How to quit your day job

How two first-time entrepreneurs managed the risk of giving up a steady paycheck to pursue their new business.

Shawn Paik/Chattanooga Times Free Press/AP/File
In this photo taken last week, Rickey Sivley, a student at Chattanooga State Community College in Chattanooga, Tenn., plays his guitar at White Oak Park in nearby Red Bank, Tenn. The founders of sixstringcountry.com, a guitar video tutorials website, expanded their startup gradually without having to leave their day jobs when it was still highly risky.

Tony Bakker and his business partner Ryan Beuschel faced a challenge that confronts many first time entrepreneurs.  Although both of them had good jobs in the music industry, they wanted to pursue an exciting business concept they developed called SixStringCountry.com.

The risk of trading a steady paycheck versus the financial uncertainty of an early startup has deterred many would-be entrepreneurs from pursuing their business ideas.

For Bakker, the idea for his business came from his passion for music.

“One of my greatest passions in life has always been the guitar,” says Bakker. “One day while surfing the web, I noticed all of these tutorials on YouTube that were getting thousands of hits teaching songs.  I thought I’d post a few of my own lessons for fun. And sure enough, they started getting thousands of hits.”

Many of the tutorials on YouTube had not secured licenses from the publishers for the songs they were teaching.  The audio and video were often of poor quality and they gave little help with tabs or chord charts to help teach how to play the songs.

The need for proper licensing is what led Bakker to Beuschel, who had the contacts in the music industry that could help to secure the necessary rights.

“Ryan not only was perfect for the licensing and marketing sides of the business, but he was our target market,” says Bakker.  “He was a huge country fan who had struggled to learn the guitar by overpaying at an expensive guitar shop when all he wanted to do was learn country songs.”

Of the high quality videos on YouTube that had legally secured the necessary rights, none were teaching modern country music hits.  The partners believed they were on to an opportunity.

To help with the process of making the transition from their day jobs to SixStringCountry.com, the newly formed business partners developed a plan for their market niche.

For Bakker, he needed to extend the startup “runway” to buy time until he went into the business fulltime.

“I had a great job that liked a lot at Word Music,” Bakker explains.  “Because I knew there was a lot of risk in this for my wife and I, I was determined to get as far into the process as I possibly could before taking the leap and quitting my job.”

Bakker was fully aware of the risks associated with starting his new venture.  As excited as he was to launch his business, the reality of the potential downside was constantly on his mind.

“The business could fail, and a big part of our life savings would be gone forever,” says Bakker.

To reduce the risk of leaving Word Music, Bakker did extensive market research and product testing before quitting his job.

“I was posting free videos of song-based tutorials at GuitarLessonsAndTutorials.com,” says Bakker.  “Although they were not of the quality that I wanted, I got a lot positive feedback, which built my confidence as a guitar teacher.”

This market research also helped to build a database of contacts that they used to conduct more market research.

“We started sending out surveys to gauge interest in a more robust, subscription site. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” says Bakker.

Based on this response, they purchased equipment to make the high quality videos they wanted produced for SixStringCountry.com.  With these new videos, they conducted additional market research.

Bakker left his position at Word this past February to pursue SixStringCountry.com fulltime. The partners decided that it would be best for Beuschel to continue working his fulltime job while the business built subscriptions.

SixStringCountry.com is fully launched.  Demand is growing and the site is gaining new students every day.

Although the thought of quitting a good paying job may frighten many entrepreneurs, the founders of SixStringCountry.com found creative ways to extend the runway of their launch and reduce their risk.  This is helping Bakker and Beuschel to make a successful transition from employees to entrepreneurs.

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