Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Laura Hopper and Becky Chapman, Co-Owners of Rising Tide Irish Dance Academy, located in Bedford, NS, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
At Rising Tide Irish Dance Academy, we pride ourselves on offering some of the best Irish dance classes in Atlantic Canada in a top-notch dance studio. We are passionate about all things Irish dance. Dance classes are tailored to each dancer through focused attention, specific feedback, and dance steps suited to each dancer's style.
Our coaches know every Irish dancer has the potential to be a champion. Our goal is to stretch each dancer to reach their full potential. We do this in a fun and motivating way that builds a love of Irish dance and our community. Our dance classes focus on giving dancers a detailed, first-rate education in Irish dance, technique, fitness and training, mental resilience, music, and Irish culture.
On top of high-caliber coaching, our dancers get the opportunity to perform, compete, travel, and build life-long friendships. Dance classes are available for toddlers, beginner kids, beginner adults, and experienced Irish dancers of all ages.
Tell us about yourself
When Becky and I first decided to start Rising Tide, we knew we wanted to create more than just a dance school. And by relying on Becky's entrepreneurial spirit, my experience in human resources and leadership development, and the passion for Irish dance we both share, we knew we could build something fantastic. We spent time first defining our vision and values as a business (community, trust, transparency, professionalism, and accountability). Those values have helped guide us and shape the business every day.
At Rising Tide, we focus on developing skilled dancers within a community that challenges each other and supports one another to grow. That's what motivates Becky and me every day; how do we help our students grow as dancers and as humans?
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There are three things Becky and I are very proud of as business owners:
- The community we've built - our dancers are excellent sports (in victory and defeat) and truly care about each other. We teach our students how to give each other feedback, and they're focused not only on their own success but the success of their classmates and peers as well. We frequently get comments about how kind, caring, and supportive our students are, and we are so proud of them.
- Our dancers' success - we work with our dancers to set goals and grow their skills. We love to see our dancers setting tough goals and growing their skills. Whether in the studio nailing a new step or tough skill, or at a competition (e.g., we've had dancers qualify for Worlds, place in the top 5 in Eastern Canada, and the top 30 in North America), we love to see our dancers push themselves (and each other) to grow.
- The sustainability of the business - we've worked hard to grow Rising Tide and raise the profile of Irish dance in Atlantic Canada. We have our own studio space, I'm the first (and currently only) Irish dance adjudicator in Atlantic Canada, and we have a sister school in Newfoundland with whom we're working to grow Irish dance on the Rock as well.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
There's always more to do. Which is great and exciting, but it can be difficult to find work-life balance. It's important to find ways to give yourself that balance, whether hiring people to help take low-value work off your plate, defining clear boundaries, or ways, it's important to find space for yourself outside of your business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Spend time up front defining your vision, your purpose, and your values. Being very clear on what you're building and why will help you down the road. Time and again, Becky and I go back to our values when we're making a decision for the first time - they guide us and help us be consistent and make decisions in the best interest of our dancers and the business.
- Be clear on your strengths and weaknesses. It's important to understand what you're good at and what you're not good at. Then, you need to make a plan for getting good at those things or finding ways to bring those skills into your business. For example, this year, we decided to take our dancers to the next level; we would bring in an expert coach from Ireland. Building your own skills can be valuable but time-consuming, while bringing in an outside expert can be efficient but could be costly. There are benefits to both; it's important to understand where it's best for you to spend your time and what will be best for the business.
- No decision is permanent. This is a piece of advice I got a few years ago, and I think it's so helpful. Don't worry about getting everything perfect; just try something out (even test small to see how it goes). If it doesn't work, that's okay - you can change your mind, change tacks, try something new.
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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