A popular and highly sought-after dancer and choreographer, Geo Hubela has worked with stars and productions all over the world from French pop star "Lorie" to the MTV show BeComing. Geo isn't just a choreography sensation. He has also danced on film, onstage, and on TV. He was worked with everyone from *NSYNC to JLo. On top of his incredible professional career, Geo owns a dance studio called Icon Dance Complex.
Owning and running a successful dance studio is not an easy task. Showstopper got together with Geo for his advice on going from a professional dancer to studio owner.
When Geo decided that he wanted to open a studio, he knew that it was going to take time to establish a system that worked for him and grow the studio into a place that his students would love to be. Because of this, he recommends planning to take time off from your professional career. "I had to be willing to make sacrifices in my professional career to focus on the business, so I took a good two years off to take the time necessary to open the studio," he says. Unfortunately, your studio isn't going to setup itself and your students are going to want to see and learn from you, so you have to take time to get to know them. If you want to become a studio owner, you have to make the time to take on that role. Don't think this means that you have to cut yourself off from your career, though! It just means that you have to be willing to know when the business you are creating will come first.
Have a Good Support System
One of the things Geo is most grateful for is his support system, his family, and his dance family. They all come together to make the studio what it is. A good support system is key to developing a studio that will create an inviting and encouraging environment for its students and that will allow you to leave for career opportunities you may have in the future. For Geo, this means hiring people he can trust and depend on. When he is home, he teaches at his studio, but if he has to leave to work as a professional choreographer and dancer, he doesn't want his students to feel lost without him. Because of this, all of his teachers are people his students know and love to learn from. "You have to have a support system of really good people that you trust, for sure. You are dealing with tremendous responsibility, and if you don't choose the right people and the right support system, your investment can go out the door."
Focus on Branding
As a professional dancer, you have to spend a lot of your time developing what potential employers think of you. This means developing a work ethic, collecting headshots, and creating a style to make you stand out from the crowd. Opening a dance studio works the same way. It is important to develop a brand that will attract students because people know what you have to offer. Being a professional dancer and choreographer sets Geo apart. Because he knows how the dance industry works, he can not only teach his students to be talented performers and hip hop dancers, he can also show them how to develop their own dance careers.
For Geo, developing a brand means creating a name that people will recognize and remember. Geo has a wall in his studio that features pictures of him and the people he has worked with. For students and parents looking at it, the wall brings to life Geo's long list of dance and choreography credits. When people can see and appreciate what you do, they will want to work with you. It is easy to tell people that you are talented, but showing them that you are talented and helping them to develop their own talents will give them a reason to appreciate what you can do and to look up to you as a teacher.
Know What You Do Best
Geo's strengths lie in hip hop. Because of this, he knew that starting a successful studio would rely on teaching what he knows best. Despite his talents, a ballet studio or a tap studio would not have blossomed in the same way that Icon has. If you are considering opening a studio, focus on your own strengths. If you know your own strengths, it will only make helping your students highlight their own strengths easier. The things you do best set you apart. They will help you build your brand, enhance your abilities as a teacher, and create an environment that will allow you to give your students everything you have to offer. Knowing what you do best also require you to assess your weaknesses. It's ok if you can't fill the shoes of every role in your studio. You don't have to! Your support system should fill in any gaps and enhance what you can do.
By Veronica Good
Writer, Showstopper VIP
Geo Hubela is a choreographer, dancer, teacher, and producer. He is owner of Icon Dance Complex in New Jersey. Geo is an internationally known choreographer who choreographed national commercials for Jet Blue, Best Buy, Campbell's Soup campaign, and much more. As a performer, Geo has danced with stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith, P!NK, Britney Spears, 'NSYNC, Jessica Simpson, Selena Gomez, and Michael Jackson, to name a few. He has danced on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew and America's Got Talent. Geo's ICONic Dancers perform professionally at the Apollo Theater, Madison Square Garden and on Nickelodeon and MTV.