How have you been able to pivot your business model in response to the pandemic?
I have been able to pivot my business model easily during the pandemic. All lessons went from in house to online via Zoom. Guitar, Banjo, and Ukulele lessons were doable. Voice lessons, however, were a challenge as delay across streaming was an issue. I eventually decided to put those on hold until we were in-house. I checked in frequently with students to see when they felt comfortable returning to the studio. I reopened mid-June with social distancing protocol in place. I am lucky to have 3 spaces to teach in varying degrees of social distance, so students felt at ease in returning. They are grateful to have a place to play and go outside of their homes that has a safe and warm vibe.
How would you like Fort Collins to celebrate Black Business Month?
As Fort Collins is now recognizing the need to celebrate and recognize its communities of color, It’s important to simply continue to do just that. Promote all the Black businesses in town on every City platform digitally and physically. Perhaps even a Black Business Expo featuring artists, small businesses, musicians etc.
Why do you think it’s important for our community to celebrate Black Business Month?
It’s important for Fort Collins to recognize that there are Black businesses in town because of the town demographic. In a mostly white town, minority businesses aren’t recognized or even known. It’s important in 2020 and beyond to show that we are represented, contribute to the local economy, and are a thriving part of our community. Fort Collins is needing this showcase of diversity. It’s supposedly an “open-minded” town, so let’s promote what makes it so.
What support do you need during this time that was missing? What type of support do you feel you received?
I have been blessed to have many of my students continue lessons during the pandemic. As I have mostly long term students here, meaning students who have been here for over 3+years, they have become family. They have been consistent, and financially supportive during these times, often donating extra to see me thrive. I have also been gifted treats and treasures on the porch to simply say, “Thank you, Saja for all you do.” I am truly grateful for the Urban Monk Studios’ family.
What is one thing you want the Fort Collins community to know about you as a business owner?
I am wanting the community to know that I am a single Black woman running a business in a mostly White, family oriented town. I started my business over 12 years ago, running and operating it solo. Of course I have had help and support along the way for which I am very grateful. But, the everyday operations, expenses, lesson planning, practicing, admin work, I do all on my own. This is rare in our society and I am not believed quite commonly. People can’t seem to grasp that I don’t have a husband who backs me financially, or partner who pays half of the household expenses. When I bought my Jeep a few years back, one bank didn’t believe that my business was real, because I was running it solo.
What does that say about us as a society? We have women touting independence and men stating they treat women as equals, yet because I am single, running a business, I am not believed by both. That’s a big reflection on our society, not me. If you want something, go for it whether you are single or not. Your dreams are YOUR DREAMS. Make it so.