How an after-school DJ program beats the odds

Building Beats makes clever use of free software to compete in the niche after-school market.


March 8, 2020

Convincing a city to drop money on DJing classes for its underserved schools isn’t easy. So when Phi Pham strides into meetings with city officials, the founder of Building Beats comes with proof that DJing teaches life skills. 

Students uploading their music to SoundCloud? Teaches an entrepreneurial spirit. Performing at assemblies? That’s public speaking. Giving and receiving feedback with peers? A master class in conflict resolution.

As a nonprofit, Building Beats has a lean staff of only 3 full-timers. But by making clever use of free beat-making programs like Soundtrap, it’s squaring off against robotics, chess, and dance programs to land contracts in a niche after-school market.

Pham farms out projects to a group of 19 instructors who double as DJs or musicians in their daily lives. Contracts with schools make up 80% of his revenue, and almost all expenses are salaries. 

Building Beats has its sights set on delivering cost-effective programs to schools across New York City — and, soon, Los Angeles and D.C. So far, it’s striking a chord: In many high-poverty schools where Pham has landed, Building Beats is the only music class offered.

  • Founders: Phi Pham 
  • Employees: 3
  • Years in business: 7
  • Cost to launch: $5,000 
  • Funding methods: Crowdfunding, friends/family contributions
  • 1st-year revenue: $25k
  • Current annual revenue: $400k

Want your story featured? Fill out our Small Business survey. See financials of 700+ companies by subscribing to Trends.

Daily briefings, straight to your inbox

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

Join over 1 million people who read The Hustle

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.