Stephen O’Neill’s Ideas…Boom! Bam! Pow!

Creating Music through partnership with inner-city schools. And, by exploring a non-profit or mixed profit business structure.

Empathic Design


There is a large market of children being served in inner-city schools. Inner city schools often struggle to meet educational outcomes and maintain safety of environment. Involvement in extra curricular activities such as music could support students with positive outlets for their energies. It could also improve educational outcomes by enhancing creativity and teaching the process of innovation.

The Dallas Public School District in particular has over 150,000 students and a budget of over 1.6 billion dollars. And, reputedly, the Dallas Independent School District has one of the highest levels of poverty in the country. An article notes, “specifically, 88.2 percent of the Dallas district’s students were eligible for free- or reduced-price meals, 83.5 percent for free meals”.

Taken from:

This business opportunity is a chance to make money, while also potentially having a significant community impact- social entrepreneurship if you will.

Unsolved Needs from Data:

There are a high number of students living in poverty in the Dallas Independent School District

The potential market is high

A non-profit would have the ability to not only generate revenues from services, but also through grants and other donations

Reflection and Analysis:

There is a market for music services in the Dallas Independent School District. And, the non-profit status has many advantages. However, the non-profit would not be able to pay out its profits to an owner the same way a for-profit would. However, the non-profit could still pay a salary to the Executive Director and/or other staff of the non-profit.

This company could potentially use a blended model, such as described here:

Additionally, providing music services and/or rentals to these students would have significant potential social impact.

Here is a link to many (by many I mean 8) examples of non-profits providing these types of music services.

Brainstorming for Solutions:

Establish a 501c3 to provide music services and instruments to Dallas Independent School District and/or other existing Agencies in Dallas.

Target those youth at-risk

Consider a blended business model with a for-profit linked to a non-profit. Perhaps have music rental as for-profit but other attached services funnel through the non-profit.

Establish outcome measure or impact measures to article the need for your services to potential funders and supporters.

Consider partnering with an existing Agency and run the music services/rentals as an adjunct to the existing Agency.

Developing Prototypes:

Models for these types of services already exist. It would be wise to pilot the program on a smaller scale in one or maybe two schools and collect data and feedback from participants.

The Four P’s of Marketing


A music service (lessons, performances, support) and rental non-profit or blended (for/non) profit business targeted towards the students of the Dallas Independent School District.


Dallas, TX. Specifically, the Dallas Independent School District


Could use a sliding scale or blended fee model. Supplement costs with grants or government dollars. Could consider charging for rentals and giving services away or vice versa.

Could also charge fee to the School system or to whatever Agency was a partner.

Because of the high level of poverty in the district/area funding streams and mechanisms would have to be considered carefully.


A great way to market this product/service would be to reach out to the school system for integration into the classrooms. Additionally, it would be vital to make sure parents had access to information so that they could request schools bring this program into school systems or other organizations where it was not already present.


Keith Morgan’s idea: Differentiate musical content, process, product, and learning enviornment

Empathic Design:

The Dallas School of Music has a well-designed website. It seems to be the main competitor in the region and touts itself as an academic campus.

Many online music instructional websites are nationally based. They are also setup informally, like Craigslist. There seems to be little emotional connection and customers may be likely to be cautious due to the lack of a chance to meet online tutors face-to-face.

Parents often are not present for childhood music lessons.

Unsolved needs from data:
Online instruction
Tutors that can be met in person
Integrated website with brick and mortar musical academy

Reflection & Analysis:
There is a “blue ocean” for a web site that incorporates music rental and online lessons with a brick and mortar traditional venue.
Online offerings could position Anna’s venture effectively to compete against the Dallas School of Music.

There is an increasing trend of online consumption when it comes to education. Technology is being mastered at an earlier age than ever before, too. Data from multiple sources suggest that musical education can improve a child’s brain functionality and performance.

With this in mind, an intuitive interface can be created in order to distribute musical education and help children learn music from home in order to better prepare them for lessons later in childhood.

Brainstorming for solutions:
A hybrid business model could allow young children to learn individually online and then come to the physical location for group work, one on one lessons, or to browse pre-owned merchandise.

Expand upon the music instruction angle to include instrument rental.

Partner with schools so that no physical location would be needed. Moreover, Anna and her employees could be present at parent and teacher conferences in order to network with parents and educators.

Developing Prototypes:
The Dallas School of Music has a well-established, effective design, but you do not want to copy this as it would cause confusion with citizens about whether or not you were affiliated with them.

I would prototype the website similar to with a very easy to use navigation menu separated by instrument. I would also include a biography of all tutors, accreditation, and testimonials both from students and parents.

The Four P’s of Marketing

    The product will be a musical instruction service that offers instrument rental services, too. It will be distributed online and in-person.
    Dallas, TX / website that serves the greater Dallas area
    $100 for a monthly membership
    Why? : The Dallas School of Music charges $140 / monthly memberships have the highest retention rate
    Referrals would be a great way to spread a grassroots brand awareness of our service.
    Personal selling: by going to parent teacher conferences or events in a business park where the physical, brick and mortar location is to be situated.
    Grand opening – offer free tours of the campus / meet personnel / offer discounts on membership packages for signing up today

Documenting the iterative design process

“The entire concept of ideation and developing a product, process or service through various steps is an iterative process to utlimately get to the end object.”

– Professor Phillip Gonsher’s syllabus for ENT 5525 “Managing Creativity and Innovation”

Through posts, pages, and videos, we (Anna Armstrong, Keith Morgan, Stephen ONeil, and Anna Spady) will document our service design process using a variety of design methodologies.  Our formal meetings will cover the steps described below, and meeting notes and video will be included on the meeting pages.  Our personal journal entries, research, and reflections outside of the meetings will be communicated through posts.

April 7, 2014:

  1. Choose a problem or goal to which we can apply design methodologies
  2. Generate four ideas to solve the problem or reach the goal
  3. Apply two methodologies in Creativity steps to each of the four ideas generated to reach the goal or solve the problem.
  4. What would the end user think?

April 15, 2014:

  1. Apply three new methodologies to each of the four ideas generated on April 7th.
  2. What would the end user think?
  3. Narrow down the original four ideas to three ideas

April 22, 2014:

  1. Apply three new methodologies to each of the remaining three ideas chosen on April 15th
  2. What would the end user think?
  3. Narrow down the remaining three ideas to two ideas

April 28, 2014:

  1. Use the design thinking methodology to choose the final idea/iteration
  2. Reach into the community over the next week and do research on how the user would engage in the service

May 5, 2014:

  1. Share research results
  2. Wrap-up

Working through the service design process using a variety of design methodologies