Young Innovators Success Stories: Rhiannon Jeffreys, Starling Music Academy, East of England

Posted on: 15/02/2022
Rhiannon Jeffreys portrait

Professional musician Rhiannon Jeffreys describes winning the Young Innovators Award from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust as “a big confidence boost”.

Entrepreneurial musician creates online tutoring hub

Professional musician Rhiannon Jeffreys describes winning the Young Innovators Award from Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust as “a big confidence boost”.

Her aim when applying was to receive expert advice on her innovative business idea to provide online tutoring to help students pass music theory exams through her nascent business Starling Music Academy.

Having received validation that her ambitions were viable, Rhiannon bolstered her expertise as a professional flute, clarinet, and saxophone player, to also embark on an entrepreneurial path.

Rhiannon says, “Having never even entertained a career in business before, every milestone has felt huge.”

Igniting passion

Since joining the programme, Rhiannon has created a business plan, developed a working prototype of her tutoring course, and refined company branding.

She has also improved her understanding of what it takes to run a company.

“I know that I still have much more to learn, but the knowledge I have gained over the past year through my Innovation Champion has been so valuable and has ignited a passion I would have never had the chance to discover otherwise,” Rhiannon says.

In addition, she also found a sense of achievement in an unexpected way. “One of the highlights for me has been creating jobs – it’s never something I thought I would be in a position to do and I have been so fortunate to have found some amazing people who also believe in what Starling is trying to achieve and have really given it their all.”

Bespoke approach

The grant funding provided by Innovate UK enabled Rhiannon to develop Starling’s in-house Learning Management System, through which the course will be delivered.

This was carried out with the support of an expert in algorithms, which means she is able to provide a tailored course for each student, and a specialist in content creation.

“The scope of this project is ambitious and it wouldn’t have been possible to get as far as I have without help, so this support has been invaluable,” she says.

Alongside the financial boost, the wider programme provided by Innovate UK KTN and Innovate UK EDGE has offered essential support in launching a new business.

“Speaking to my Innovation Champion has become a weekly highlight for me. She has been so supportive, not just of my business but also of me as a person. She has taught me a huge amount whilst giving me the space to make my own decisions and is always a cheerleader of my successes, big or small,” Rhiannon says.

“I also loved meeting up with some of the other members of the cohort in person when we were first given the opportunity 10 months into the award, having only spoken to many of them virtually up until then.”

Saying yes

Before joining the Young Innovators programme, Rhiannon suffered with anxiety. When she secured the Award, however, she decided to throw herself into the scheme, learn as much as she possibly could, and say yes to the opportunities that came her way.

Rhiannon says, “Agreeing to do a radio interview with less than an hour’s notice was absolutely terrifying, but it taught me how to stay calm under pressure and to always be prepared to talk about my business in detail.”

She often tells her students to be proud of their achievements, and now feels proud of herself and what she has accomplished.

“It took me a long time to accept the label of ‘entrepreneur’ but I’m starting to get comfortable with it. I feel as though I have been firmly placed on a new path and I intend to make the most of the opportunity.”

Creating a network

Over the next year Rhiannon aims to launch the full music theory course and build partnerships with other musical organisations in the hope of creating a network to benefit both students and businesses by making more resources more accessible. This work will be supported by additional funding she has recently secured from Innovate UK.

She is also looking forward to taking on musicians as tutors to create work for others with a passion and skill for music.

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Young Innovators

Young Innovators

The Young Innovators Awards are an annual competition from Innovate UK that finds, supports and celebrates young people with great business ideas.


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