Manchester Music Mill, owned and operated by Joseph Lacerda, selected as 2014 Veteran Owned Small Business of the Year

Guitars for sale line the wall at the Manchester Music Mill

In 2005 Lacerda merged his lifelong passion for music, his business background, and his work ethic into a now successful business, Manchester Music Mill.  As is often the case, the path to success was not straight, and while Lacerda seemingly veered off course, the full journey prepared him for success.

 Lacerda’s first love was the guitar, so after high school graduation when he enlisted in the National Guard, he sought a position playing guitar for the 215th Army band out of Fall River.  However, they already had a guitar player, but were looking for a Tuba player.  Lacerda quickly mastered the tuba and was accepted into the Band.  He went on to serve six years of active duty and two years inactive.

 Lacerda put his GI Bill benefits towards a degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in Civil Engineering and then landed a job in Virginia where he earned his professional Engineering License. His boss noticed Lacerda had a knack not only for engineering, but for the business end of things as well. So he helped him get an MBA degree.  A few years later Lacerda and his wife Dawn returned home to New England to be closer to family.

 Lacerda had long seen an opportunity in the music market as he’d had mixed experience with local music stores and had some ideas of what would make it better. While working an engineering job days, he sold a few of his old guitars on eBay from home at night. He made a profit. He stepped it up a bit by buying the inventory of a music store that was closing and sold it on eBay, again at a profit. In 2005 he decided to jump in with both feet and utilize much of the knowledge that he acquired in MBA classes to start Manchester Music Mill.

 Revenue from eBay sales kept them afloat during the economic downturn. He saw a need for lessons and found two teachers who agreed to offer lessons in his back room. The program caught on and it quickly grew to four teachers covering guitar, bass and percussion.

 In 2009 Lacerda made a major leap of faith and moved to a larger facility on Elm Street. The impact of the move was immediate, and revenues began increasing 50% year over year. He added five more teachers and the retail staff grew too. Special soundproof practice rooms allowed musicians an extensive test drive of instruments before purchase. A couple of SBA Express loans supported the expansion.

 Two years ago, with the sudden closing of Daddy’s Junky Music, a popular chain, Lacerda was forced to step up and fill the void that was left overnight.  He made a deal with the former owner to purchase a portion of the inventory, and then hired three of the company’s expert repair technicians. His wife Dawn started a sister company called The Music Techs that focused on repairs.

 They soon outgrew their space. In 2013 Lacerda obtained an SBA 504 loan through Capital Regional Development Council, and purchased a building on the same block that would meet all his needs and house both businesses, giving his customers everything they need under one roof. Even with the mid-year move, he doubled the previous year’s revenues, exceeding all projections.

 After nine years in business, revenues, staff and opportunities continue to grow.  Online sales which once accounted for 100% of revenue, now account for only 15-20%.  Most revenues are generated in-store, proving his initial theory that relationships and service matter. Lacerda fostered great relationships with the music playing community in southern NH, and they’ve repaid him with loyalty. 

 “It’s an honor to be recognized among all those veterans who use their passion, skills and knowledge to succeed in business,” Lacerda stated.

 Jennifer Boulanger of Capital Regional Development Council, nominated Lacerda for the award. She said, “Joe is a very bright business man and was a pleasure to work with.” She appreciates, Roger Lachance from Bank of New England referring Joe to CRDC.

 “Mr. Lacerda is a great example of a veteran who recognized a need and applied both his passion and his training to become an extremely successful entrepreneur” stated SBA district director Greta Johansson.

Company Name: 
Manchester Music Mill
Manchester, NH