Western helps fine tune music lessons biz

Paul Mayne//Western News

Zach Havens has turned his love of teaching into his latest business venture Miistro, which matches local music teachers with those seeking lessons. He credits Western Entrepreneurship, specifically the summer incubator program, with his early success.

Think Uber – but for music.

If you have a musical destination in mind, but you need the perfect teacher to get you where you want to go, Zach Havens wants to be the matchmaker. That’s the idea behind Miistro, a business venture that looks to ‘unlock your inner Mozart.’

“I’ve been teaching for so long I’m familiar with the process of people coming to me looking for lessons – but I don’t have the time to do it. It got me to thinking there has to be some sort of business here where we can grow this,” said Havens, who credits Western Entrepreneurship, specifically the summer incubator program, with his early success.

Providing co-working space, seed funding, mentorship and training programs and workshop, the sales-focused incubator program recently celebrated its fifth anniversary of encouraging start-up growth – to the tune of more than $500,000 in funding for some 60 new companies.

Havens said the networking and mentorship he gained through incubator make his idea become a reality was invaluable.

“If you’re trying to be self-made, there’s nothing self-made about it,” said Havens, who received his Associate Diploma (Piano Performance) from the Royal Conservatory of Music at 16. “Business is all about community, especially when you’re just starting off.

“You are a direct result of all the people you surround yourself with. My strategy was to talk to people who were a lot smarter than me who, thankfully, are easy to find. Western was so instrumental in my growth and in my business. It was huge.”

Having taught piano for years, Havens has always found it hard for parents to find a great local music teacher for their children. Conversely, it can be hard for area music teachers to find consistent work.

“You can Google or ask friends, but time is so valuable and how do you know the person you choose is good or trustworthy,” said the 30-year-old, who initially came to Western to study classical music before venturing off with his former band To Tell.

With Miistro, those interested in receiving lessons can choose their instrument, preferences, goals and availability and be instantly matched. The site takes care of billing on both ends, so the only focus is on the music.

In London, Woodstock and Toronto, approximately 70 music teachers are part of Miistro, and all have approved references and a vulnerable sector police check. Havens encourages Western students to join as a teachers, “a great way for them to get experience and make a little money on the side.”

Havens hopes to expand his business in Ontario within the next year – and eventually across the country.

While he never thought he’d be a self-employed entrepreneur – he figured it was either “get a job or play in a band” – Havens has quickly discovered a love of business. Creating solutions and improving the lives of other people, while benefiting as a result, blows his mind.

“I’ve learned a ton and met so many people. It’s less the destination, but more the process and journey,” he said. “You always overestimate what you can do in a year, but underestimate what you can do in a decade. I don’t know where it’s going to go, but I feel there’s a lot of potential with the idea.”