Erin Coles couldn’t find exactly what she was looking for in a band for her wedding so she launched her own — The Metropolitan Players
Describe your business in a few words?
The Metropolitan Players is a wedding band collective based out of NYC – so we provide incredible music for weddings!
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
When my husband and I were planning our own wedding, we couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for in a wedding band – so we started our own business! Here’s a little more of a backstory…
I grew up singing and doing musical theater, and Drew is a multi-instrumentalist and music educator, so music was the most important component of our wedding. We also both have our MBAs, and were really particular about the kind of people we wanted to work with. We wanted to work with kind, passionate people, who understood the importance and uniqueness of a wedding – and who also ran a tight ship so we knew exactly what we were getting. We searched high and low for the perfect band, but couldn’t find one that checked all the boxes.
So Drew said – hey! Do you want to start a band for our own wedding, then offer this to other couples who are looking for the same thing? I said yes, and that’s how we started! We built The Metropolitan Players around everything we wanted, and everything we knew would make the client experience awesome. That includes an impressive roster of talented musicians, the ability (and excitement) to learn our couples’ special requests, and top notch customer service including musical guidance, planning resources, and a strong dedication to making sure each and every wedding is unforgettable.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I’ve been a performer my entire life! In high school and college, I was part of select choirs, I performed in several musicals, and I went to summer camps for voice and musical theater. I always wanted to be on Broadway! You know – the dream for any performer! But I also realized early on that I loved being in charge when it came to projects, productions, etc. I wanted to have a say in how something happened, and I wanted to be part of the decision-making team. So outside of performing, I took every leadership opportunity I could throughout high school and college. That mix led me to get 2 college degrees – a Bachelor of Arts in Theater with a minor in Arts Therapy and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
I moved to NYC in December 2012 at the age of 23 and got a job as a personal and executive assistant. Soon, I was promoted to Operations Manager, and soon after that (in May 2013 – still at age 23), Drew and I started our own business. After 1.5 years working full time and owning our business, I quit my job to focus entirely on building our company! Soon after that, both Drew and I realized we still had a lot to learn, so we both got our MBAs. Then we just kept grinding from there!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
No! I actually knew very few people who owned their own businesses, so being an entrepreneur wasn’t even a thought for me. It never crossed my mind. Even throughout college, I thought I’d probably get a job, work my way up the corporate ladder, and I hoped I’d be in the corner office someday!
Though looking back, I can see many signs that point to owning my own business! I’ve always liked having control over my own schedule, I love leading others, I love being a decision-maker, I’m intrinsically motivated, and I truly enjoy working. I just so happened to have a lot of traits that lend themselves well to being an entrepreneur! Though let’s be real – I also had A LOT to learn!
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
We were really lucky to be in an industry – the wedding industry – where there are a lot of built-in marketing outlets. The Knot and Wedding Wire are both well-known platforms where couples go to plan their weddings. And there’s a robust vendor marketplace, broken down by location and type of vendor, that you can pay to be part of. Right off the bat, we made the investment to be listed on the first couple pages for wedding bands in NYC. So very quickly, couples started finding us and booking us for their weddings! We were new, so we had to work super hard to convince our couples that we were legit. Being listed on these platforms gave us enough clout that we were able to make a name for ourselves in the space pretty quickly!
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
Oh goodness, there are a thousand things we could have done better – which means there have been a thousand lessons learned! I’d say that one of our biggest challenges was navigating fast growth. As demand grew, we started expanding very quickly to keep up with it! We dived right in without a second thought. Growth is great, but scaling quickly came with a major increase in costs that I’m not sure we were totally prepared for. Purchasing multiple commercial vehicles, buying expensive and high-quality musical equipment, paying for insurance, hiring employees and contractors, etc. took a lot of cash we didn’t have! So we funneled our personal savings into the business and had to take out a pretty large loan.
Although I know we wouldn’t be where we are today without those moves, I’ve learned to be far more strategic about growth. When we started our business, we would do first then pick up the pieces later. I’ve learned to plan first and look at the numbers before making a move. This might mean we move a little slower than we used to on the growth-front, but it also means that we’re more thoughtful about our strategy and long-term plans – and far more solid with our finances!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
We are honored to have won The Knot Best of Weddings and the Wedding Wire Couples Choice Award every year since we started, and we were inducted into The Knot Hall of Fame as one of the best wedding bands in NYC! And we were also recently featured in The New York Times!
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
We always ask our interviewees to (hypothetically) convince another friend to attend a wedding. This question gives us a deep look into how the candidates truly feel about the wedding industry. We provide a service for a very personal and meaningful milestone in someone’s life, and our team definitely has to connect with that. We’re looking for an answer like – “Weddings are a once-in-a-lifetime event, celebrating a very special milestone. Couples have a limited number of invites, and they chose YOU to be one of their guests. That’s special, and it’s definitely worth going if you can. Plus, it’s going to be a ton of fun!” When we get answers like, “you get free drinks,” we’re not as excited about that candidate. We understand that their instinct is very surface level, and they might have difficulty connecting with the deep meaning of what we do!
