Photo contributed by the Clovis Chamber of Commerce – Mizna Akbar, Meenu Pamula and Arya Desai won the southwest regional Young Entrepreneurs Academy competition and recently presented their business, Muzikguru, at the national competition in Washington D.C.
By Valerie Shelton, Editor
If you told Meenu Pamula, Mizna Akbar and Arya Desai a few short months ago that they would be headed to Washington D.C. as one of seven teams to compete for funds to support their own business they would have not believed you.
The trio that created Muzikguru—an online database where music educators can upload their profiles and their students can write honest reviews and recommendations—didn’t even think their idea, created as part of the class requirements for the Clovis Chamber of Commerce Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), would even win at the local panel let alone the regional competition held in Rochester, New York.
“After they announced we won at regionals, we were just amazed and Mark [Blackney] and Mayra [Stone] just started screaming,” said Pamula, an outgoing junior at Clovis North.
Even the optimistic Mark Blackney, the Chamber of Commerce’s CEO, wasn’t anticipating the big win.
“I was so relaxed after I went up to receive this beautiful trophy in honor of Fran,” Blackney said. “I went back to my seat and was very relaxed because their presentation was incredible but there were many wonderful presentations and I was impressed with the types of businesses so while I had hopes I just didn’t set myself up. When they started announcing the winner of the southwest region and said Clovis, I thought New Mexico? And then they said California and I stood up in my chair and I was glad everyone was applauding because I was screaming ‘Oh my God!’ It was just incredible.”
Out of everyone, it was Desai, an outgoing eighth grader from Granite Ridge, who carried all the confidence—“They got depressed when we didn’t get runner-up, but when they announced us as the winner, I was like ‘I knew it!’”
Akbar, an outgoing junior at Clovis North, described the events leading up to the regionals win as a classic underdog tale, where many of the other young businesses Muzikguru competed against already had a customer following and profit, while Muzikguru was still in its early conceptual stage. While Akbar said she thinks how she, Pamula and Dasai work as a team and show their passion in their presentation is part of their success so far, she says even with that passion she was never 100 percent sure the idea itself would resonate with others.
“We had some pretty bad ideas before we settled on Muzikguru and we actually thought this idea was kind of bad but we just went with it,” Akbar said. “I had some idea to do something with music and then the two of them also play instruments so we decided to come together. We all put a lot of effort in to think of an idea but I thought it was bad even going into the first investors’ panel and we thought we would lose in Rochester. I guess the way we present together, we are very in sync and the passion shows and I guess the investors see the value in our idea and the growth potential. I guess with dot coms, if you just have a semi-good dot com idea it can work.”
Though the team got little feedback at regionals, they agree that it is the growth potential that probably set them apart because although they haven’t made any money yet, the possibilities are endless and the operating costs are relatively low.
The vision for the Muzikguru website is to be an online platform where music students and their parents can find the perfect teacher. The current system, Pamula said, is inefficient because students find teachers by word of mouth and the teacher recommended by a friend or family member may not work because of location, temperament or a host of other reasons. With Muzikguru, music teacher will have the opportunity to create profiles that are in-depth with information like cost and location and students can look through the options and pick which teacher best fits their needs. Students can also post reviews of their teachers.
Akbar, Pamula and Dasai thought of the idea because they all play instruments—Akbar and Dasai play violin while Pamula plays piano—and all know people who have stopped playing their instruments because they don’t care for their music teacher.
“We’re all musicians and we know it is kind of hard to find that perfect music teacher,” Akbar said. “I have friends that just didn’t like the teacher they were with and that ended up ruining it for them and they just stopped playing music. If you have a mean teacher when you’re little, you don’t think about it much when you quit and moms, they just ask a friend, get a number and call and set up a lesson and then the mom goes and sits with the kid for a year to make sure the teacher is safe and it is quite an outdated system. We noticed it growing up with it and we decided to try and solve this problem.”
While the website is still in development, once launched Muzikguru will focus on building a database of music teachers in the Fresno metropolitan area. From there, Muzikguru can expand to serve music teachers and students throughout the state and eventually, nationwide.
Already, Akbar said they have talked to the American String Teachers Association, which has agreed to have the three of them talk to their members once the website is up and running. They have also talked to the Music Teachers Association of California about presenting at one of their meetings.
Akbar, Pamula and Dasai competed at the national competition on June 13, after this publications deadline. Win or lose, they believe Muzikguru has a bright future.