Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and fitness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jules Szabo, Founder of The Dancer's Workout®, located in Raleigh, NC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The Dancer’s Workout® (TDW) is an adult dance fitness program for adults who took significant amounts of ballet and other forms of dance while growing up. Our program offers adult ballet, jazz, and contemporary dancers daily in-person and virtual (on-demand) classes that are specifically designed to serve adult dancers who fall in that vast, intermediate paraprofessional gap between the beginner dancer and the professional. The Dancer’s Workout® has programs for both former dancers who have not been in the dance studio for years (decades even!) and for current ballet, jazz, and contemporary adult dancers who prefer dance over other forms of daily exercise. Our online, award-winning dancer restarter program gives former ballet dancers an emotionally and physically safe path back to dance, while our popular in-person and online classes provide current adult dancers with the daily warm-up, stretching, dance cardio, and toning exercises they need to get and stay in tip-top shape. All of our classes, which are choreographed to lively and well-loved pop songs, feature original ballet, jazz, and contemporary choreography, plus toning exercises, and are carefully crafted to sculpt our bodies and raise our spirits.
In addition to serving former and current adult dancers, we also support dance studio owners and adult dance instructors by providing the specific choreography as well as the leadership, business, and social media training needed to serve their own adult dance markets successfully.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up dancing and then trained very seriously in classical ballet for four years of High School at the UNC School of the Arts. After graduating, when many of my friends went to NYC to pursue professional ballet careers, I went to college/graduate school and ultimately pursued a 32-year career in the pharmaceutical industry. During those years, I had three children (including twins) and stopped dancing for 15 years. At age 41, I went back to dance, 30 pounds overweight (and very embarrassed). It took me about seven grueling years to get myself back into tip-top dancer shape.
During those years, I recognized a distinct gap in the dance fitness market for the millions of adults aged 24-60+ who had trained in classical ballet as children and teenagers and who now, as adults, needed a daily fitness class that allowed them to dance again. I began choreographing pop music and began designing exciting and efficient (one-hour) dance classes that busy adult dancers could squeeze into their daily schedules, with the idea that I could help fill this gap.
At age 50, I created and taught my first official class, “The Dancer’s Workout®.” For several years I continued teaching multiple nights each week and ultimately built a successful following of adult students in Raleigh/Durham, NC. Eventually, with the support of my husband, I made the big jump of resigning from my executive responsibilities in the pharmaceutical industry (as the VP of Global Clinical Operations) to pursue my dance career full-time. Finally, at age 54, I was dancing every day and pursuing the career I had originally trained for and always wanted.
From that momentous moment, I worked non-stop on The Dancer’s Workout® business, fueled by my utter joy and elation of finally doing what I had always wanted to do and further inspired by the hundreds of adults I had helped return to dance through The Dancer’s Workout® classes. I trademarked The Dancer’s Workout® brand continued choreographing, teaching, and filming all of my signature masterclasses, and joined forces with one of my students, Sara, who ultimately became my business and technology partner.
Over the next decade, our local students helped us film hundreds of classes! Sara and I, therefore, created an online portfolio of TDW masterclasses for adult dancers everywhere, and we began selling subscriptions to our online membership programs. This past year we started our first official dance company affiliated with The Dancer’s Workout®, entitled the TDW MAVENS. Our MAVENS are the dancers who are now featured in the masterclasses we film for our online products. They help us provide outstanding pre-recorded classes to dancers all across the country who take the class with us online.
In addition to providing daily in-person and online classes to current adult ballet, jazz, and contemporary dancers, we created our online “LOST LOVE RECOVERY PROGRAM FOR FORMER DANCERS.” This is a 10-video series of classes for former dancers who haven’t danced in years (decades even) to help ease them into the process of dancing again. We packaged this program inside our 21-day Dancer Restarter Wizard (https://bit.ly/TDW-WIZARD) and were delighted when this product won the TOP FITNESS APP “Best for Former Dancers” category in the 2023 Good Housekeeping Fitness Awards! We are so excited by every single adult we inspire to start dancing again and appreciate their kind and loving words about how we have changed their lives! This is our reward for what we do!
Looking forward to the future, my personal legacy will be to see The Dancer’s Workout® at dance studios all across the country, inspiring former and current dancers everywhere to keep dancing as adults. The emotional, physical, spiritual, and social benefits of continuing to dance as an adult are huge! To this end, we created an online instructor certification program that allows dance studios all across the US to get instructors certified to teach The Dancer’s Workout® at their studios. Watching the program grow, and seeing all the lives it has touched, continues to be a huge source of inspiration for us!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
In terms of accomplishments, I think our biggest accomplishment to date has been moving the needle and significantly redefining the landscape for paraprofessional adult dancers. There is truly no other adult dance fitness program on the market that serves former ballet dancers in this way. Our one-hour, daily masterclasses are carefully crafted to take the experienced adult dancer on an exciting journey through a warm-up, stretching, light cardio, high-intensity cardio, cool-down, toning, and final stretching in a way that honors their prior ballet training while still protecting their aging joints. We hear time and again from dancers who find us that there is nothing else like it on the market! By bringing dance back into the lives of former dancers, we have witnessed the joyous, 360-degree, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social impact our classes have had on former dancers who discovered us after years of anguish over missing dance. Receiving the Good Housekeeping 2023 Fitness Award mentioned above alongside impressive colleagues (such as Apple Fitness) has also been a satisfying accomplishment!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
As a small business owner with limited resources, everything starts and stops with you. The ideas, the company product development, and implementation (in my case, constant choreographing and teaching daily classes – which I love, by the way), the daily operations, the digital technology in multiple systems, the sales and marketing including social media, the graphics and video editing, the writing/editing, the company legal requirements, the accounting/taxes, team leadership, student recruitment, and retention, E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!! The good and bad news is that you get to become/need to become good at everything your company needs unless you have the funds to hire a team of experts. Fortunately, my corporate experience prior to running my small business gave me many of the operational skills needed to run a small business. The other saving grace is my support system, including my business and technology partner, Sara, who is a constant source of positivity; my husband, who is very supportive and patient through it all; my sister and other family members and my large community of adult dancers who inspire me daily.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Maintain a relentless, almost “ruthless” belief in yourself and your product no matter what.
- Ride the Waves – stay even-keeled as the cycles of good news and bad news roll in. In other words, don’t get cocky when things are good, and don’t get depressed when things are bad. Keep your eye on the horizon and stay humble, focused, and determined.
- Pay attention to and value atypical “units of measure” to emotionally calibrate how you’re doing. Financial success is an obvious unit of measure, but it is not the only one, and it is not necessarily the most important one. What else matters to you? Or rather, what matters to you more than money? For example, for me, what matters more is having a new student break down in tears after her first class with me as she tries to explain how much finding my class means to her. For me, getting emails that tell me how the LOST LOVE RECOVERY PROGRAM FOR FORMER DANCERS has changed someone’s life matters more to me. For me, having so many of my students want to be featured in our online dance classes matters more to me. For me, having adult dancers move to live near my classes, turn down jobs that would interfere with our schedule of classes, hire babysitters, and otherwise move heaven and earth to dance with us means more to me. My advice is to do your very, very best to create a financially successful and viable business, but also identify and celebrate the success indicators that matter even more to you.
And the bottom line? NEVER GIVE UP. Success, no matter how you define it, takes time and is much harder than any of us ever expected.
Where can people find you and your business?
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