(EDC affiliate Midwest Small Business Finance helps hundreds of small businesses each year. We are sharing some of their entrepreneurial stories to support their efforts.)
Since Harper Haus Music Company involves stage performances, art and music, it shouldn’t be surprising that the business has a dramatic story to tell.
Founded in 2018 by Michelle Harper, Harper Haus Music really began as she grew up in St. Louis. “I’ve loved music all my life,” she said. “I auditioned everywhere!”
Her performances include singing national anthems at St. Louis and Kansas City sporting events, including a sold-out Arrowhead Stadium during a special breast cancer awareness game. Harper also earned a bachelor’s degree in music from Webster University and began teaching.
Her budding musical career was put on hold when she and her husband moved to Dearborn, Mo., in 2015, but she soon began to perform again. Her efforts included in several leads like Fiona in the Weston Community Theatre production of “Shrek.”
Seeking a Bigger Stage
Still, she wanted more; she just wasn’t sure what. Several people had asked if she provided lessons. A lifelong passion was also to stage a musical. Harper wanted something meaningful. A friend came up with a suggestion.
“She told me, ’You should do something you enjoy,’” Harper recalled. “The light went off. I realized it was now or never.” She would open a studio.
The decision didn’t make things easy, however. Her first location was a small, 400 sq. ft. studio – “…with a chiropractor downstairs and a lawyer and hairdresser nearby.” But her classes went well, although she quickly became aware there wasn’t room for even one more teacher. She continued teaching and looking for bigger space.
She found one, but the parking was very limited. By then she had added a drama club, guitar teachers, a summer camp and more. The parking lot was consistently overflowing. “I wasn’t too popular with the neighbors,” she said. “The entire location had like 10 parking spots.”
Then opportunity knocked. A beautiful old building opened for lease in downtown Platte City. The location had been empty for years, but its size would take all her existing classes and allow room for additions like a mommy and me program, art classes and even performance stages. To top it off, the owner recognized the condition the building was in and offered an affordable lease.
“It was great,” Harper said. “We just ran with it.”
The Plot Thickens
But fitting this story, another twist was in the script. After Harper and her growing team began to turn the “cave” into a successful operation, the landlord decided he needed to sell the property. Harper, who at that point didn’t even own her home, faced a massive decision.
Fortunately, she had some big help. Her mother was an accountant and joined her in calculating how purchasing the building might be possible. She also contacted Midwest Small Business Finance and found she qualified for a small business loan – and it wasn’t even that hard!
“They were the angels I needed,” Harper said.
All of that will be five years ago this coming September, when she plans a birthday party to celebrate and thank her growing team of 10 teachers and their students.
“It’s definitely been a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” she laughed. “But it’s not a small business venture if you don’t experience some of those things.”
The Next Act
That’s not the end of the story, of course. Harper is working toward a master’s in business administration from Northwest Missouri State University while the business continues to grow. The most recent need is an advanced piano teacher and then a business assistant. The performance area is complete, and the studio just opened its summer schedule – although by the time you read this it might be filled.
“Last year was the first year (for the summer program), and we went to a waiting list in 24 hours,” she said. “I thought it would take three months!” Also this summer, the studio plans two new shows, a drama for older students and theater camp for kids.
Harper is grateful for a lot of things but saves special praise for her team of teachers. Not only are they talented, but the environment they help create is excellent.
“It’s a fun dynamic,” she added. “When there are no students, we hang out together. It’s a great group.”
For more information, visit www.harperhausmc.com or call (816) 859-0063. The Harper Haus location is 200 Main Street, Platte City.