Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mackenzie King, Founder of Moonwater Dance Project, located in Chicago, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Moonwater Dance Project is a small contemporary dance company based out of Chicago. We focus on the ethical treatment of dancers through collaborative creation while producing high-quality concert dance. There are several branches of customers associated with our business. We perform in multiple venues throughout the city, where people in the dance community, as well as art lovers, come to see us perform!

We believe that a mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy environment in the studio allows us to become better artists and create art that is accessible. Because of this, we want to educate the next generation of dancers to value their individuality and their worth, so we run a youth company as well as workshops and intensives throughout the year.

Tell us about yourself

I have been dancing since I was about 3 years old, and I've always known I wanted to be a dancer. I did everything I could to pursue that dream, including going to performing art boarding high school as well as a conservatory of dance for my college education. Following my education, I was out in the world auditioning, freelancing, and continually being disappointed with what the dance world was actually like. I felt like my time, talent, body, and mental health were expendable.

After a few years of being shocked by how things were run, I was encouraged by friends and family to start something of my own. As a result, Moonwater Dance Project was founded in 2018 and is truly the thing I am most proud of. There are days when it is draining, tedious, and emotionally demanding, but the artists who I work with are so talented and deserving of a place where they can fulfill their dance goals without sacrificing important parts of themselves. That idea is what keeps me working hard every day.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I think the fact that the business is still running today is my biggest accomplishment! People don't talk about the day-to-day struggles or annoyances that you deal with as a business owner, so the fact that I have been able to handle those through surgeries, dancer turnover, a pandemic, and so many other things makes me feel proud of myself.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

I'm torn between two things with this question. The first is having to make difficult decisions based on outside factors that I don't have control over and knowing that the decision isn't going to be popular with the dancers. The other is caring about each artist and having a genuine friendship, and wanting nothing but the best for them, but also have to think about the success and growth of the company as a whole.

Sometimes what needs to happen for the company goes against what one of the artists might want, and I'm the person that has to have that discussion with them. It is a really hard line to tow.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. We often think that we have to do it ourselves to call it ours or for people to be impressed that we built it from the ground up. Ultimately, no one is good at everything, so it is okay to ask for help on things you know you aren't good at!
  2. Don't micro-manage. This is the best piece of advice my mom gave me when starting my company. She has been a floral designer for the past 30 years, specifically for weddings. She has seen time and time again that the brides who want to control everything down to the exact color of the rose (mind you, flowers come from mother nature and can be unpredictable) are always disappointed because their expectations are so high. This level of specificity also hinders the professional's creativity, which ultimately doesn't always produce the best product. The brides that explain their preferences and give a few thoughts but then trust the professionals to do their job and use their creativity are thrilled when they see what was put together for them. I try to implement this when I'm working with other artists or professionals. They are professionals for a reason!
  3. Find the things in your business that bring you joy, and continue to do those! As the boss, you have to oversee everything, and the jobs that really suck or don't get done generally land on you. Since a lot of your job becomes running the business, make sure you have a few tasks of the things you enjoy to keep you connected to why you started the business in the first place.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Surround yourself with people you trust, like, and admire. Those are the kinds of people who you want to be involved in your business.

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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