After his first year in business, Rock Dojo owner, Brian Parham, was eager to calculate how much money he had made for his efforts. The answer was devastating. “I worked incredibly hard that year and only made $4,500. I was literally in tears going to my next client appointment.” It was after this realization that Parham was inspired to contact SCORE Portland business mentors and learn how to run a business successfully.
His business path started 6 years ago, just by simply picking up guitar as a hobby. “My wife Sophie and I lived in California, I was managing a gym. I was fortunate at 28 years old to decide I would take guitar lessons and it changed my life.” Within a few short months, Parham’s passion for guitar grew so much that he wanted to make it his career. They saved up thousands of dollars and moved to Portland so he could be a full time student. He was inspired by the relatively low cost of living here and enrolled at PCC to get a music certificate in guitar.
To maintain an income, Parham began teaching private lessons at his students’ homes. In his first year of teaching, he commuted to all of his appointments via bicycle. He would carry his guitar slung on his back, often in the Portland rain. After realizing in his first year that his business was going broke, he contacted SCORE Portland and was introduced to business mentor Rusty Bennett, who was a specialist in business operations. “Rusty helped me leverage my business concept from individual lessons to group classes. There was suddenly more time for me to concentrate on the business and improve my curriculum.” The business, now called Rock Dojo, specializes in teaching kids guitar. It ranks the students skill level on belt color, just as a martial arts studio would do.
Brian’s wife Sophie is a Co-Founder and Instructor as well.
Because his target market was primarily an after-school crowd, it was often a challenge maintaining cash flow in the summertime. Parham paired up with another SCORE mentor Jim Miller, an expert in marketing and business strategy. “Jim was a big help in getting us to forecast our sales 6 months in advance and budget for the lean times. He strategized a way for us to ask the parents of our students to advocate to other parents about Rock Dojo. We tripled our number of students in just a matter of days.”
When COVID hit, Jim Miller helped Parham apply for PPP and EIDL grants. Within a short while, Rock Dojo capitalized on all of the students stuck at home by launching an electronic curriculum. Now any kid within reach of a computer was a potential student. Another local resource that has helped the company early on was MESO, a local nonprofit that provides IDA Savings Match grants. The grant enabled Parham to purchase a used vehicle for Rock Dojo that cut down on all of his bicyle commuting.
In January of 2021, Parham became a student himself when he was admitted to the online extension program of the nationally ranked Berklee College of Music. While maintainging his studies, he regularly produces instructional videos, social media posts and website blogs about various aspects of guitar.
“Life is busier than it’s ever been, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it,” Parham laughed.
To learn more about Rock Dojo, visit https://rockdojo.org
-written by Matt Rutter
After realizing in his first year that his business was going broke, Brian contacted SCORE Portland and was introduced to business mentor Rusty Bennett, who was a specialist in business operations. Parham paired up with another SCORE mentor Jim Miller, an expert in marketing and business strategy.