Q: I have a 15-year-old studio with 300 students in an area saturated with other studios. Several of these studios have started offering extreme discounts ("Take two classes, and the third is free," "Boys dance free!"). Financially, I can't compete with these prices—my overhead is just too much. What should I do?


A: This has been a big problem in our area, too. Studios competing for recreational dancers seem to be offering outrageous deals to get kids through their doors. Unfortunately, I feel this is at a great cost to the students' dance training. Classes are overcrowded and taught by inexperienced student teachers. It's not what the next generation of young dancers deserves. I always say: If someone's giving you something for next to nothing, it's probably worth next to nothing.

My faculty members are fully certified and accredited dance teachers, and they are paid very well. I can't afford to discount my classes to compete with these studios. Instead, my advertising lets parents know that by coming to our studio, their children will be taught by experienced dance educators and receive quality dance training. By making clear that their children will train with experts, I'm letting them know that they'll get what they pay for.

You could also revamp your own discounts in a way that makes sense financially and demographically for your studio. For example: In the past few years, we've noticed a decline in the number of boys enrolling, so this year we offered discounted classes for our recreational male dancers. We've now tripled our recreational male dancer enrollment.

Joanne Chapman is the owner of the award-winning Joanne Chapman School of Dance in Brampton, Ontario.

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