As one of the fastest growing segments of the small business community, women-owned businesses account for 30 percent of small businesses today, compared to approximately 5 percent in 1970, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
This interview with Katie Lewis, co-owner of Dance & Company, is part of a series where we interview inspiring women-owned businesses highlighting the interesting facts, untold stories, and signature elements of each business. Like their businesses, each business owner’s journeys is unique, and offers insight into what it takes for a small business to flourish.
What makes your business stand out from the competition?
We offer dance and fitness classes in an affordable and safe environment and cater to our community by helping everyone that walks through our doors feel as though they are part of our family.
What keeps your customers loyal?
Being a part of our Dance Family. We encourage every student/dancer to be themselves, to focus, and to do the best that they can given their capability. But, above all, to have fun!
Why do you think it is important to celebrate and recognize female business owners?
This is an incredibly competitive world we live in, and also one that could potentially be male dominant if it weren’t for strong, intelligent, and determined women, such as ourselves. So, it is important to celebrate and recognize the contributions female business owners give to the community. I believe our world would be a much different place if it weren’t for us women and the different role we bring to the business world.
What does being a female business owner mean to you?
It means everything to me! Sometimes I still have those moments where I need to pinch myself. When I’m leaving the studio, there are some evenings where I just stand outside of my car and look into the studio as classes are still going on. Those are the moments when I realize that my dreams have become a reality. I see the parents in the lobby observing class time. I see our receptionist at the front desk, kids in the studios actively learning and having fun. Being a female business owner is an incredible feeling. Being a business owner in THIS business – now that’s a dream come true.
What inspired you to start your business?
I grew up dancing, so owning a studio was always in the back of my mind. I also found that, as I approached my adult years, I had a strong business mind. I say today that I was born to be a business owner. I have always been incredibly independent with all that I do. I had three jobs throughout high school and college; so needless to say, I was a very hard worker. I also knew that I wanted to be my own boss. I had vision, creativity and also a strong passion for wanting to be involved in community enrichment. There was nothing I wanted to do more than to own and operate my own dance studio. So, we did it!
What’s the most rewarding part of owning your own business?
I truly believe I have one of the most rewarding jobs in the world. I don’t do this for the money. I absolutely LOVE kids. In fact, I love teaching in general, whether it be a child, a teen or an adult. I have a passion for watching dancers grow and improve. I love the “ah hah” moments – the look on my students’ faces when they achieve their goals, or it simply just “clicks”. I also love fostering a safe and family-friendly environment for these kids to come to after school. I know that when I was growing up, I danced every single day after school. I know that dance kept me out of trouble, kept me active and fit, and allowed me to be comfortable in my skin. I absolutely love being able to offer those same advantages to our community.
What are the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
One of the most prevalent challenges we face is that, in order to get qualified, reliable and professional instructors, you must pay them what they deserve. On the other hand, dance lessons aren’t all that expensive, especially in a non-competitive studio. That being said, most dance studios such as Dance & Company are considered under the umbrella of “not for profit”, even though we aren’t officially a “non-profit” business. It’s been four years and although we are doing exceptionally well, we are constantly trying to find new ways to help our business become more profitable, all the while keeping on track with our business model. I always say, I’m never going to be “rich” but at least I’m doing what I love and there is no better happiness than that.
How do you hope to see your business grow?
We have high hopes for Dance & Company. We just started a dance program for children with Special Needs and that is going extremely well. We hope to really grow this program and expand within and around our community. Additionally, we are working on cultivating a plan for our next big revelation – becoming a Performing Arts Pre-School. We have so many wants and dreams for Dance & Company but always seem to be reminded that there are not enough hours in the day. We also need to remember to take one step at a time so as to not grow too quickly; we’ve seen too many businesses fail because of lack of resources. We pride ourselves on knowing the first and last names of everyone who walks through our doors. We know that our student base loves us because of the environment that we provide and we never want to lose that charm.