Spencer Jensen

Getting Rehair Work from School Districts

Recommended Posts

I run my own bow repair business out of my home and perform and teach for my other streams of income. I'm interested in learning how get rehair and bow repair work from school districts in my area. Last summer, I compiled a list of orchestra teachers in several districts and emailed them. I got a couple of promising responses but nothing materialized. I have also talked with local shops (who likely already have contracts with districts) about helping them with rehairs. It seems that is a little hit and miss depending on whether the shop is overloaded with work. 

I'm gathering that there is a process of bids and contracting between districts and repair services. I'm wondering if anyone can offer some information or advice on getting into this work. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you’re looking to get involved in school repair contract bids, you’ll need to contact the people who do the budgeting for the city or county you want to work with. Most of those contracts are for repairs or sales, and bow rehairing is just one item on the list.

School officials are looking for businesses that can show how they’ll be able to handle the volume of work that comes through the pipeline. That’s why bigger shops or music stores tend to get the contracts. Once you’ve been approved to bid, the administrators will compare your bid with others and they’ll look for the one that’s the cheapest.

I think you probably have a better chance of getting individual schools to use booster money for bow rehairs in batches rather than going through the bidding process. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Spencer... you need to become a salesman... ie... shake the bushes and the fruit will fall. shaking the bushes means talking to any and everybody connected to the string program about rehair.... eventually you get to know who the decision makers are, and what annoys them about their current suppliers... could be price, could be quality could be service response. 

Establish how you can do better than your competition, think of interesting benefits and stories that you can create a conversation with, and then talk to the decision makers... teach them why your serve product is better than the rest.  They will let you know what you need to do. Keep in mind every organization operates slightly differently, so one size does not fit all. For some organizations price is everything, others quality etc.

Keep in mind that people prefer to do business with friends rather than strangers... so find out how you can become a friend.... Volunteering is a good way.

If the organization's process is tendering, then low price is the only way. If the process is to receive proposals, then you know they are also interested in quality and service. 

Personal contact is far better than email... even phone calls are better.

Just start shaking the bushes, you will be surprised what fruit falls.

Good luck! ... Mat

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have done very little work for schools, so I cannot advise you on how to get school work.  However, if you only work on bows I'm afraid you are at a disadvantage, because it's more convenient for a school to deal with one business that fixes both instruments and bows than it is to deal with a separate business for each.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I have done very little work for schools, so I cannot advise you on how to get school work.  However, if you only work on bows I'm afraid you are at a disadvantage, because it's more convenient for a school to deal with one business that fixes both instruments and bows than it is to deal with a separate business for each.

That’s what I was getting at in my earlier comment. The people who make these decisions are not the music teachers, and they want to keep things as simple as they can, which is why they often pick bigger music centers that can orchestral and band instruments.

Ultimately, your competition isn’t the other violin businesses, it’s the music stores, unless you live in an area that has limited options.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The high school orchestra program that my kids are in is one of the best in the state.  We're so appreciative that the kids can use a cello and viola there instead of schlepping them to school so I offered to get Jerry to rehair some of the bows there.  But it turns out that all of the bows are the $40-50 disposable kind from Shar.  Not sure what it's like where you are.  The instruments on the other hand do need looking after.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're kidding? I turn away school work at times and don't do contract school work. I always tell school reps to price the work in Cleveland before driving an hour to me, and they do. In exchange, I have a rock solid reputation for repairing their battered boxes and making them playable regardless of the condition and the horrors to which they have been subjected. The parents are the main driving factor, I get asked about upgrading instruments weekly, high school, youth orchestras, undergraduate. Mostly from Chinese instruments to the ubiquitous French or German box. At some point they, the kids, have to leave the 40 to 50 dollar bows behind if they are going to continue. IMHO, my advice is set your shop rate and offer a consistent twenty percent student discount on labor, it's always worked for me. I don't carry a big entry level inventory, a dozen violins, 2-3 cellos at a time, and a few Baroque instruments, but I always offer to network and put the word out to find an appropriate instrument.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The comments here are not to correct anyone else's. There are so many school districts and each district has their process.

