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Mark McKibben Reignites a Dormant Passion with School of Rock

The Fort Wayne franchisee left the car business and returned to music with the education franchise.

By Ben Warren1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSORED 8:08AM 08/27/18

Growing up, Mark McKibben always wanted to be a rock star. The Fort Wayne-native played music throughout his school years, including college, but he didn’t pursue his hobby professionally until recently. Now, McKibben no longer dreams of scoring a record-label contract or headlining gig at a music festival, but he’s found an equally fulfilling entree into the industry with School of Rock, where he works to extend his passion for music to a younger generation.

When it comes to instruments, McKibben considers himself a jack of all trades and a master of none, though he does boast a specialty in bass guitar. But for thirteen years, McKibben wasn’t playing much bass or any other instrument. Right after graduating from college, McKibben joined the family car business, setting aside his musical aspirations in favor of what struck him as a more practical career path. For over a decade, McKibben felt a sort of resigned satisfaction following that path. It wasn’t until a few years ago when he was giving career advice to a friend, that McKibben realized he had left something important behind.

“I was talking to a friend who I’d always played music with,” McKibben said. “He always wanted to be a professional musician, but he took a left turn after college and never got into the business. I was giving him a hard time, telling him that if he hated his job so much, he should quit, but he didn’t know what else to do. He didn’t want to go work in a guitar store.”

McKibben realized that the position his friend was in was not much different than his own, only McKibben had accepted it. That’s when he remembered an email he’d received a few months back.

“I was subscribed to some music publications, so School of Rock found my address and they sent me an email,” McKibben said. “I had no intention of opening a franchise at the time, but I read the email out of curiosity, and it was intriguing. I gave them a call, and they decided that my town could be a good location for a new School of Rock, but I wasn’t ready to change careers at the time.”

Months later, after talking to his friend and reevaluating his own situation, McKibben decided to give School of Rock another call. This time, he wasn’t just browsing.

“I called them and found out they were still interested in opening up a school in my area, and I decided to fill out an application,” McKibben said. “I did a phone interview, and they walked me through the process. I learned all about the school and all of the different programs for different age levels, and it was all very exciting. At that point, I was sold.”

McKibben’s excitement for School of Rock was not just about the chance to rededicate himself to music. The father and uncle were also thrilled to have the opportunity to work with children. “I’ve always gotten along better with kids than adults,” McKibben said. “So for me, it checked off two important boxes: can I work with music? Check. Can I work with kids? Check.”

After completing a comprehensive online and in-person training program, McKibben and School of Rock began planning his grand opening. Most of the work was in finding clients, which McKibben said required a mix of different marketing strategies.

“We did Facebook advertising and radio ads, and I got a lot of names and phone numbers by setting up a giveaway before the opening. I called every name I got from that, and it paid off. I probably had 200 people at the grand opening.”

While McKibben’s enthusiasm for music and working with children prepared him with the right disposition for the job, he admits there was a learning curve to some aspects of the business in his first year.

“I was never an educator before this. I hired some great instructors, so it wasn’t a problem in terms of teaching students, but I had to learn to communicate the educational value of what we were doing to parents. Most people can see that value, so it doesn’t take a lot of convincing, but it was a language that I wasn’t used to.”

After about a year, McKibben said all of the operations had become second nature to him. Now, just over two years into his School of Rock career, McKibben said it’s everything he hoped it would be. “It is absolutely fulfilling that passion that was missing before. I love what I do, and I’m excited to go to work every day,” he said.

If there was any surprise in McKibben’s first two years, he said it was just how quickly he found he was making an impact in students’ lives.

“When School of Rock is telling you about the franchise, they tell you all these stories about how kids' lives are transformed through the school,” McKibben said. “I thought it was nice to hear, and I was looking forward to one day seeing the same thing, but I wasn’t expecting to see that right away. Then we opened, and I couldn’t believe how quickly it happened. As soon as we started teaching, we were getting feedback from parents telling us how important the school is to their kids. It’s an amazing feeling to be doing something that I love and know that it’s really helping people.”


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