Studio Owners

These 3 Dynamic Duos Know How to Make a Business Partnership Work


Running a studio is an enormous undertaking that requires you to wear many hats at once (and with expertise): pedagogy, customer service, business management and beyond. Some owners find they're better off doing the work with a trusted partner by their side—someone to share both the responsibilities and the rewards. But finding the right person to work with isn't easy. You need someone whose personality, strengths and weaknesses complement your own. Here, three sets of successful partners get to the heart of how they make it work.

The Mentor-Mentee

Donna Lee Studio of Dance
Homestead, Florida
Enrollment: 350
Faculty: 8
Years in business: 39

The relationship between Vicky Gonzalez and Alicia Norwood has evolved over several decades. Norwood was initially one of Gonzalez's dance teachers at Donna Lee Studio of Dance. After Gonzalez grew up and danced professionally, she returned to her hometown and joined the studio faculty. When the studio founder decided to retire in 2006, she offered to sell the duo the business. They entered a 50-50 partnership, and in the intervening years have become strong partners and great friends.

Responsibility divide: "We're a great balance as far as training goes," says Gonzalez. "Alicia's focus is the tap and jazz side. My main focus is ballet. On the administrative side, I'm more of an ideas person, and Alicia is the one who grounds those ideas and helps put them into action."

Communication style: The two of them frequently stay in touch via text, but they also spend a few hours in the studio office most afternoons, so they can sort out business-related tasks together before classes begin for the day.

Success secret: "We always have a choice to see the best or the worst in people," says Gonzalez. "Alicia and I have always chosen to see the best in each other."

Partnering perk: "The ability to maintain a personal life outside of the studio," says Gonzalez. "I was able to start a family without worrying about what was happening at the studio while on maternity leave, because there was someone there who cares as much as I do. We also each take a day off every week. The only reason we can do that is because the other one is at the studio."

Words of wisdom: "Although no partnership is 50-50 all the time, it evens out in the end," says Gonzalez.

Studio Owners
The Dance Concept staff in the midst of their costume pickup event. Photo courtesy of Dance Concept

Year-end recitals are an important milestone for dancers to demonstrate what they've learned throughout the year. Not to mention the revenue boost they bring—often 15 to 20 percent of a studio's yearly budget. But how do you hold a spring recital when you're not able to rehearse in person, much less gather en masse at a theater?

"I struggled with the decision for a month, but it hit me that a virtual recital was the one thing that would give our kids a sense of closure and happiness after a few months on Zoom," says Lisa Kaplan Barbash, owner of TDS Dance Company in Stoughton, MA. She's one of countless studio owners who faced the challenges of social distancing while needing to provide some sort of end-of-year performance experience that had already been paid for through tuition and costume fees.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Ryan Smith Visuals, courtesy Whitworth

A New Hampshire resident since 2006, Amanda Whitworth is the director of dance at Plymouth State University and the co-founder of ARTICINE, a nonprofit that uses the performing and creative arts as a means to improve people's health. Whitworth is also the founder of Lead With Arts, a consulting service working in three priority areas: performance and production, arts and health, and creative placemaking. The NH State Council on the Arts recommended her to the governor for a two-year term, February 2020 to February 2022. She is the first dancer in New Hampshire to hold the title of artist laureate. We caught up with her to hear about her new role:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Genevieve Weeks, founder of Tutu School. Courtesy of Tutu School

As the founder of Tutu School, a dance studio business with a successful franchise model that has grown to 37 locations throughout the United States, Genevieve Weeks was in a unique position for a studio owner at the start of COVID-19. Not only did she have to make sure her own, original Tutu School locations weathered the virus' storm, she also felt a duty to guide her franchisees through the tumult.

Though she admits it was a particularly grueling experience for her at the start—her husband at one point was bringing all of her meals to her at her laptop, so she could continue working without pause—the appreciation she's felt from her franchisees is palpable. "What I've heard from the Tutu School owners is that they're grateful to be part of a franchise system right now," says Weeks.

So how does a franchise survive something like COVID-19? Here's what got Weeks—and her franchisees—through the first few months of the pandemic.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.