a lesson through them.
When we were in college together, you and I were in a practice room. I had a piece of music in front of me that some music group wanted me to play. It wasn't particularly hard, but I could add fancy runs and play by ear enough that people just wanted me to play for them a lot. But I sat there not being able to read every note. Do you remember that? You were encouraging me to take it slow, read the music and play.
I remember being in the music rooms with you a lot, but I don't remember that exact instance.
Well, I do, and it taught me something. It motivated me to use the insecurity of thinking I could rely on my talent to prove myself, and turn that into discipline. I didn't learn the full lesson that day, but it stuck with me.
Also, I was motivated by money. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I loved to earn money knowing that there was value to the service I was giving. It meant that what I had was valuable. That does something for you. When someone handed me a payment, I knew I had done everything to the best of my ability to earn the payment. And that motivated me a whole lot.
2. I knew it was time because I needed it. We were in church work, so we needed money, plain and simple. I could play the piano, and I could teach it. So, I borrowed the piano at the church until I could have my own, and I just kept going. I had a goal of making $1200 a month to supplement our income. I would need 30 students at $40 a month, so that was my first goal. I accomplished that in less than 3 months. It wasn't easy. I remember walking the sidewalks of neighborhoods pushing my daughter in a stroller as my husband and I handed out flyers to advertise. I guess I have the mentality of sink or swim–and I am not going to sink.
How did you set your next goals?
For me, it was a natural progression. I had told my sister-in-law once that if she ever needed piano students that she could move to Texas, and I'd set her up. Then one day, she and her husband were out of work and they called me about that idea. I had had a student waiting list for 10 years, so I knew that I could get her started, but it was like real pressure at that point. I had a family moving across the country to depend on me and my skills of making the business work for them. When she arrived, I had ten students waiting for her. In three months she had 30 students. I started asking, "what's next"? Someone called for violin lessons, so I found a violin teacher to join the team. I began thinking with a mindset of not looking back. If it's not time to stop yet, then it's time to take another step. Today, we have over 200 students and 23 instructors, and I keep asking "what's next"?
How did you keep your motivation?
A good support system. Not every woman has one. I know I did, and I'm so grateful. My husband is a visionary, but I think that it's important that I believed in myself. That's where it starts. I think there are people in everyone's life who can become a strong support system even if it doesn't look like everyone else's. It's like you take the few ounces of belief that someone in your life has in you, and you match it with your own, and then you take a few more ounces from someone else, match it, then someone else pours into you, and so on. Pretty soon your cup is overflowing and you need a bigger vessel. You can keep going because it started with you, and what God has put inside you.
We all have a cheerleader or two in our lives. Someone who knows you inside and out but sill loves you through and through. Be sure this person that cheers you on also knows that they can be honest with you. My husband, Todd, has been my biggest fan all of these years. We have taken every “next” step together. He has helped me “fight” to make dreams come true. He has been a “dot connector” for me. You may or may not have a support system in your spouse. If you do not, look to God...He will guide you and move your heart in the direction of your dreams. Ask Him for wisdom to lead you to the people who will help you “connect your dots”.
How do you overcome the tiring work and hardships?
Eliminate excuses. We all have them. And I'm not talking about legitimate reasons, but excuses. I like to say "dream driven, not reality livin". Let dreams drive you. Because reality will tell you that you're tired, you feel ill-equipped, you're not good enough, but your dreams can motivate you to push through, to pull yourself together, and that you can improve your skill and become good enough.
When I was 23 years old, I had an opportunity to play for a choir that I was so honored to audition for. I wanted it more than anything. But, my playing by ear and fancy riffs weren't going to cut it in the real world. I needed to know every bit of the music. I didn't get the job, and I was devastated. But I let that fuel me to set a goal. I started practicing 2 hours everyday of my life. That's been a lot of years ago. I haven't reached my goal every single day, but I determined to fight for that goal to the best of my ability. I'm okay with being tired in what I do, just not of what I do.
Were there practical things that you would do each day that kept you going?
Sure. Getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other. Nothing fancy. I did my duty as mom, showed up for my kids and family, but I wanted to show up for myself. I think that it's a matter of doing what you know you were meant to do, even when you don't feel like it. And many people don't know what that is. And that's okay, but I think it goes back to my first point. Know yourself well enough. Know who you are outside of your titles. I think you have to start there. For me, it came naturally because I was born with a musical talent, but the outcome is because of a lot of sweat and tears.
What else would you share with someone who may not know where to start in the business world, but has a dream they want to fulfill?
Well, I believe everyone does have a dream. I believe God created us each with a special gift. It might not be as obvious to you as it is to someone else. But take the time to figure it out. You have to step out, knowing that you can do it, and it takes a lot of courage. Just start at the beginning and make a plan. And if you're not good at making plans, ask yourself who you know who is good at it. Chances are you know someone with good business sense, and, trust me, no one does it alone. We all have to be there for each other.