Grant was the springboard for Top of the Rock to soar
"They express themselves on the drums and they express themselves to us and it's really beautiful - six hours of the day when it's just the music."
A drum tuition studio in Warwick is set to expand and reach further into the community - and founder Kris Farrell says the catalyst for its success was perfectly-timed grant support from Warwickshire County Council.
Professional drummer Kris opened Top of the Rock Tuition at the West End Centre, Hampton Road, early in 2020. Two days later came lockdown with all its challenges but the brand new business struck an immediate chord with customers young and old.
The business having become established at the most difficult time, then came the opportunity to grow and in 2021 Kris applied for an Adapt & Diversify Grant from the County Council. This enabled him to buy two top-quality electric drum kits, a laptop and, crucially, recording equipment to deliver lessons online.
The support truly took the brakes off a business which has now grown to employ ten people and bring the joy of music to more than 300 tutees plus pupils at ten local schools. Its Warwick studio at full capacity, Top of the Rock is set to open a second base in Coventry.
“A year ago we had 120 pupils and facility for two lessons at a time,” said Kris. “But we added a third room and are now fully booked every day. We have more than 300 pupils, work in ten schools and are opening a studio in Coventry.
“Our ten staff visit schools during the day then see pupils in the evening. It has gone amazingly and the catalyst for all this was the council grant. We were just getting on our feet again after Covid and having that extra support meant we could go online and stay connected to our pupils. Then when things returned to normal, we had all this top quality gear which the kids love using.
“It wouldn't have been possible without the grant - the positive impact of it on the business has been immeasurable."
The uplifting story of Top of the Rock far transcends its business success. While it brings employment and adds to the county’s wonderfully diverse small business offer, it is also enriching the lives of young people through the power of music.
“We are a business but hopefully much more than that,” said Kris. “We are huge mental health advocates. I come from an unstable background and know how playing the drums helped with my anger management and just helped me clear my head. A lot of kids come here with problems or disabilities and other musical instruments might not be so accessible for them, but drums are universal. It's man's first instrument - even before we used our voices we were communicating by hitting stuff. I think it's innate in everyone.
"Our Scholarship Fund gives free lessons for disadvantaged kids and while, as with any business, there are difficult days, as soon as the music starts it's brilliant. You see the smiles on faces and the confidence we give them just by being a reliable, friendly presence in their lives. We sometimes feel like therapists because people feel they can open up to us. They express themselves on the drums and they express themselves to us and it's really beautiful - six hours of the day when it's just the music.
“My staff are extraordinary. Some have degrees, some just learned the drums in their bedrooms, but they are all brilliant with people. We work with some of the best drummers in the country, but just as enjoyable and rewarding for us is working with kids who have never picked up a drumstick before.
“We've also now moved into guitars so there is just no more room for growth in our Warwick studio so we are planning the same set-up in Coventry. I'm really excited - it feels like I've built a big ship and am now setting off on an adventure in a little dinghy, but in five years time hopefully we'll have five or six studios.”
In total during its two rounds, the Adapt & Diversify scheme supported 120 small businesses with grants amounting to just under £1.4million
Warwickshire County Council’s Assistant Director for Communities, Dave Ayton-Hill, said: “Top of the Rock Tuition is a real success story and Kris and his team deserve huge credit for making the business such a success and engaging with schools in such a positive way.
“I am delighted that our Adapt & Diversify Fund was such a catalyst for Top of the Rock and so successful in supporting so many small businesses at a very challenging time. It was a really effective scheme and stories like Kris’s vindicate all the investment and hard work from the WCC teams that underpinned it.”
* To find out what other support is available to your business, please call CWLEP Growth Hub on 0300 060 3747