Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in dance education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Alison Smith, Owner and Artistic Director of New England School of Dance, located in Manchester, NH, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is called New England School of Dance! We teach the art of dance to children ages 2 to 18 as well as adults!
Tell us about yourself
I grew up in New Hampshire playing outside with my brother and neighborhood friends, going to a small school, and of course, dancing! My mother owned the New England School of Dance from 1987 (the year I was born) until I took over as artistic director in 2018. The dance studio was my second home growing up, a place I felt I could be myself, express my creativity, and dedicate my time to being great at something. Each day I am motivated to make sure every child at NESD is experiencing the positivity, quality dance education, and joyful, family-oriented environment that I had!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Getting through the many challenges I've faced running a small business. My higher education is also in dance. I have a BFA in Dance from York University in Toronto and an MA in Choreography from the Laban Conservatory in London, England. I knew very little about how to run a business when I got into this, but I was determined to learn every aspect of the operation so we could grow and make necessary improvements as time went on.
I've made lots of mistakes & had some triumphs too! At the end of the day, I am very grateful for all that I have learned. Getting through the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic was scary and exhausting, but it also taught me that I could adapt to anything and still survive. I was also incredibly motivated and supported by my wonderful staff, who stuck by our students and me the entire time.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
In the dance studio business, I would say the hardest thing is all the hats you have to wear. There is, of course, the artistic side which is why most dancers and teachers are in this business, and also the administrative/business side. As a teacher, you have to plan all your weekly classes for multiple age levels and styles of dance, prepare choreography for three to four annual performances and a competitive performing company and keep up with our class curriculum and syllabi exercises for each age/level to maintain the consistency and quality of the training.
Then there is the administrative portion which I also have a lot of support with but requires constant communication, planning, and organization for our programs, billing, ordering of costumes for all our productions, sometimes even sewing and crafty projects, you name it! It takes a village, and I am thankful to have a great one!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Make sure you really love whatever it is you want to go into business for.
- Be prepared for things to not always go as planned, and try not to take things personally when they don't! It's not easy when things get in the way of your vision but try to remember there are always bumps in the road, and eventually, you will get over them!
- Finding solutions for problems and creating policies that help prevent them in the future has been helpful, and having a wonderful staff who you trust and can run things by is invaluable.
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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