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Monday, August 5, 2013

Studio Ownership, Two Years In

Hello, friends.

It's been a while. I've decided it's time to revive this blog as it's the only blogging outlet where I've felt fully and entirely myself. I've also never had the overwhelming urge to scour it from the Internet, like I have my 5657 bazillion other blogs. Much has happened in these two years. Notably:

1. We moved from one small apartment to another a quarter mile away and finally to a big beautiful old farmhouse about 3 miles from Graham's college in the middle of nowhere. I'm talking cows and fields of corn and a forest surrounding us. Real country.

2. We had a blue-eyed baby boy last summer who's changed everything about my existence.

     Two years ago I wrote about my ambitious plans for a little dance studio and performing arts center in the little town that had recently become my home. That little studio is about to enter its third year in operation. It's not quite evolved the way I'd expected--does anything?--but I'm pleased with what we've done so far, even if my expectations continue to far exceed reality.
     Owning and operating a studio is nothing like I imagined it would be: it's far more exhausting, emotionally draining, frustrating, invigorating and rewarding. Its far more emotionally, personally and creatively challenging than I envisioned and has caused me to grow in many positive ways. I'm still more comfortable on stage than teaching in a classroom and I still struggle with making the "Big Decisions" of business ownership like what classes to run, what to charge, and how to manage staff. As a ballet dancer, I was very accustomed to being told what to do and how to do it all the time; always having some authority figure to turn to and obey. I still feel a little bit like a little kid playing dress up in his dad's clothes--all clumsy and awkward and unconvincing in my seriousness.
          I love the community where we live, but it's, frankly, not an ideal place for the kind of business I'd like to run. As a newcomer in a tight-knit community, it's been difficult to find a place for myself personally as well as a place for my business in the life of the town. Despite these challenges, I feel blessed that my students and their parents are nothing but wonderful and supportive and understanding--a true rarity in this business. I don't think I'd want to own a studio anywhere else.

      The first year of my studio's life I just tried my best to hold on and survive the year. Along with launching the business and teaching the majority of classes, I was also pregnant  (my son was born a few weeks after the end of that dance season), teaching at other studios, and still adjusting to life far away from most of my friends and family. I thought I could do it all alone. It placed huge amounts of strain on my personal relationships and emotional health. The second year was my experimentation year as we tried a few different types of classes, ways of running things, and I hired extra staff so I could spend a little more time home with my new son. Some of these experiments succeeded and others did not and I took the failures personally.

    I'm feeling optimistic about this third year, confident for the first time in my abilities as a business owner and teacher. I'm making lesson plans and class playlists, choreographing combinations and eagerly reorganizing the physical space of my studio (as time and money allow). It'll also be my last full year supporting my husband through college--then it's on to graduate school for him and possible an MFA program for me, but that's another post for another day.


  1. Nic and I are so excited about what you're doing with HMAC! It's so wonderful to have someone in town who's proactive about making things better. You're competent, creative, a FABULOUS dancer, and a wonderful addition to our little community.

    Just had to say. :-)


  2. I agree! Thank you so much, Sarah, for all that you add to our community. It was amazing to see the results of so much hard work at the spring showcase - with so, so many talented dancers! You are doing an incredible job, and you comport yourself with such grace and kindness. I look forward to this next year with HMAC! :)

  3. There really is no better teacher than experience (that is if you listen to it), and the fact that you made something the so enriching to the community out of nothing certainly continues to make this dad proud. And I'm so glad you got to learn in such a supportive community. Thanks for sharing!