Article from Across the floor :-
What inspired you to open a dance studio and how did you get started?
Cheryl: Sara and I met as kids at a dance studio. We’ve been friends forever. We did what a lot of dancers do – we started dance school at a local studio and became assistant teachers and helped out with the classes. And then someday you wake up and you become their primary teacher, and then you wake up one day and you realize you want to do your own thing. So she and I started Across the Floor back in 1996. We branched out, and this is going to be our eighteenth season. And honestly, it doesn’t feel like that long!
It was just something we always wanted to do. As kids, as teenagers, the dream was to be the owners of a dance studio, and Sarah and I each have our strengths. Between the two of us, we can do everything. Ballet, tap, jazz, gymnastics, hip-hop, everything. We both loved what we do, and we wanted to teach children.
We started off in a small two-room studio in downtown Woodbridge, since we were from that area. We’ve expanded to two studios just this past year. We’ve had anywhere from six to ten teachers. A lot of our staff have their degrees, they’re working professionals, so we allow our teachers to work outside of teaching so they can bring current technique and what’s out there today to our students. We love the fact that we’re off the New York City train line so we can pull teachers all the time that can bring so much more to our clients. Right now, we have a little under 300 students. Now that we’ve expanded, we’re hoping to add a lot more students. We’re offering almost a hundred classes per week.
How are you different from your competitors?
Cheryl: There’s something called combo classes, where your kid might take an hour class, but they’ll do a half-hour of ballet and a half-hour of jazz. We don’t do that; we find that the training that you get in that time is just not enough. You get twenty minutes into the lesson, then they have to change their shoes, then you have to re-focus the kids and get twenty minutes of something else. We give them a 45-minute concentrated class. So at the end of the year, they’ve done 45 minutes of ballet every week and they’ll learn something in a year, versus these other [kids] that maybe had twenty minutes of ballet every week.
There’s something about dance friends that is invaluable. We’re in touch with alumni and we see that as alumni, these kids are still connected with each other. Most of them are not professional dancers; we have some professional dancers, but we don’t really care because we’re not really there to create all professional dancers. But if they want it, they’ve been given the tools to become a professional dancer. It helps their posture, it helps them through dealing with puberty and dealing with their body image. We try to get them through some of those more difficulty times.
Sara: We also do a lot of community events whenever they’re available. We’ll go out to the local plays and do anything that we can. Everything’s important, and we have a good rapport with the town. And with our competitors. We’re friendly with our competitors and we’re as supportive of each other as competitors can be.
What challenges have you faced becoming a business owner?
Cheryl: One of the biggest challenges was figuring out what our true strengths were. When we first started, we were both doing everything. We learned how to separate what our jobs needed to be, who did what best, and then trust each other to do it. We always understood, because we’re best friends, where the friendship ended and the business began.
And then understanding that, as a business owner, as much as we love what we do, there are times when we have to make hard decisions. And trusting ourselves. As young business owners, sometimes a client will say something to you and you have to stop and think, and know “I’m the expert in my business”, and be confident in that.
How do you market your business? Have you done any promotions or campaigns online?
Sara: Facebook has become a big thing for us. We’re posting things very often on Facebook, we’re trying to send our clients to Facebook a lot more. We do a lot of email, and so those are our primary ways of getting the word out about what’s going on. Everything gets put on our website and on Facebook. But we’re also in more direct contact with people.
What was the best advice you ever received in regard to managing your business?
Sara: One thing someone told us that was really important was to create really big fans. You want people to love you, who will find you new clients. And just to stay passionate about what you do. Always be passionate and love what you do, and everything else just follows that lead.
If you had to choose your proudest moment as a business owner, what would it be?
Cheryl: I still remember the first recital, the first routine, the opening number, and how it felt, the curtains opening. So for me, that was knowing that we did it. We went ahead, we started it, and then we just never looked back.
Sara: Probably our first open house. When it became real. And the energy and the vibe of everyone who came around to help. The first day that we opened our doors to these people was at our open house. And that just really meant so much for us.
What would be your advice to someone who’s just getting started as a business owner?
Cheryl: It’s really just asking for help when you need it. And just asking a lot of questions in the beginning. When I’m talking to people who might be starting a small business, there are so many things I want to tell them. There are so many mistakes you can avoid if you just have someone to talk to, to really think it through. We all think we can do it all, but we all have to know when to stop.
Sara: You have to be flexible and adapt to what the climate is at the moment, but still stay true to what your business is.
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