Dance is Serious Business: Three Things to Consider Before Stepping Out on Your Own

The idea of starting a dance or dance-related company or putting on dance events is sexy, but there are many unsexy things to consider when stepping out.  Before you even start with any of the logistics, like locations, insurance, websites, or advertising, you have to do some pretty deep soul-searching. And commit to continual soul-searching as you go.

1. Lead with Why

If you haven’t seen this Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, take 20 minutes and watch it.  When you step out on your own to run a dance business, even if it’s just you initially in the company, you are becoming a leader. This is an important responsibility, and one that should not be taken on lightly. People will be watching you. You will be creating experiences and influencing would-be dancers, new dancers, and seasoned dancers. So figure out why you want to do that. Is it because you see an absence of consistent social dance events in your community? Is it because you see a demand for a certain style of dance in your area that isn’t being filled? Is it because you love dance more than anything in the world and want to dedicate your career to it? No matter the reason, figure out your why.  It’s going to set the tone for your whole business. Often, we try to dive into the logistics—the how— before we’ve established the why.

The why might evolve over time—that’s ok! It’s an important part of the process. You grow and change, so it’s natural that your business is going to as well. Be open to growth and be constantly committed to finding and leading with your why.

2. Fill in the Who and the What

Once you’ve figured out why you want to step out into a dance business, consider the who and the what. Who is going to benefit from your services? Are these people even interested in your services? Are you targeting an existing group of avid dancers, or do you have to build one up from scratch? If you’re going to start teaching classes, who do you want to work with? Teenagers in an after-school program? Retirees who are looking for something to do between golf sessions and happy hour? High-level dancers who are looking to perform regionally, nationally, and internationally?  This is your thing, so you get to call the shots.

Remember, no matter what type of business you run, you are building a community and you are in a position of service.  Who do you want in your community? Who do you want to help? Who needs your help? The people who you serve may evolve over time as well. The who doesn’t have to be demographic, like age, income level, or education level—it can be built out of more abstract ideas. You have to start with something—trying to appeal to everyone will not give your brand a solid foundation. Your potential customers will not identify with your business because they will not see themselves reflected in it.

Once you’ve identified potential populations, think about what you are going to offer them. Group classes? Private lessons? Special events? Socials? A congress or festival? Workshops with guest instructors? An online video platform? An app? A blog?  Dancewear? What product or service can you offer that’s going to fulfill your why for the people whom you serve? If your population is college students who are looking for an alternative to the bar and partying scene, they’ll be more interested in social events than in super technical workshops. What you offer will also change and evolve over time, but brainstorm what might appeal to your population before you get started.

3.Find What Sets You Apart

Using your why, who, and what, you can come up with what is known as your Unique Selling Proposition.  This is what you use to get people to choose you and your business over anybody else’s. Do you have certain experiences that set you apart from the crowd? Maybe you’ve trained extensively with a world Salsa champion, or grew up in the Dominican Republic and knew about Bachata before Bachata was cool.

In many ways, your business is an extension of you, so find your best qualities and use those to create your USP. Enlist the help of your friends and acquaintances. Ask them for words that describe you, to relate their best memory with you, or to give you an example of a time that you helped them out of a tough situation.  You may be surprised what shows up as your USP.

Think about the businesses that you frequent and try to identify their USP. Do you order everything (including some groceries) from Amazon Prime for convenience and speed? Do you visit a certain hairdresser because they give you wine while they cut your hair and it makes you feel luxurious?

It’s easy to throw around generic buzzwords like “superior customer service,” “experienced staff,” and “best value,” but what do those words really mean? Show, don’t tell. Use concrete examples to back up your claims. If you’re the only Kizomba instructor in your area, use that as part of your USP. Talk about how you are committed to staying on top of the Latin dance trends and continually introducing new styles to your community—not just that you are the only Kizomba instructor in town.

Your USP helps you create your identity, and helps your customers latch onto that identity.

Spend some time reflecting on your why, who, and, what, and the attributes that set you apart. Journal, talk to your friends, and start studying other businesses and brands that you admire. When you have a solid ideological base for your business, it becomes the guiding star for all of your subsequent actions and decisions, and makes it easier to stay committed and focused as you move forward.

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