Posted: Fri 24th Jul 2015
Training TV's Ant and Dec, appearing on Radio 1 and teaching 100 people at the same time are among the successes of entrepreneur Lorraine Bow, founder of ukulele lessons company Learn to Uke. The Enterprise Nation member discusses the story behind her brand.
What was your motivation to start your own business?
I started Learn To Uke in 2008 after I had set up the free ukulele jam Ukulele Wednesdays at the Royal George, off Charing Cross Road in London. It's a fun night which now spans three venues, and involves drinking, singing and playing the ukulele. Loads of people came along by accident and wanted to learn to play the ukulele outside of the night. I found I had an affinity with teaching and seeing the joy in people's faces when I was able to get people who'd never played an instrument to play ukulele in under an hour. I retrained from being an events and production manager to be a teacher. I guess the rest is history.
Whilst you were starting up how did you balance home life with work?
To be honest, I didn't do that very well. My life completely revolved around the ukulele. I was house sharing at the time, so I did stuff with housemates on occasion, but other than that, it was all about that uke!
What's your tip for effective sales and marketing?
Your enthusiasm for what you do is infectious. Word of mouth is your best friend.
Which tools could you not live without in your business?
My iPhone. I can't always come back to people as I'm often teaching, but it allows me to stay in touch on the move.
What movie, song or book offers you the most business inspiration and why?
There are lots of clips I get sent of people with ukuleles in them that inspire me to try new things and share them with students. Some famous examples are Ryan Gosling playing You Always Hurt The One You Love in Blue Valentine or Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot, or Zooey Deschanel with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Check out more here.
What has been your biggest business success to date?
I feel that every lesson that's gone well is my biggest business success. I enjoy seeing people do the 'I get it' face, feeling happy and satisfied that they've accomplished something new. Others might judge me teaching Ant and Dec, or appearing on Radio 1 with my band KaraUke, or playing at the BRITS or Bestival, or teaching 100 people in one sitting, or the company lessons with Google and LOCOG as notable. For me, each day where I offer something useful to people is a success.
If you had to live on a desert island with one entrepreneur who would it be and why?
Maybe Warren Buffet, as he plays the ukulele.
What are your ambitions for the next five years?
To develop our online courses so that people out of London can get involved and learn in a structured way.
How does being a member of Enterprise Nation help you grow as a business?
I'm a very new member, but I've already been up the BT Tower and learnt a bunch of online tips. I'm looking forward to connecting with more members in the future.
Come along to a taster class with friends one Thursday. We provide the ukuleles and everything you need to play your first song. Just come along!
If you'd like to join Lorraine and become an Enterprise Nation member to access exclusive benefits, sign up now. We may even profile your business which is great PR.
You can meet lots more Enterprise Nation members here.