When I coach at schools, there is a paper that says i have been wormed and have the necessary rabies shorts and have to go through a background check with the county or state law enforcement. Getting on a vendor list might be more complicated. 

Most districts in my metro area do have rules with a desire to make the bidding process more fair, while vetting business for their quality and reliability. This is not to say the process is fair, just that a process was put in place. There are also too many districts that desire speed over quality in terms of instrument repairs, because with facilities repair, promptness is the first thing that is desired. During the past twenty years the decline in the price of instruments, and quality, it was more practical to replace with a new instrument or bow than repair. The same shops that might specialize mostly in band instruments, that supply $100 violins also receive repairs, as per the contract or Purchase Order. For these shops replacing an inexpensive instrument or a bow is a rapid process. And a major repair is then sent out to a proper string shop, and returned to the school with the added fee. Business is business.

Some districts are lucky enough to have teachers and parents ( and students ) who care about the quality of instruments and spend enough for the necessary repairs. Funds specifically set aside or created ( raised ) for the arts or band or orchestra, encouraged by the teacher but managed by the parents are supplemental and can be spent at the teacher's discretion. Since these parents manage their own budgets, they can spend money beyond those of the district. My experience has been that the boosters desire value, a compromise between quality and price so it does help to get to know the particular instructors and be willing to negotiate a price.

There are plenty of great shops within a two hour radiius around here so I only work on bows the shops do not want to touch. The teachers who can afford to, do not use super cheap bows. But there are plenty of legacy bows and bulk purchases. These should make it down to the beginners at the primary/ elementary schools. Better bows should make it into the upper programs. Regardless, if a district only has very cheap bows, the shops they work with will replenish with cheap bows rather than rehair. THERE ARE programs where some bow suppliers will either rehair or swap out bows for very little money. This is a very strong incentive for schools to work with those suppliers. I think it is almost impossible for the average bow repair person to compete with the programs. But having studied the music industry for a long time, I am not certain they can sustain this over a long period of time. 

You might already know this but...

Inexpensive, mass produced bows can take more time rehairing simply because removing the slide, plug, wedge can be hit or miss. Once these bows has been rehaired by a compassionate tech, it's much easier to remove fitted pieces, but the factory - glued in parts are generally designed not to come out. If one is to try rehairing, these bows, take several of the same model bows, do the work "assembly line" because they are pretty similar. They also may not come together as planned and plugs may need to be set with a soft plastic glue, though I have never split open a head on a plastic bow. Once there was a slender wood screw in the plug. Frankly, if it were not for the added weight, it would not be a bad solution ( designed to compensate for the balance. ) Then it's ok to have a jeweler's screwdriver on the bench.

Shops usually have enough spare parts to replace frogs, but freelancers may not. There were some frogs that were about to be soaked in Liquid Wrench because they would not come apart. Ferrules split. Anyway, I do work on these bows the other shops do not take if there will be a potential shortage in the fall.

The experience, if one needs it, might be good, but there may not be a reasonable monetary return on the time spent on each bow. If you are able, and have a demo bow where you can show the parents what steps occur during the rehair and can reassure them a level of quality, then they may send some bows your way. That builds the relationship. Though it may not pay off immediately, the time is an investment and is a form of marketing. To many of them until they actually speak to a tech, it's just nuts and bolts. They often think it's like an oil change on a car. I would way rather complete an oil change on a care than rehair some bows. 

Like any practice, if you tend to it over time and are patient, it could pay off. As mentioned in other posts, relationships are important. Parents cycle out and teachers leave. There is no way around that. Some parents and teachers will have their shop of choice and that also can not be helped. If you do good work and work on making it great, those who care will reach out for your skills.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.