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Small Business Success Story: Yevgeniya Lepskaya School of Music

Can you tell me more about yourself?
I was born in Kiev, Ukraine and immigrated to the United States when I was 19 years old. I received a full scholarship to Roosevelt University Musical College in Chicago. I graduated in three years, with honors, from the Chicago Musical college with a Bachelors degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy. I then attended Northern Illinois University for graduate school on a full scholarship, and received my Master's degree in Piano Performance and Pedagogy in 1999.

What made you decide to start your business?
I have been teaching music all my life. While I was a student at Roosevelt, I began teaching a few people on the side. Word began to spread of my teachings, and the number of students I had kept growing. Six years ago, I got my own space and started my teaching business.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
The biggest challenge that I had to overcome was coming to the United States. I did have full scholarships to Roosevelt, but I only had $200 in my pocket. It was very hard to survive on little money, let alone in a brand new country. It was a struggle to survive, but I overcame the challenges with the help of teaching.

What is your favorite aspect of owning your own business?
I view my business as an extension of myself. I love what I do. I've been involved with music my entire life, and teaching for many, many years. Music is what I know, and what I love. It is about the art; it is beautiful and a special gift. The best part, for me, is working with the children. The children are like my extended family - it warms my heart to know that they appreciate and care about me as much as I care about them. It gives me a great feeling to know that I have great relationships with the children.

What motivates you?
My motivation is the ability to perform for others. I still play the piano very often and perform yearly in Chicago. I am motivated to the best.

What advertising and marketing strategies have worked for your business?
I have tried participating in variety shows in my area, placing ads in the Yellow Pages, posting signs in various buildings in the area, and started a direct mailing campaign. The most successful strategy that has worked for me is word of mouth. Many of my students are referrals from current students. My business has recently been listed on EZlocal and I am excited to be found on the local search engine to bring in new business.
What has been your biggest success so far?
My biggest success so far is that I've never had any other job besides teaching and playing piano to support myself and my career. Most artists, whether its fine arts or creative arts, are forced to have other jobs to support their work. I have always been able to support myself, make a living, and create a life for myself solely with my art.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?
I would like to see my student body grow from 60 students to 100 students.

What is most important thing to remember when starting your own small business?
You have to do it for the right reasons - you can't start your own business to get rich quickly or to buy things. You should start a business if you have the skills, a unique idea, and a way to attract customers. It is important to be smart about money, space, rent, loans, and other financial burdens, and not start a business because you think you can get rich quick. Bottom line is: you need to do it for the right reasons.

If you could give aspiring entrepreneurs any advice, what would it be?
Do the math before you begin. Don't keep your heads in the clouds.

BUSINESS NAME: Yevgeniya Lepskaya School of Music
OWNER: Yevgeniya Lepskaya
LOCATION: Park Ridge, IL
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