An attractive studio makes a great impression. “Its appearance is a reflection on your business,” says Michele Hamilton, owner of West Virginia–based Michele’s One Step Up Studio. “Parents want to know that their kids are in a clean, safe place.” For many studio owners, finding the time and funds to regularly upgrade furnishings, fixtures and equipment is key to long-term success. Here’s how Hamilton and other studio directors prioritize and tend to their studio environments.
Michele’s One Step Up Studio
St. Mary’s, WV
“I like to buy one new piece of equipment each year,” says Hamilton. “Whatever money we have left over after year-end recitals and doing all of the payouts, I try to put back into the business before we take our summer break.” Purchases in recent years have included a wireless speaker system and an iPod dock, a tumbling incline and several back handspring machines, and miscellaneous decor items. “The amount we can spend fluctuates from year to year,” says Hamilton, adding that it usually ranges between $300 and $500.
This is on top of funds she sets aside for unforeseen issues. Hamilton cites one instance at her affiliate studio where a student fell into a large 72" mirror, causing it to shatter. “Luckily, insurance covered the damage and no one was hurt,” she says. “I have been fortunate enough to avoid a large replacement or having to fix major damages on my own.”
5678 Dance Studio
(Approximately 900 students)
Co-owner Danette Tomasello’s priority is to keep her lobby looking shiny and new. Since many families have younger children and come from relatively far away, they tend to spend a lot of time at the studio. “It’s a must that our lobby be clean and presentable, which is tough when you’re working with kids,” she says.
Tomasello has the carpets cleaned every three months and also maintains a weekly contract with a janitorial company. Keeping the chairs in good condition has been one of the biggest challenges. “Our chairs go through lots of wear-and-tear from kids standing and playing on them,” she says. Last winter break, she had all of the chairs reupholstered—stretching her yearly upkeep budget from $2,300 to $3,300. To cover the difference, money was pulled from studio savings and a number of day camps were held during winter break to raise funds.
“With the economy, it can be hard to decide where to put your money, but having a fresh face for our lobby was worth it,” says Tomasello. Other improvements in recent years have included a shelf for dance bags and repainting the walls and hanging new photos. She also gives regular attention to the flooring, stripping and recoating the floors in bathrooms and break rooms twice a year.
To help manage cash flow, Tomasello often turns to barter arrangements with studio parents. “Many of our fathers are in construction and can trade out for various things in exchange for free classes,” she says.
(Approximately 600 students)
Six years ago, a water main break at Centerstage Starz flooded the entire studio, leaving the floors warped and destroyed. Rather than fix the damage, owner Taami Bash chose to start from scratch. “It was the Field of Dreams mentality; we decided to build our dream studio,” says Lindsey Evered-Ceilley, the studio’s director of business operations. “We wanted a state-of-the-art facility and a beautiful place where kids could come and express themselves.”
Bash found a new space twice the size just a block away and did a “complete build-out.” Today, Centerstage Starz is a 12,000-square-foot studio featuring five dance studios with suspended wood flooring and one-way viewing mirrors, complete digital sound system, locker rooms and snack bar.
Owner Bash earmarks a set amount monthly for improvements, but Evered-Ceilley says finances can be challenging during the slower summer months. Revenue from class enrollment must first cover routine monthly expenses like teacher salaries, construction loans and rent. To pay for extras, the studio holds Zumba classes and rents out studio space to capoeira instructors, ballroom programs and visiting conventions. DT
A former hip-hop, dance fitness and cheerleading instructor, Jen Jones is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer.
Photo by Antoinette DeGeorge, courtesy of Centerstage Starz