My best hiring tip is to be really transparent and specific about what the job entails, and what kind of person you’re hoping to hire! That will help weed out the people who are simply not right for the job, and will leave you with a group of people who are more aligned with what you do.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our business was definitely impacted by COVID. We’re in 2 industries that were really hard hit – the wedding industry (live / large events) and the entertainment industry. We were very busy in 2020 – just focusing on taking care of our couples, postponing about 60 weddings, booking weddings for 2021 – 2023, and creating resources for our couples to help them plan during COVID. Thankfully, we also had the pleasure of performing some smaller weddings – which were totally magical and so, so special. As the world opens back up, we’re getting back to a really good place. We’re grateful to have made it through the pandemic, and we don’t expect to slow down any time soon!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We’re excited to continue growing, and keep providing awesome music to the BEST couples in the world! We’re making our way deeper into the luxury wedding market, so we’re excited to see where that takes us! We have a thousand ideas swirling around in our heads, so we’ll definitely be breaking each idea down, and strategically deciding which direction to go! New cities? Maybe! Courses for wedding vendors? Maybe! Curating more amazing live music events? Maybe! We’ll see! Keep an eye out! 😉
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I learned to slow down!! I’ve been sprinting constantly since we started our business. I’ve worked 7 days a week for about 8 years, and never took a true unplugged vacation. I was honestly starting to burn out, and the pandemic has allowed me to really look at how I’m living my life. 2020 was an opportunity for me – and I know for many others – to re-evaluate my goals, and to focus on building a future for myself and my family that aligns with how I want to live!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Mindset is EVERYTHING! I always had the motivation and go-getter attitude needed to be an entrepreneur, but my mindset was always a little shaky. Once I took the time to properly focus on my mindset, and really double down on mindset practices, running a business became a lot more enjoyable.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Mindset practices were huge. One major thing I did was focus on anything I COULD control. There was so much that happened in 2020 that we couldn’t control, so by focusing on what I COULD do was huge.
I also wrote in a gratitude journal every night. Taking a moment to reflect on all of the wonderful and beautiful things in life was really powerful for me. My husband had COVID in March 2020, before everything shut down, and it was really scary. My mind went down some very dark roads during that time. Every moment he felt better was a moment to celebrate and I learned very quickly how much I had been taking for granted. Our time here is not guaranteed, and I knew that I needed to live every day to the fullest. It’s cliché and cheesy, I know – but it’s so true!
I was also able to stay grounded because our business was busy, and I had employees to manage. There were so many days I just had to set my own fears and frustrations aside so that I could show up as my best self for my team.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I don’t believe in fully achieving work/life balance, but I do believe in always striving to find it! I think as long as we’re paying attention to all areas of our lives, and shifting focus where it’s needed most at any one time, we’ll get pretty close.
Although I’m always learning, and definitely don’t have THE answer, I’m happy to share what I currently do to manage it all! And maybe some of this will help you! I set my vacation days for the year at the top of the year. Once they’re set, they’re set! Those are days I’m taking OFF for my own mental health, to see family, to celebrate a milestone, etc. And I hold myself accountable for actually taking that time off! I also LIVE on Google Calendar! Everything is scheduled in there – my morning journal, meetings, calls, lunch, dinner, travel time, date nights – everything. That helps me stay accountable for the time I’m spending on each project or piece of my life.
And on the life side – Friday night is date night with my hubby! We go to our favorite vegan restaurant in NYC every Friday to spend quality time together. I also try to see my immediate family/parents (in non-COVID times) at least 5 times a year. Whether that’s a quick weekend trip, a holiday, or a fun vacation together – it’s important for me to take this time. My advice is to set aside ample time for the people you love. Life is precious, so take the opportunities you can to be with your loved ones. You can even use Google Calendar to schedule all of your projects around when you’ll be with your loved ones, so you can be fully present.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
SO random, but I played Audrey II in a high school production of Little Shop of Horrors! For those that don’t know the show super well – Audrey II is a people-eating plant and the villain of the show! It was a hoot!
I also got to play some other parts that were less scary, like Maria in The Sound of Music, Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Cathy in The Last 5 Years.
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1) Plan your entire day, including breaks for food and fun!
2) Set aside a block of uninterrupted time (2-3 hours if possible) where you can focus on your most important task of the day!
3) Start your day by stream-of-consciousness journaling, and end your day with a gratitude list. The morning journaling gets all the fluff in your brain out of the way before you start the day, and the gratitude list lets you fall asleep soundly with gratitude in your heart!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means that you stay resilient, you continue to learn, and you build up your other Entreprenistas! You can’t do it all, and you can’t do it alone, so don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to offer help to someone who needs it.