Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Nicole Odo, Owner of Saorsa Studio, located in Fredericton, NB, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm the owner of Saorsa Studio, which is a movement studio located on Fredericton's north side. We specialize in Highland Dance classes for all ages (1 to adult) and skill levels. Our goal is to instill a love of highland dance while inspiring a strong work ethic, dedication, and discipline in our dancers.
We prioritize giving each dancer the support they need to achieve their goals throughout their dance journey, whether it's recreational or competitive. We take pride in providing opportunities for everyone to thrive in our dance community when they join our dance family!
Tell us about yourself
In 2012, I took my first exam at the age of 16 to become a qualified dance instructor with the Scottish Dance Teachers Alliance. I began teaching at a very small scale out of my personal practice space in my grandmother’s basement. I had always been very passionate about the idea of teaching dance and would regularly volunteer with younger classes at the studio that I went to in order to gain some teaching experience. In 2013, I officially started the Nicole Odo School of Highland Dance and started teaching out of the University of New Brunswick dance studio when I started my engineering degree there.
From that point on, I never looked back! I started taking on more students, with my main priority being training local Highland dancers at an elite level. In that year, I had become the first New Brunswick dancer to finish in the top six overall at the World Championships in Scotland, and I wanted to work with the next group of local dancers who I believed could accomplish the same thing. I taught all levels, but my passion stayed with competitive training.
Fast forward to the year 2020, when the pandemic hit, and all dance competitions were canceled and didn’t end up returning until October 2021. All of our dance classes were moved online, and I felt a bit lost with my business as the thing I focused most on in highland dance was taken away. However, the experience provided the biggest shift for me. I saw dancers show up to classes every week online simply because they loved to dance and got to connect with their dance friends. Although we couldn’t do classes in person, I think we all felt a lot less lonely while stuck at home, and it really showed me what highland dance is all about.
Opening my new space, Saorsa Studio, in 2021 was a leap of faith, but I’m thankful everyday for the opportunity. While I’m still passionate about working with competitive dancers, the focus of the new studio is to share what highland dance is all about, and it’s pushed me to open up opportunities in highland dance that I had never explored before, like Small & Tall classes to get even the youngest ages involved!
The amazing dance community that we’ve built is what keeps me going every single day. Seeing our dancers achieve goals, push themselves to be the best they can be, make lifelong friends along the way, and connect with their families fills my cup up and keeps me motivated!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment to date has certainly been having our own studio space. Since establishing the business in 2013, I’ve taught everywhere, from my nan’s basement to hourly rental spaces to a small shared studio space downtown to an actual parking lot with dance mats during the summer of 2020.
Moving into an 1100-square-foot space that we can call home base is something I’m really proud of!
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The most difficult thing is wearing all the different hats that you might not always feel qualified for. I have qualifications in teaching highland dance and engineering, but as a business owner, I find myself in the roles of an accountant, a marketing manager, a social media coordinator, an operations manager, a human resources manager, etc., a marketing manager, a social media coordinator, an operations manager, a human resources manager, etc.
The list goes on! While all of that comes with its difficulties, it also comes with a lot of personal growth, which I’m very grateful for.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- To start a business, get out of your own way and just do it. Try not to overthink it! I can be the queen of overthinking, but if you can imagine it for yourself, you can achieve it. As an example, I co-own another business with my best friend (For Reel Apparel with co-owner Cindy Kimove), which she decided to commit to and start up the day after we came up with the idea. She didn’t overthink the logistics; she just dove in and decided we should actually do it. I learned a lot from seeing her do that, and now, that business that started in 2019 is bigger than ever today in 2022. Don’t dwell on all of the worst-case scenarios you imagine in your head; just go for it!
- To run a business, try to set work boundaries for yourself. Owning a business is tough, and it can be hard to shut off and give yourself a break. But giving yourself a few boundaries with working hours and scheduling time for yourself to do the things you enjoy will allow you to be more energized when diving back into work.
- To grow a business - I think business owners consistently have a to-do list of at least 100 things they COULD be doing. But I like to ask myself, "If I only had time to do one thing today for my business, what would it be?" This forces me to prioritize things that are going to move the needle forward in the business instead of spending my time doing busy work.
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.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.