Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in dance education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with James Alexander, Founder of Flavor'd Flow, located in Columbus, OH, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Flavor'd Flow Studio is the first and only Hip-Hop cultural-based dance studio in Columbus. Our main focus is Breakin' (Breakdancing). We offer Breakin' classes to kids from 5-12 years old, teens and adults. So it is for anyone wanting to learn Breakin'. We also host events, primarily battles (competitions). Our primary mission is to help kids become young professionals by teaching them life lessons and values through dance. We want to give back to the community, culture, and dance by providing a safe place for all to learn and dance.
Tell us about yourself
My name is James Alexander, also known as Bboy Osuga. I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. Growing up, I never thought this was what I would be doing or even imagined that something like this would be my dream. I had always wanted to be an elementary school teacher. I played sports and never took a dance class as a kid or a teen. I remember Breakin' in the 80's and tried to imitate it but never had a chance to learn. As I got older, school dances started happening. In my first two dances, I was a wallflower, only slow dancing with my date... I HATED IT!!! After my second high school dance, I realized that dances were meant to be fun. That evening, I decided that next year I was just going to go to the dance, not care and just let loose. And so, I did. This was the beginning of my falling in love with dance. Around the same time, a couple of friends introduced me to Hip-Hop culture, and I loved it. It was the first time I'd really felt accepted in life.
During this time, I was going to underground events, surrounding myself with other people in Hip-Hop, and continuing to dance at the school dances. After high school, I really didn't want to go to school... college wasn't for me. But I knew that I needed a degree to become a teacher. I decided I was going to take a year off and do some volunteer teaching programs to help kick-start my path to becoming a teacher. Early that year, my friend found a Breakin' class and asked if I wanted to go. I immediately said yes, and so we went. That evening I fell in love with the dance. I resonated with the structure, fundamentals, and discipline of it and knew this was what I wanted to do! I knew that if this was what I was going to do and not pursue college, I had to work as hard, if not harder, as I would if I was in school. I put a dance floor in my basement that night. I practiced day in and day out for 8+ hours a day.
Surrounding myself with other dancers around the city also helped me learn from them. I owe a lot to my best friend now, Renshawn Lomax. He took me under his wing and showed me the way. Meanwhile, I picked up as many shows as I was offered, going to clubs, events, and battles. Clubs were like my gym—they were my workout and my practice floor for shows and battles. I could make my big moves with adrenaline pumping and not worry about messing up. It also helped get my face out there in the local scene. Within two years, I was teaching. A woman, Sharon Daye, hired me to teach at her studio. She took a big chance on me. I had told her I had only been dancing for two years and that I'd probably need help. So, she hired both Renshawn and me to teach the same class. Sharon stuck it out with me, and I taught for her for almost 16 years. She did a lot for me–getting other teaching jobs and performances for me, and paid me even if I had low attendance or no students. She is still in my life and continues to support me.
I have taught at five studios at once throughout Columbus for over a decade. I taught workshops all around the Midwest and at different Universities. During that time, I traveled the country to perform and compete. Later in my career, I started judging battles and hosting my own events. The main support in my life has been my mom! Even though Breakin' isn't a traditional career path, she has always supported me. She never once said to go to school or to have a backup plan. I have never believed in backup plans; something to fall back on... there was no "plan B" for me. To me, a fallback plan usually ends up taking away your focus and causes you to put your dreams to the side. I have always had another job while I danced and taught to make ends meet. I still work at the local restaurant/bar, Villa Nova, that I have been with for over 27 years. But, I never considered my side jobs to be a fallback option.
