Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Cassandra de Mercedes, Co-Owner of Academia de Baila Con Pasión, located in Maple Grove, MN, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Academia de Baila con Pasión is an International Latin Dance Company that encompasses professional Latin dance training, classes, and events that not only teach dance but create community and include cultural immersion vacations focused on Dominican dances. We are not just dance steps; we are an adventure! Our customers are pretty much those who love Latin dance and those who have a Pasión for the dances and culture of the Dominican Republic. Our clients love being a part of the Baila con Pasión FAMILY, which is worldwide and continuing to grow!
We offer adult Latin dance classes, opportunities to perform with us, and even a professional intensive program for those passionate about Latin dance with a desire to become a professional, to learn to teach with us. We go the extra mile to see to it that we are building a community of people who LOVE to dance and help us to build our dance community. We make sure that everyone is included in our events and classes and that our classes and events are our guests' happy place. Lifelong friendships are formed, intensive training is offered in all of our classes, and we even offer a cultural immersion vacation based around Dominican dance in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Yes, we offer classes, but we offer so much more than just a dance class; Baila con Pasión is an adventure!
Tell us about yourself
I am the Co-owner and Artistic Director of Baila con Pasión, the premier Latin dance company in Minneapolis, MN, and in the Twin Cities area, previously in Stuart, FL, Charlotte, NC, and Bavaro, Dominican Republic. Also, the choreographer & artistic director of Salsa con Pasión™, Bachata con Pasión™ and Las Bellas de Baila con Pasión™, my students & Professional performing teams.
Dance is in my blood, and I knew from a VERY young what I would dedicate my life to. I knew I would be a professional dancer, and sharing that love and Pasión for dance would be my life's work. I began to dance when I was 2 years old and began my professional career at 13 in the ballet world. In my early 20s, I knew I wanted to continue dancing but needed a change from Ballet. At that time, I began my journey into the world of Latin dance, and I have never looked back. The joy that dance brings people is immeasurable, and it truly does change lives! Has it been easy? Definitely NOT, BUT I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life! Academia de Baila con Pasión is my life's work, and we have been in business for over 20 years, which is not common in my industry. I love learning, so in continuing my own personal dance journey, I am able to bring that training back to my students and dancers. I love seeing our students grow, and between getting to continue my own lifelong journey in dance and seeing our students grow and become solid dancers on the dance floor or stage, THAT moves my soul! That is my motivation! It really is true that if you do what you love, you won't work a day in your life! Our dance family, classes, and performing teams keep me motivated and always working on growing. THEY are the heart of BCP, and that is what keeps me going!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being in business for over 20 years! That is a huge accomplishment in my industry especially with having had to tread water throughout COVID! Our governor shut us down completely for close to a year and a half, and many in my industry did not survive that. We did try the online class thing, but one of the reasons people love IN PERSON classes is the interaction with others. You lose that completely online, so that did not work for us. I think my biggest accomplishment is honestly never giving up! It takes grit to make it in this industry, and I most definitely have that!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things for me personally as a business owner is not to take things personally. I think that when you truly love what you do and care about your clients, it is so easy to fall into taking things personally, but you simply can't, well, except for the good stuff! THAT you can take personally! Running my dance company and performing teams, as well as our BachaTour! with Baila con Pasión event in Santo Domingo, can be a lot sometimes. We do it all ourselves, but when you think about how these things affect people in such a wonderful way, it fuels you to keep going! You just break it down and take one step at a time, and it all gets done.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- JUST START! It is so easy to do all of the things around getting started but not really ever starting. You have to take the leap and do it, knowing it will all work out!
- You absolutely MUST MUST MUST believe in yourself and your vision. If you don't, no one else will! YOU are the one that sets the tone for your journey and your business, so you have to believe in yourself and what you are building. YOU are what makes your clients/guests believe in you and choose your business.
- NEVER GIVE UP! NEVER EVER GIVE UP, no matter how hard it gets! You have to be like a pit bull with a bone sometimes to barrel through issues that arise, BUT it is those that do NOT give up that do make it! You simply can't give up! Whether nailing 10 turns in a row or adding 25 guests to your classes, you simply have to believe in what you are doing and never give up!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
I want to add that having your own business is for sure a 24/7 thing, BUT if you love what you do, it is so so very worth it! You put heart and soul into what you do, and it WILL pay off; just don't give up! Also, please do follow us on our social media channels so we can continue to build and grow our amazing worldwide dance family. And thank you for your love and support!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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