“Music education opens doors that help children pass from school into the world around them a world of work, culture, intellectual activity, and human involvement. The future of our nation depends on providing our children with a complete education that includes music.”  –Gerald Ford

Across the world, children are reaping the benefits of the enriched education that music can provide. A musical education has been linked to breakthroughs in language development, higher IQs, growth in neural activities and in creative development. Children who grow up in introspective, musical environments benefit from a greater sense of self. Children learn to honor the process of learning and to bring an artful consciousness in all that they do, see and become.

For entrepreneur, Candace Chen, gaining a musical education was instrumental (no pun intended) to her success. Candace and her family left Taiwan when she was only three years old. Raised on a close to minimum wage salary, Candace’s single mother pushed her to work hard in school and supported her in her pursuit of learning how to play musical instruments. A classically trained musician, Chen played as a Pianist for 13 years, a violinist for 10 years, later becoming a self-taught guitar and ukulele player as well. She later went on to teach violin and piano to help offset the cost of college. This upbringing ultimately led to Chen’s MIT acceptance, where she obtained a degree in Mechanical Engineering, a milestone she considers to be her greatest achievement. Candace’s musical upbringing also laid the foundation for becoming a well rounded individual, capable of taking on a variety of diverse tasks throughout her career. As a solo (technical) founder, Candace now wears many hats in her company, handling design, copywriting, video editing, Facebook advertising and patent writing. She is also able to work well with limited resources available, using her bedroom 3D printer to prototype and test her designs.

In her successful, one-woman powered venture, Chen honors everyone around the world who has benefited from a musical education, as well as those who continue to hold a soft spot for music in their heart. Creating a travel-friendly ukulele instrument, Chen makes it easy for music lovers and adventurous travelers to bring the joys of music wherever they go. Her product, the Ava ukulele boasts an impressive model of unique features, in a market that has seen very little change. The instrument is portable and may be easily stowed away. Ava retains a bold sound, to be shared proudly with others. It may also be practiced quietly, in Silent Mode. Simple plug in your earphones and your solo jam session will remain barely audible to those around you.

The Ava ukulele came into being when Chen was setting off for a vacation in Costa Rica. Excited for a relaxing vacation, playing ukulele on the beach, she was devastated to find that her beloved instrument had been destroyed in her travels. For Candace Chen, whose life had largely revolved around music, this instrument was more than an object,  it was a friend. Empathizing with other musicians who have experienced the same heartbreak, Candace decided to create a compact ukulele that would not only withstand travel, but become an agent for social interactions and joy shared among others. “I want Ava to inspire people to get out there, travel, and share music with others,” says Chen.

For any entrepreneurial spirit out there hoping to follow your lives’ compass to the heart of inspiration, listening to Candace Chen’s story can help you get there.  Based on her personal experience, Candace offers the following advice to entrepreneurs in diverse industries:

Take advantage of the growing freelance economy (like Upwork and Fiverr)! I’ve found freelancers for electrical engineering, PR, marketing, user studies, creative copy, graphic design, patents, and video production on a per-project basis which keeps on-going expenses (like salary) low. This is crucial in the early stages when you’re bootstrapping or trying to manage your burn rate before that next investment round. 

Create prototypes to help answer questions and stress-test assumptions, not for sake of creating a prototype. A prototype at each stage (MVP, proof-of-concept, critical module, beta) are all different types of prototypes that help answer a different question. 

If you have an app idea, your first step is not to hire a developer. Rather, create an MVP mockup (there are drag-and-drop programs that let you do this with no coding experience), and test with your target users to figure out if this is something they’d want. Saves a ton of time and money.

You should be de-risking and refining at each step along the way (product-market fit, features, high-risk engineering modules), not at the very end where you present a final polished product and find out nobody wants it!