Monthly Archives: May 2016

  • Consider Finding a Mentor

    By: Misty Lown, More Than Just Great Dancing

    mistylown2 Misty Lown, More Than Just Great Dancing®

    As a dance student, I had no question about the value of having a mentor. I didn’t call these influencers in my life mentors, I called them teachers, but they were mentors in the truest sense of the word. They shared their experiences and wisdom with me, and challenged me to grow in my art. They held my feet to fire when I wanted to give up, encouraged me to define my goals and helped me create strategies to reach them.

    And, then a funny thing happened. I graduated.

    I can’t say that it’s anybody’s fault, but somewhere in the space between college and career, I found myself on my own, lacking the support system I had grown to rely upon. My teachers moved on to new students and I moved into what I thought being a responsible adult meant. And, to me that meant that I should be able to handle things on my own.

    And, a not-so-funny thing started to happen. I started to get burned out.

    Starting my dance studio at age 21 was exciting, but the weight of the responsibility added up quickly. Add a marriage and young family and my studio started to look like a burden instead of a blessing. And that’s when it dawned on me: I wasn’t made to carry this all on my own. I didn’t want to be a “solopreneur”, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, so I started actively seeking mentors again. Studio life has never been the same.

    Have you been there? Are you there now?

    I have been there and I want you to know that you are not alone. Not only that, you are not designed to do this alone. Just like you needed a mentor as a dance student, you need a mentor as a business owner.

    If you are ready to break the isolation of business ownership, check out these ideas for finding and learning from a mentor.

    1. Identify the wisdom, encouragement or tools that you are most in need of right now. If you are having a hard time with studio-specific challenges, reach out to another respected owner in your region for advice. If you are struggling with home/work balance, reach out to someone who has an admirable balance of both. Perhaps growing your business is your biggest struggle. If so, then grabbing lunch with seasoned business owner of any larger business may help you.

    2. Don’t be afraid to initiate contact. This is where a lot of studio owners lose courage because they just don’t know what to say or they fear being turned down. If this is you, take the pressure off of yourself. You’re not making a marriage proposal—you are just looking to start a conversation with someone who is a little further down the business path than you are right now. My suggestion is to reach out by email to the person you are interested in learning from and ask them if they would be willing to join you for a 55 minute Learning Lunch (55 minutes is efficient and intriguing!).

    3. Come with your questions. Before you ask questions that are specific to your situation, get to know the person. They will likely answer many of your questions just by sharing their journey as a business leader. Once you’ve established a rapport, ask for insights on your specific situation.

    4. Open the door for more. If anticipate thinking of additional questions to ask after your Learning Lunch, ask your guest if they would be open to an email follow up. Again, you are not asking for a permanent mentoring relationship. You are just keeping the door open for another conversation.

    5. Follow Up. Did you learn something? Did it cause you to make changes? Let that person know. Gratitude is the fuel of relationships.

    Finding a mentor is a little like dating. You wouldn’t take every person on a second date, but you can learn something from every person. But, when you do find that person you just click with, your life will certainly be enriched by the relationship.

    You have nothing to lose, so make a list of five people you’d like to learn from today! And, in case I’m on that list, here is my email: [email protected] :)

  • Four Ways to Shine During Your Summer Intensive

    By: Amelia Smith-Fazio, Relationship Manager

    Participating Summer-Intensive-Tips-Iconin a summer ballet intensive is exciting and fun, but can also be intimidating and overwhelming, especially for first-timers. Thriving in a new environment with unfamiliar teachers and students is understandably a challenge for some dancers. However, with the right preparation and mindset, you can leave your intensive feeling confident that you have grown as a dancer, made meaningful connections with instructors from around the world and cultivated lasting friendships with people who share your passion for dance.

    To help you shine during your summer intensive, here are a few tips I picked up while studying at several pre-professional schools including the Sarasota Ballet School and the Virginia School of the Arts:

    Choose your program thoughtfully. Not all summer intensive programs are created equal. There are numerous factors to consider before deciding on the program that is right for you. Many intensives are connected to professional companies, but not all of them. If your ultimate goal is to join a company, participating in a summer program that funnels into a particular company is a great way to potentially get noticed and to get your foot in the door.

    Additionally, you may want to consider the technique and style that each intensive teaches. Some schools, for example, follow the Vaganova method, while others teach Balanchine technique. Consider the style you study at your home studio (if you don’t know, it’s okay to ask!), and determine whether or not you’d like to further your study of that technique or diversify your personal ballet repertoire. Similarly, if your home studio trains in one style, but the company you’d ultimately like to audition for follows another, participating in a summer program offering that training can help build your foundation.

    For some, a program’s distance from home may play a factor. If you’ve never spent significant time away from home before, you might want to select a program within driving distance, so that your family can easily visit and attend your end-of-summer showcase.

    Take care of yourself. Between classes and social events, summer intensive students have very busy schedules. However, regardless of how busy you may be, it’s important that your personal health and well-being come first. Be sure you are getting a full seven-eight hours of sleep every night—trust me, you’ll need that rest to perform your best in class! Additionally, hydration is key. Remember, it will likely be hot outside and in the studio, so make sure to keep a water bottle on you at all times and aim to drink at least the recommended eight glasses of water a day.

