023 – Eric Branner of Fons on Building a Payment System to Transform Teaching Studios

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Read the full transcript for this episode here.


Eric was a third-generation music teacher making a great living when he got hooked up with a tech business founder looking for a new project. Eric realized he was spending a lot more time on admin tasks than he realized, so together they launched an online payment and scheduling app called Fons.

If you’re familiar with Fons, you might be surprised to learn what the original vision was for the platform and how they got to the platform they have today.

Eric loves mentoring students in 1:1 lessons and continues to teach 30 students a week while running Fons, but he has changed the way he handles payments in his business after his research for Fons revealed there might be a better way!


  • Fons is an online scheduling and payment system for music teachers and one-to-one service providers.
  • A lot of music teachers who have become tech company founders start with an idea and then recruit a team of tech people to help bring it to life. Eric’s business started with an experienced tech founder who noticed that Eric’s studio could be running more efficiently and, together, they co-founded Fons.
  • Before creating and launching the product, Eric and his team conducted hundreds of interviews with music teachers and other business owners.
  • Instead of limiting the audience to music teachers, Eric explored all verticals (businesses in different industries) with appointment-based business models: personal trainers, yoga instructors, etc. These business owners faced many of the same challenges as private music teachers.
  • Originally, Eric and his founder thought the platform would be a marketplace to help teachers find students (like Thumbtack). But they realized that what the market really needed was a product that would help teachers who were already making a living teaching run their businesses really efficiently.
  • It took months of wireframing (sketching each page of the app on paper) and sometimes contentious discussions between team members to figure out what Fons was really trying to accomplish. Then, nearly two years to build a version of the app for launch.
  • Since launching, the biggest struggle has been convincing teachers to change their business practices. Eric can relate because he felt the same struggle when his co-founder challenged him to give up monthly invoicing.
  • What Eric thought teachers needed was an automated version of the manual billing and invoicing system he had been using in his studio, but he came to the conclusion that the entire invoicing model needed to be traded for something new.
  • Eric noted that a customer has to perceive a new product or method as being at least 8x better than the existing one to make it worth the change.


Eric’s Bookshelf 

*The Goal: A Business Graphic Novel – Eliyahu M. Goldratt’s Introduction to The Theory of Constraints adapted by Dwight Jon Zimmerman and illustrated by Dean Motter

*DotCom Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Growing Your Company Online by Russell Brunson

The Savvy Music Teacher: Blueprint for Maximizing Income & Impact by David Cutler

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan

Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

*ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford

*HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategic Marketing compiled by Clayton M. Christensen

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright

(Eric’s favorites are denoted with an *)

Previous Episode: Episode 007 – Tara O’Brien on Manufacturing and Marketing a New Teaching Tool

Fons Promotion

On Fons.com, use the code “MUSICSTUDIOSTARTUP” under Subscriptions at checkout or mention it to an onboarding specialist when you sign up to get this amazing offer:

  • 3-month FREE trial of Fons
  • 1-hr of coaching/onboarding support
  • $25 Visa gift card after first transaction

This promotion will run until May 13, 2019

Connect with Eric

Website: http://www.ericbranner.com/contact

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/getfons

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/getfons/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/getfons

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgnn2AV3mkLELMvuYkMi8zA

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Episode 024 – Andrea Miller on Tax Prep Tips for Self-Employed Musicians