Studio Owners
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Small businesses across the U.S. are keeping careful tabs on their states' reopening schedules and making changes to their business models accordingly. As pandemic-related guidelines and timelines evolve, it's important that you have a multilayered plan for the gradual reopening of your studio—one that prioritizes your dancers' and staff's health, reassures families that it's safe to return and allows you to operate your business to the fullest extent. Keep in mind that flexibility will be key: It's possible your state may experience a spike in new cases of COVID-19, requiring your studio's plan to take a step or two backward before it moves forward again.

Here are four crucial steps to preparing your studio for a flexible, responsive and well-considered reopening.

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Studio Owners
Sacramento Ballet began offering online classes to its SB School students on April 1. Photo by Scott Beckner, courtesy of Sacramento Ballet

On Wednesday, March 11—two weeks ahead of a statewide stay-at-home mandate—Colorado Conservatory of Dance executive director Richard Cowden and artistic director Julia Wilkinson Manley made the difficult decision to take all of CCD's classes online. As you'd expect, it wasn't easy. "This chapter in our future book will be called 'The 96 Hours From Hell,'" says Cowden, laughing, who joined the Broomfield-based nonprofit and its conservatory program of 200 students in 2018. "Over four days, we got together with our staff and faculty, all hands on deck, and launched our entire conservatory of classes online." You've probably done something similar at your own studio, scrambling to orient yourself and your staff with a video-conferencing platform (like Zoom, a popular choice among owners) for classes, as sweeping stay-at-home orders preclude in-person instruction.

COVID-19 continues to disrupt daily life as we know it, which means the state of your studio has been evolving often and rapidly. But regardless of what lies ahead, the skills you're learning as you pivot your business from in-person to online will come in handy again, no matter the crisis you're facing. We've compiled COVID-19-specific advice from the leadership of four studios and schools, in an effort to help you communicate and operate as effectively—and thriftily, and smoothly, and normally—as possible.

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Studio Owners
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When Genevieve Weeks opened her children's dance studio, Tutu School, in San Francisco in 2008, she quickly figured out that she'd hit on something good. "By 2009, I'd opened a second location, and that one also did quite well," says Weeks. "I realized that this studio could thrive in a lot of communities." At the same time, she says, the reality of opening more locations was sinking in: "It'd be double the payroll, double the rent," she remembers thinking. That's when she started to explore franchising.
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Studio Owners
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Plan Ahead Marketing Idea: Boost Boys' Class Enrollment

How many little (or big) brothers are going to fall in love with dance once they decide to join in or watch an older sibling take virtual class? Strategize now how you're going to get those cuties into the physical classroom!

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Teaching Tips
Photo courtesy of the Academy for the Performing Arts

“Keeping agile" has taken on a whole new meaning for every studio owner and dance instructor since the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shuttered studio doors for safety's sake in March. Now is the time to show parents how you bring normalcy and positivity to their children's lives so you can retain tuition revenue until your doors reopen for business as usual.

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Studio Owners
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Q: What tips do you have for beginning studio owners on recruiting students? I'm just starting out and am not sure where to begin.

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Teaching Tips
Jessica Kubat (center) with her studio staff. Photo by Vincent Alongi, courtesy of Kubat

Jessica Kubat's path to becoming a studio owner wasn't typical or glamorous or the product of a family business, handed down. When she opened MJ's House of Dance in Lindenhurst, New York, this past summer, she had just turned 40, was a mom of three, and had worked at two different studios long-term. Over the last two and a half years, she'd painstakingly saved up $25,000 and had gone to the Small Business Development Center at a local college on Long Island for help creating her business plan. Her area was moderately saturated with studios, so she spent considerable time planning what would set her school apart—live musical accompaniment, for one—and hired a marketing director nine months before the business even opened. It was a methodical, careful approach—Kubat calls it "the old-fashioned way"—to opening a studio, and it's paid off: She started summer classes with 75 students and is well on her way to reaching her first-year enrollment goal of 250 dancers. "When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to do something bigger," says Kubat. "I always wanted to own a studio—it was just never financially available to me."

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Studio Owners
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Dance teachers aren't dummies. As in every other industry, the importance of social media for growing a business is not lost on any of us. It's in knowing exactly how to use it effectively that's the challenge. For a group of artists who work within the confines of centuries-old techniques, it's no wonder we start shaking in our boots the second we hear words like "algorithm" and "digital strategy." What's more, the Wild West of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook is constantly changing. How are any of us supposed to feel like we have a handle on things?

Don't worry—we've got you covered. We caught up with an expert, Brigham Young University School of Communications faculty member Adam Durfee. Named Social Media Innovator of the Year for 2019 by The Social Shake-Up conference, he's spilling on the do's and don'ts that will make all the difference in engaging your audience and growing your dance studio business.

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