Seen & Heard At the Dance Teacher Summit
Owner, Steppin’ Out—The Studio
Lee’s Summit, Missouri
After being a business owner for nearly 25 years, Phyllis Balagna was awarded 2011 Volunteer of the Year and Small Business of the Year by her local chamber of commerce. She spoke at the 2012 Dance Teacher Summit about studio branding and community involvement.
Dance Teacher: What do you see as the greatest challenge when it comes to promoting one’s business?
Phyllis Balagna: There’s a tendency for studio owners to get kind of stuck in their own zone. We go to the studio and then home to work on costumes, then turn around and go back to the studio. Visibility is a key part of advertising, and the only way to achieve it is to get out there. We can be our own worst enemies when it comes to word-of-mouth advertising because we’re not active in our communities. Some owners may heavily promote their studio when they first open, but the longer you’re in business, the harder you have to work to keep your name in people’s minds.
DT: What can business owners do to make their studio a household name?
PB: I’ve spent a lot of money advertising, but I’ve discovered that word of mouth can be just as effective—neighbors talking to neighbors, people talking in church or in schools. Remember, everybody knows somebody who has kids! You need to get out in the community and get involved in something. I am about as involved as a person can get, I think. I serve on the school board, I’ve been a board member for the chamber of commerce and I work with the Rotary club. I know I’m on the far end of the spectrum, but even if you just join one committee, like with your school district, a business roundtable or a citizen’s advisory committee, those are usually just one meeting a month. The time commitment is minimal but the kickback is enormous.
I think studio owners will find it makes a difference in their business and their lives to have connections beyond just their students, teachers and dance parents. Not only does it bring in customers, involving yourself in community activities outside the studio lets you feel more like a true business owner. I’m not as emotionally driven by which parent is upset with me over costumes anymore. —Andrea Marks
Photos from top: courtesy of Phyllis Balagna; courtesy of Dance Teacher Summit