Studio Owners

Jessica Scheitler Is Helping Studio Owners Find Their "Financial Groove"

Photo by Samspel Preston Photography, courtesy of Scheitler

Jessica Scheitler is that rare breed who fully understands both creative and business-minded people. She grew up at Central Dance Academy, a competition studio in Le Mars, Iowa, and studied dance at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City. She worked as an independent choreographer after college and learned how to effectively make money through dance. With arts in her DNA and finances at the forefront of her mind, she minored in arts administration and mathematics and ultimately became an enrolled agent (a federally licensed tax practitioner). Now she owns her own business, Financial Groove, which offers accounting help for performers and studio owners all over the world.

Dance Teacher: What are your most popular seminars for the Dance Teacher Summit?

Jessica Scheitler: I like to cover two main things for studio owners. In "Everyday Money Moves to Get Results," I talk about the small details of working in their businesses, like organization, streamlining their records process, creating good habits and utilizing their accounting software. In "Produce the Big Picture: Financial Leadership," I ask them to take the time to be the CEO and work on their business—look at the bigger picture to reach their vision and goals instead of spending all their time on just what's urgent.

DT: What's one small daily thing we can do to improve business?

JS: Save receipts. If you travel to Nationals and buy a meal on the company, you need to save that receipt. I recommend using a receipt app where you can quickly and simply scan it in the moment. Write down the business purpose, who you were with and what you talked about. By doing that right away, you save yourself a ton of time later. If you wait, you're likely to forget the details of the meeting by the time you go to look at it or hand it off to the bookkeeper.

DT: What's your best big-picture advice for studio owners?

JS: I often see them come up with great ideas and get a whole bunch of stuff started, but then spread themselves too thin trying to bring it to fruition. I recommend they look at things strategically as a business owner. Know ahead of time what you have the capacity to take on. Apply daily habits (like saving receipts) so you have the data needed to make informed decisions about what you really can do.

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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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