Anyone who’s ever belted out Sweet Caroline on karaoke night at their neighbourhood bar would surely agree with Chantal Hackett’s take on the therapeutic benefits of a rousing vocal session.
“Who doesn’t love to sing?” says the owner of Orléans-based Sing House Studios. “I mean, everybody loves to sing. It’s not like you have to be super fit to go to the gym. It’s the same thing with singing. You can just try it and see if you enjoy it. There’s a lot of benefits.”
Hackett, who started her performance studio 17 years ago, has built a thriving business that offers singing, guitar and piano lessons and now boasts more than 200 students and nine instructors.
But like countless other entrepreneurs, the 2019 Forty Under 40 recipient was forced to completely rethink her business model when the pandemic struck.
When restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 forced her to stop offering in-person lessons last spring, Hackett switched to providing virtual lessons via Zoom.
'The new norm'
Not everyone felt comfortable with the new format – she figures about 10 per cent of her students opted out – but most people gradually adapted to the online approach, which Hackett resumed in late December when the province ordered another widespread business shutdown.
Now, Hackett says, her phone is buzzing every day with requests from new clients eager to sharpen their vocal skills.
“It’s starting to be the new norm, so now we are getting calls,” she says. “Everybody’s online now – no one’s as scared of Zoom as they once were.”
That includes Hackett herself, who admits she was a bit wary about diving into the virtual teaching arena at first. But now she’s fully on board with the idea – and is poised to expand her online offerings with the launch of SHS Virtual Academy.
Funded by a $10,000 grant from Desjardins Insurance, Hackett’s new service features a series of eight video modules as well as online workbooks and audio warmups for students ranging from beginners to advanced. She charges a monthly subscription fee for the program, which also includes a monthly one-on-one lesson with an instructor.
As she looks to broaden her client base, Hackett is also revamping her business’s website with the help of another $5,000 grant she landed recently.
Over the years, she’s attracted a few clients from Montreal and teaches a member of the Canadian military who’s currently stationed in Afghanistan. She says she’s hoping to sign up more students from outside Ottawa as word of the academy spreads.
Hackett was one of 75 entrepreneurs from across Canada to receive funding from the $1-million Desjardins initiative. After applying for “quite a few” grants over the past year without any luck, she says the cash infusion is coming at an opportune moment.
“I think this is going to be the new normal,” Hackett says of virtual vocal training. “This is the time to do it.”