Franchisee Spotlight: Mother-Son Team Create Success at B2R Plymouth by Helping Students Thrive
Posted on: April 8, 2022
Judy Shoulak and her son, Jake, are the multi-talented mother-son team leading Bach to Rock Plymouth, Minnesota. Together, they bring a high level of corporate and music industry expertise to the school. Judy has over 30 years of experience leading operations and building high-performing teams at companies such as Buffalo Wild Wings, Office Max and JC Penney. Jake brings the musical acumen to the partnership. After earning his degree in Audio Engineering from the Institute of Production and Recording in Minneapolis, he worked extensively providing live sound at events across the country with artists such as Nora Jones, John C. Reilly, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, and Dawes. He is also a talented finger-style and acoustic guitarist, who has recorded several albums and performed live in many areas of the United States and in England and Norway. With the Plymouth school thriving, the duo decided to expand to a second school in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, which is opening in Spring 2022.
Active in their community, Judy is the co-founder (along with her husband, Jim) of Shoulak Breastfest Music Festivals, a 501C3 charitable organization which has raised nearly $500,000 for breast cancer charitable causes. Jake is also the vice-president. The non-profit is passion project for Judy, as an 11-year breast cancer survivor. Judy also spent nearly ten years on the Board of Directors of The Boys and Girls Club of America in the Twin Cities, most recently as the Chair of the Board.
Why did you choose to open a Bach to Rock school? And how did you hear about B2R?
With Jake’s music background in mind, we started contemplating a way to work in the music industry and were exploring options. Jake heard an ad on XM radio, made one call and the rest is history!
How long has your school been open?
We opened in September 2018. And we are so excited to announce that we are opening our second school in May 2022.
How have you made your business successful? What have been the keys to success?
We have been very passionate about hiring a great team. In addition to being incredible musicians, we ensure that our instructors and managers are great role models for our students. We always hire ahead of the need.
We are extremely involved in our business and have helped develop career paths for our team members.
We have a fun and engaging culture and are always looking for ways to grow our business and be better. We are extremely focused on making sure our students have an amazing experience. We market our school at community events, so we always have the ability to get more exposure and more new students.
Regarding COVID disruptions, we quickly adapted to virtual lessons to accommodate students and employees to meet their comfort levels. Many of our employees worked remotely for as long as they needed until they felt comfortable returning to in-person teaching. And many of our students still take virtual lessons, for a variety of reasons.
What would you tell a prospective franchisee about starting a B2R?
Bach to Rock is an amazing brand, especially during this particular time. We have a unique offering, and we are the best in our category. Bach to Rock corporate has strong methods and best practices to share. They are proactive and responsive. As a franchisee, you have all the tools you need. You will create your own success by picking a great location, hiring an amazing team and ensuring they work well together, with the shared goal of creating a great experience for the student/parent. Remain committed to marketing your brand, be involved in your community and have a mindset to overcome all obstacles and strive for continuous improvement.
Any words of encouragement?
Anything new brings its set of unique challenges. Bach to Rock corporate has a fabulous group of people who are always willing to provide help. Excel at what you do the best and seek assistance from those who do amazing jobs in other areas!
Have you run into any tough spots? If so, what are they and how did you work them out?
Covid brought a new set of challenges. We were grateful to be able to learn from franchisees on the West Coast who encountered the issues first. Then corporate quickly put together a program for us to be able to teach virtually.
We jumped on that and never skipped a beat. We just converted everything possible to virtual. Jake drove the process of overseeing virtual lessons and I (Judy) became the “phone” of Bach to Rock. We all focused on doing what we do best.
The transition ended up being a positive for us. Now we can teach lessons virtually to people on snowy winter days (many of those here in Minnesota) or if someone is not feeling that well. And, when people move, they can continue taking their lessons virtually.
What do you enjoy most about owning/operating a B2R?
We love the combination of having a strong corporate brand for guidance and support and being able to add our own personal touches through the people we hire and the culture we create.
What’s the most popular class or lesson at your school?
Piano is our most popular class, followed closely by guitar. Voice and drum lessons are also very popular!
Tell us about your expectations of being a B2R franchise owner.
Initially, there probably was a bit more involved than we expected. However, we quickly realized that we have all of the tools we need and can really drive success when we make sure that everything that we are responsible for has an owner on our team. We also learned that the impact of marketing your brand in the community is huge, and that was an important component we focused on early in the process.
What is the best way to represent your B2R school when you meet prospective families/students or are talking about B2R in the community?
- We teach students in the genre they love and get them playing right away.
- We provide the opportunity for students to join bands; their learning really accelerates when they are having fun, playing music with their peers.
- We get our students performing out in the community as soon as possible, individually or in bands. It is a great experience for them to do this starting small and then building their confidence! We consider this an extension of their education at Bach to Rock.
What has surprised you the most about owning a Bach to Rock school?
We knew we would be able to influence the lives of our students, but we did not realize the extent to which we could impact them. We have been completely amazed at how students’ lives have been transformed as they became more confident and comfortable with their instrument. It has been heartwarming to see how music plays such a key role in the lives of so many…filling voids, building confidence, helping provide pleasure and happiness.
Tell us a bit more about the atmosphere of your school. What do you think keeps students coming back?
I can best describe it by telling this story. A parent had a student attending our school and brought in two younger siblings for a free trial lesson. The kiddos had a great time, and we were all very engaged with them. When the parent was leaving, she paused and turned around and said, “You can just feel the love here.”
There is a lot of love in our school. There is a lot of care, concern, respect and fun. Our culture is warm and inviting and we put forth much effort to make sure our school employs people who share our values and continually exhibit them.
The students continue to come back because they really love their teachers and the school atmosphere.
What are your goals for the future with your B2R school? We are in the process of opening our second Bach to Rock school this spring, and we are looking forward to expanding our reach. Our goal is to impact peoples’ lives through music…this includes our students, instructors and managers. We are dedicated to providing careers where people can make a living doing what they love. We are hoping we can have 4-6 Bach to Rock schools in the Minneapolis market over the next five years.