Former Radio City Rockette KC Cherie Bennett and her cousin Michael Beau O’Neill, a personal trainer with a BA in kinesiology, joined forces last year to open Pulse Dance Academy & Group Exercise, a place where kids can dance and parents can take yoga, Pilates or get a personal training session at the same time. “We have some free weights, but it’s not like a Gold’s Gym where you walk in and you’re overwhelmed by big, beefy men,” Bennett says. Aside from having a unique idea, it takes passion, leadership, time management skills and patience to run a prosperous studio.
- Find a mentor who has been in the business for a long time.
- Do tons of research so you know what you’re getting into.
- Get your professional dancing goals out of the way first.
- Find financial backing or have money saved.
- Keep the big vision of your studio in mind at all times. “It’s easy to get tired,” says Bennett. “I made a pact with myself that I’m going to go to conventions; I’m going to stay cutting edge; I’m going take my kids to L.A. for summer camps and take them to New York to see Broadway shows.”
- Advertise like crazy. Do demonstrations in malls, create relationships with area schools, participate in community parades and send out press releases to announce anything new.
- Always plan ahead so that parents have time to budget for their dancer’s studio activities.
Coworkers: Business partner, fitness instructors, dance teachers, dancers, parents, music editor, website designer, bookkeeper. “As a studio owner, you don’t want to be seen handling money,” explains Bennett. “It’s great for your clients to know that you teach because you care about each individual student, and not about padding your wallet. Of course we have to make our ends meet, but when tuition is due, you don’t want to be the bad guy having to tell people they owe you.”
Tools of the Trade: Music, training, dance movies, props, portable barres, bulletin boards, phone, fax, computer, attendance books, website, tuition “drop box,” teacher and student contracts, stickers and stamps, dance shoes, dance floors, instructional tapes, pitch control CD player, day planner, dry-erase board for daily to-do lists, acro mats.
Hours: Bennett says that she never stops working. In addition to teaching over 30 classes a week, she answers e-mails; processes recital invoices; looks for costumes, competitions, conventions and shows; sends out press releases; choreographs and writes lesson plans.