Lori Supinie has been a musician most of her life, but she didn't earn her living in the industry until she tried a couple of other careers first.
Supinie, who owns retail music store Senseney Music at 2300 E. Lincoln, graduated from the University of Illinois with a teaching degree and spent five years teaching mostly first grade.
After deciding teaching wasn't for her, she went back to school and earned an MBA with an emphasis in accounting from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
While working as a CPA at a small firm in Wichita, she started playing bassoon in the Senseney Music Community Band and met owner Denny Senseney. She joined his company in 1995.
"It was kind of a nice fit, my background in music and my background in accounting," said Supinie, who has played piano since she was 6.
She worked as Senseney's controller, chief financial officer and chief operating officer before buying the business when he retired in 2008.
"Denny was extremely generous in sharing knowledge and making sure I had a strong relationship with our banker, our vendors, our publisher partners.... That was pretty insightful on his part."
Supinie is immediate past president of the Retail Print Music Dealers Association and recently was elected to the board of directors of the National Association of Music Merchants, the international music products association. She also is a member of the Wichita chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.
Supinie and her husband, Andy, an engineering manager at Cessna, have two children who are in college.
What's been the biggest difference between being an employee and the owner?
"That was really something I couldn't foresee but was one of the biggest challenges for me. It took me a while to feel like I was an owner after being an employee for 20, 25 years, however long it was. It took awhile to find my feet and find the direction I wanted to go. I have a different style of leadership than Denny ... and it took the staff awhile to adjust. I'm more collaborative and feel like I'm more hands-off, but at the same time I'm expecting more energy, creativity and drive. I don't have all the answers, so I need them to give me feedback.... And it's still a process."
Are you concerned music education will be de-emphasized in schools because of budget constraints?
"I am concerned, as is everybody in the music industry and music education. My hope is that if one area suffers that everybody has to feel the pain, that there's not wholesale slashing of programs. That may be optimistic, but I'm an optimist. Especially in Wichita, there is a very strong group of music advocates. And I think the parents have demonstrated over and over that it's important that kids have music in school."
How do you compete against companies that sell their instruments and services online at cheaper prices?
"We work really hard to get the message across about value.... We're not the cheapest, but we have people here who are experienced and passionate about what they're doing, so they can offer expert advice.... We work very hard to hold their hand and get them the instrument they need. Our instruments are all good, quality products.... Those are the things we try to market in our message: We're local, we're here, we're experts, and we can service what we sell."
How do you get more people interested in learning music?
"You have to make it as accessible as possible. There's kind of a new movement in music education called recreational music making. ... It's more about getting people playing right away. We need more of that program that takes away some of the fear but gets people playing and enjoying music.... I've heard time and time again people say they regretted quitting, but I've never heard anyone say that they regretted taking music lessons."
When you're not working, what would we find you doing?
"There is not a lot of that time. I'm kind of an empty-nester now. My kids are both in college. My husband and I had planned to take some more day trips in Kansas. We like to do that. Traveling is always a priority."