Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in dance training but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gabrielle Massie, Owner of STARZ Performing Arts Academy, located in Bluefield, WV, USA.

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

STARZ is a complete performing arts academy, providing area youth with professional instruction in a positive, nurturing environment. Our students vary in age, from 18 months to adults. Founded in 2000, STARZ is a Member of the International Dance Council CID at UNESCO, Paris, a Once Upon a Ballet Licensed Studio, and currently the only dance or performing arts academy endorsed by the Mercer County Commission for performing arts education.

Our programs provide a well-rounded education with emphasis on technique, performance, and an appreciation of the arts. STARZ currently offers classes for both Recreational and Competitive students in Ballet, Pointe, Lyrical, Contemporary, Jazz, Tap, Musical Theatre, Hip-Hop, Stretching & Conditioning, Technique & Progressions, Contortions, Aerial Silks, Tumbling, Acro, Piano, Voice, Guitar, Music Theory & Acting.

Creative, focused, and competitive, our academy is highly dedicated to providing the Two Virginias with proper and exceptional instruction from Teachers Certified through the International Dance Council CID, CLI Studios, Acrobatic Arts, and Acro Dance Teacher's Association.

Tell us about yourself

I am a Member of the International Dance Council CID at UNESCO, Paris, as well as a CLI Studios Certified Instructor.

I have studied dance for 33 years, beginning with my mother at the age of two. My mom and I opened STARZ School of Dance in 2000, and after ten years, I purchased the business from her, turning it into STARZ Performing Arts Academy. We moved around a lot when I was a child - affording me many opportunities as a dancer, singer, actress, and model - but I never felt like I fit in anywhere. I realized that if I felt that way, countless others must feel the same. That is why STARZ was created.

The moment you walk through our door, you feel transported. Pink flowers and rainbows adorn the walls, and black and white tile floors lead you from one studio to another, look up, and you may spot a hand-painted sky of blue. STARZ is my Wonderland, the place where I feel at home, my gift to my hometown.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

My biggest accomplishment is helping young artists follow their dreams. This year, our graduates were accepted into The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), Joffrey Ballet School, and The Institute for American Musical Theatre (IAMT). With more than $150,000.00 in combined scholarships, 3 of our students began their journey with IAMT in NYC this fall.

Our students have studied with and/or graduated from The Juilliard School, NYU, IAMT, Joffrey Ballet School, American Ballet Theatre, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, and Canada's National Ballet School. In the past three years alone, STARZ students have been awarded more than $300,000.00 in performing arts scholarships. Alum are working in professional dance companies, as professional cheerleaders, and even for Disney. We are Dream Makers, and we will continue to create a positive space for young artists to grow and thrive for many years to come.

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

As a business owner, one of the most difficult things for me is giving myself grace and understanding that great things take time to build. I have so many ideas, and I want to implement them now... or yesterday. It's simply not possible.

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

  1. Take the time to build your business slowly and strategically - from the ground up. There are no shortcuts. If you see one, it's most likely a dead end.
  2. Learn to cheer for yourself. No one is giving out awards for your commitment and consistency. If you are expecting acclaim for your work, regroup and begin again. Find your true motivation.
  3. Imposter Syndrome is real. Owning and building your own business is not for the faint of heart. If you follow it through, it will challenge you in ways you never imagined. Try to figure out the core purpose of your business and focus on that.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

In my field, it is important to be a life-long student. I remain dedicated to my craft, researching, studying, and taking classes in many disciplines of dance and performing arts. I reside on North Star Ranch in Summers County, WV, with my husband (and greatest supporter), Gabe, and our son, Jude Luka.

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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