"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak"~Hopi Indian Saying
Preparation, practice, skill. These factors are as important in business as they are in the arts. For Tracy Schwend, the discipline and rigor she honed as a dancer and dance instructor served her well as she began her journey as the owner and creator of Premier Dance Academy in Warrendale, Marshall Township.
Dance is her passion. Slovick, 35, received her BA from Point Park University in Dance in 1998 and had been an instructor with the Laura Lynn School of Dance for the past 13 years. The dream of opening up her own studio has been with her since she began dancing as a child. Building her own studio will allow her to give “joy to my own students”.
With little business experience, she reached out to those around her for advice. “My uncle started 3 businesses and my father owns his own construction company. When I decided that it was time to do it (open the studio), I asked them for advice. My uncle told me the first thing I needed was a business plan.” He also recommended that Tracy look into the assistance that SCORE would be able to provide to her to help develop her business concept.
Tracy developed a basic business plan after researching books on dance studios and how to write a business plan. She became even more enthused about embarking on the path to entrepreneurship after attending a SCORE workshop in October of 2010. “They had all of these resources available, bankers, attorneys, other business people, templates” to help her further refine her concept and all of the details that go into launching a business.
After the initial SCORE workshop, she had questions on the appropriate legal structure, business registration requirements and the development of a business plan. She applied in January and was matched in March with counselor Bob Grant.
“Bob is a wonderful counselor”, says Tracy. “He is patient and exceptionally responsive. There was a period when we were refining the details of the business plan when we were on the phone daily, sometimes multiple times a day. Bob was a great help in keeping me motivated, especially during those times when I was frustrated with the progress.”
Grant, whose background is in banking, focused a lot of his coaching on developing the financial projections and pro forma for the business. His diligent assistance helped Tracy further refine her business plan and receive approval for funding the construction, first year’s expenses and pay herself a salary. Prior to the loan approval, Tracy was leveraging personal savings and credit cards to get the studio to this point. Her bank, First Commonwealth, was so impressed with the quality and substance of her Business Plan that they approved her loan in four days.
Bob Grant commented that in the current economic climate, it is extremely difficult to get funding, especially for a start-up. “The fact that Tracy was able to secure a loan as a first time business owner is a real testament to her hard work and desire to achieve.” He feels she has a good chance for success because she is dedicated, has a strong background, experience and training, a personal desire to succeed, and a strong support structure.
As invaluable as Bob has been to Tracy, there are others who she also touts for her success at this stage. Her mother is helping with all of the details of setting up the back office side of the business equation, from assisting with identifying and selecting the software applications to helping select a credit card processing service. Her brother and other friends are helping with the physical build out of the three studio rooms, from installing the dance barres to the sound equipment for the music to motivate and inspire her students.
The studio, located in the lower level of a converted elementary school that also houses a daycare center, is well situated to attract her target market of 3-18 year olds. She plans to offer classes in ballet, tap, jazz, modern, contemporary, pointe, lyrical and hip hop. Recitals as well as competition dance will showcase the talents of the students’ technique. Thinking beyond the traditional offerings of most dance studios, Tracy is also investigating opportunities to team with others who offer complimentary instruction, such as yoga, Pilates and cheer leading , to optimize the use of the facility.
After her first open house in August, 2011, Tracy has signed up 30 students and is well on the way to her goal of 70 – 100 for the first year of operation. When asked what advice she may have for others who want to start a business, she said, “Go to a SCORE seminar and just listen. Absorb as much as you can from the professionals that are there to help you. Write a business plan and be willing to continue to review and refine it.”
With her targeted approach to her business and her resounding passion for dance, Tracy is well positioned for success.