Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Aleksander Saiyan, Director of Operations of Toronto Dance Salsa, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
My business is Dance, and my customers are everyone.
Tell us about yourself
Growing up, I always felt like an outsider. I never felt accepted by my friends and family. I was constantly fighting the feelings of not being good enough and trying to fit in. I also battled a medical condition called hyperhydrosis (excessively sweaty palms), which gave me body issues and a lack of confidence.
And... I was a terrible dancer. I avoided dance clubs when my friends tried to drag me along and were afraid to ask women to dance because of my sweaty palms and lack of skills. In 2009, everything changed when I made an important choice. Overweight, unhappy, and tired of having no confidence, I chose to tackle my biggest fear: dancing.
I joined Toronto Dance Salsa as a beginner and was one of the most uncoordinated students in the class. But I fell in love with the people, I fell in love with the music, and in that process, I fell in love with myself. Now I'm on a mission to help others fall in love with themselves and find a place where they can #Belong.
I went from being the worst student in my class to being an instructor and the Director of Operations at Toronto Dance Salsa. Deep down, I always wanted to create a place where you could come in as you are, be accepted for that, and get lifted to where you want to be.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My dance school shouldn't have survived this pandemic, but it did. Now I have built it back up to be in Canada's largest Salsa dance school.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Every day you're alone, you must motivate yourself and stay focused on ensuring that your business and everyone who walks has a better experience than the last time they came in.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Having a calendar will help you stay sane. Most days, you're working on your own and want to ensure that your days are organized so you don't feel overwhelmed.
- Don't surround yourself with employees but with people who believe in your business, your vision, and what you're trying to do. The worst feeling is that you're surrounded by people who want a paycheque.
- Suppose you're working in any business that has to do with customer service (honestly, that's every business in some way). In that case, you can teach your employees skills, but it's harder to teach them to be caring human beings. Pick a good team.
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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