Throughout time, my path changed in opening my studio. Some of it was due to my opinions and beliefs changing as I gained more knowledge. The rest of it was that life came at me fast. When I was 27/28 years old, other things started taking priority, like having fun and partying. By the time I was 33, I had started to recognize that I wasn't where I wanted to be in life. I stayed in this rut for about two years, trying to figure out how to get out of it. I didn't know how... I only did what I knew. At 35, life was hitting me hard, and I needed help. But to me, asking for help was for the weak. I would tell myself, "I don't need help; look how far I have gotten!" Soon after, things crashed, and I knew I needed help. A quote by Les Brown says it the best: "If I always do what I've always done, I'm always going to be what I've always been!". This was a huge realization that I had. I had to ask for help and got a mentor, Dave Chapin. He taught me how to live properly. Taking his suggestions was tough at first. But knowing that he had changed his life, I knew that I should listen to him and do what he did. It wouldn't have worked if I just listened— I had to take action too! I matured a lot and got back on track. Asking for help was the strongest thing I could've ever done. Within a year, I was able to open my own studio. Having learned that it was okay to need other people's help, I then asked for help and got a business mentor, Kenny Crump. He helped me stay levelheaded during the transition of opening a business and gave me advice along the way.
Opening the studio has taught me a lot, with a lot still left to learn. One of the biggest things I've learned is how to adapt and evolve. My studio is an old community center. The space that I got was not my initial vision. My room is 3200sq feet with a stage, and it needed renovations that I would have to do myself. It was very intimidating at first glance. But I pushed through all the hardships, and my vision started to evolve. This was not my vision, but what I got was my dream. Today I continue to learn and push forward. I don't do everything perfectly... I make mistakes, but that's okay! I stay motivated by sticking to my mission. I have my mission on my wall at the studio, and when I feel complacent, I read it. I remember my roots from family to mentors, to friends, to my falls and successes. All my kids at the studio keep me inspired in motivated. They are my daily reminders of why I do what I do! I love them all, and they do more for me than they even know!!!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I'm not sure what is my biggest accomplishment. I believe that my greatest accomplishment has happened yet. I still have a lot of goals that I have yet to achieve. I would like to say it was opening my business. But that was easy after getting over the mental barriers and fears. Hitting my fifth-year anniversary and making it through the COVID shutdown were both huge milestones for me. Actually, my biggest achievement I get to experience on a daily basis. I get to see all my kids learn and grow. I get to see them start to become the amazing humans that they were meant to be. One of the most amazing things in life is to see a kid get an "aha" moment. I consider myself lucky and am very grateful to be able to be a part of each of these kids' life... that's my greatest accomplishment! If I continue to stick to my mission and make a difference in people's lives, I'll get to experience that every day. I didn't open the study to make millions; I opened it up to make a difference and to make a difference!!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The hardest thing about owning a business is maintaining it. People say they're done working for other people. Well, you work for the business, and the business makes your decisions. You have to sacrifice for the business. Sometimes it's easier to do what others want/tell you to do. There's no saying any to your business, or it will take a hit.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
I actually have four pieces of advice:
- JUST GET STARTED! You're never ready until you do it! Just make sure you have the knowledge and experience needed for the type of business you're starting. Example: Don't open a restaurant without first working in one for a while. If I had jumped into my studio without all the lessons I learned from teaching at other studios; I would have had a much harder time.
- Listen to your inner voice, that inner dialogue! Not everyone wants to be what you want to be or do what you want to do. You have that thought for a reason. But here's the thing... you need to take action, don't let it fizzle out! You can't think and listen your way into owning a business or living your dream!
- Don't be scared to ask for help! As I said before, asking for help was one of the strongest things I ever did. But make sure to take action and do what they did! Make sure to ask people that have been through it. Then do what they did! A big thing Dave taught me is to talk about what I know that I know, and that is through personal experience. I used to talk about what I thought I knew. There are a lot of people out there that have never opened a business that will give you their opinion, do this and do that. Most of those this and that's never happened to me. But what Kenny (business mentor) told me happened. Why? Because of experience. So, listen and then take ACTION!!!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Yes, one last thing I'd like to share. You will go through adversity along the way and have tons of fears. First, fears are things that hold us back and oftentimes never happen. With adversity, if there were no struggles or challenges, it wouldn't be worth it. It's about the journey and the growth. Struggles are the sandstone to smooth out the rough edges, the whetstone to sharpen your skills, the touchstone to test your strength, and the polish to make you shine! Don't run from the struggles and challenges; take them face on, and you'll learn who you are. Most challenges are internal and are usually fear. Do not let fear dictate your LIFE!!
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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