    Eating a well-balanced diet will also be critical to your success at a summer intensive. If it’s your first time eating in a college dining hall, try not to be lured by the impressive variety of yummy—but unhealthy—options, like sugary cereals. Instead, eat meals that are full of lean protein and complex carbs. For example, a healthy breakfast might include eggs, fruit, and whole grain toast with peanut butter.

    Put your best foot forward. While you might be able to get away with being a few minutes late to class at your home studio, don’t expect that to be the case at your summer intensive. Plan to arrive at each class several minutes before it starts to stretch, secure your place at the barre and mentally prepare. Once you enter the classroom, keep conversation to necessary interactions only, and stay focused throughout the duration of the class.

    Also, don’t forget to look the part. Your attire should follow the school’s dress code, which is likely a solid color leotard and pink tights (without holes and runs!), and your hair should be pulled back into a neat, secure bun.

    Keep an open mind. Summer intensives are designed to take you out of your comfort zone and push you to quickly grow as a dancer and performer, so keep an open mind. Be open to feedback from your teachers, trying new movements, performing to unfamiliar music and making friends with people from different parts of the world. Also, be kind to yourself. You might not perfect every move immediately, and you might not always feel like the most technically advanced dancer in the room. Be okay with imperfection, understanding that everyone around you is going through their own individual learning processes.

    I recommend that every student serious about their ballet study consider attending a summer intensive at least once. It’s a challenging, but very rewarding, experience that will add tremendous value to your training.

    Have you attended a summer intensive before? If so, we want to hear your tips for success! Share them in the comments below.

  • So You Want To Be a Studio Owner: What to Know and How to Prepare

    By: Debbie Carr, Relationship Manager

    Business-PlanNo doubt becoming a dance studio owner is a huge undertaking. With more than 8,500 studios across the United States, studios must work hard to differentiate themselves to build their student base. Becoming a studio owner, however, is also one of the most rewarding things an experienced dancer or dance educator can do.
    If you’re ready to rise to the challenge in the hopes of sharing your passion for dance with others, here are some beginner tips and tricks that I found helpful when opening my studio 27 years ago:

    Conduct Research: Research is the foundation of every successful studio. It’s important to research the demographic of the area in which you’d like to open your studio so you can develop an informed, effective business plan.

    Examples of key questions to ask yourself include: Are there a lot of families in the area? What is the median income of these families? Are there other dance studios in the immediate area, and if so, how large are they? This intel will help you determine if there is a demand for your services and if so, how much potential customers would be willing to pay for classes.

    Once you feel confident in your location, it’s vital to determine who your competitors will be. Check out what classes those studios are offering and then determine if you can fill holes in their programs to make your studio stand out. For example, studios can tailor their business to homeschooled children and their schedules, or choose to offer classes geared towards adults, such as ballroom dancing or adult-beginner ballet.

    Create a Business Plan: Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to start drafting a business plan. Your business plan is the foundation, or playbook for your studio, so spend time on it, do not rush the planning process. Your business plan should include a timeline for securing studio space, budget details, marketing strategies and potential class offerings. When first starting out, you may find non-competitive, established studio owners to be helpful resources. To more easily connect with your peers, consider joining studio owner networks, such as on Facebook, to explore tools of the trade.

    Pick Your Location: Location, location, location is key. While many studio owners first think of strip malls for the benefit of foot traffic, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when choosing your space. Take into consideration larger houses that are zoned for commercial use or warehouses, which may offer more room for growth and come with a less expensive price tag. Building size and number of studios are also factors to determine. High ceilings are also important for many types of dance, such as ballet partnering or acro.

    Additionally, when looking at spaces, keep your customers – the parents – in mind. This includes everything from considering available parking spaces, what businesses are in the surrounding areas to entertain parents before, during and after class, as well as whether you would like a waiting room to accommodate parents.

    Invest Wisely in Flooring: Make sure to include sprung floors in your budget. Providing a resilient dance floor is a necessary and important investment that you can make for your dancers. I recommend floors that are not permanent so you can take the floors with you if you relocate.

    Choose Your Staff: At first you may be the only teacher at your studio, but it never hurts to start interviewing potential teaching candidates. If you don’t already have an established network of candidates through your previous experience, look to the community--colleges, fitness centers, local theatres--to find talent. If you are willing to put some of your budget behind the search, advertise on social media, or connect with a professional recruiter. When determining staffing, you must know talent you need, so this effort will be guided by your business plan and class schedule. Critique the expertise, experience, talent, skills and most importantly teaching ability of the candidates to see which ones are the strongest fit for you and your studio’s needs. When interviewing, create a mock class to help assess teaching capabilities.

    As with any new endeavor, there will be a lot of sacrifices and long hours, but knowing that you enhanced someone’s health, confidence and creativity through dance makes pursuing your own studio a worthwhile adventure.

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