Dance studio owner Sally Andrew spoke to the Ahead for Business team about how she achieves her business goals by fostering a flexible and supportive team environment and connected studio community.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your business? What do you enjoy most about running your business and what challenges you?
My name is Sally Andrew and in 2015 I purchased a dance studio that was on the decline. It was a very small operation to begin with, however it has grown exponentially since 2015, and now encompasses multiple studios, a retail outlet and a vocational training centre. I love watching the business grow from strength-to-strength and get a real buzz out of expansion, development, and innovation.
In our business, one of the key pillars that we build around is the idea of excellence. It does take a lot of time and effort as the business owner to uphold these standards, but seeing the business excel and our dance community grow continues to drive me towards our goals. Juggling work and family can be tricky, but I am supported by a great team.
Q: How have you looked after yourself and any employees’ wellbeing to help manage changes and challenges in work and life?
To help me unwind from my role in managing the business I like to spend time with my family, eat out or read. Although I have a very full schedule, my family time is very important and we love trying new restaurants or visiting our old favourites regularly.
I feel really lucky to work with an incredibly driven and talented team. They consistently give above and beyond what is required of them in the workplace, and provide amazing support and encouragement to our clients’ week in and week out. Our talented and diverse team all complement and support each other beautifully, and I am so proud of the workplace culture we have created. This attribute of the team allows for flexibility to juggle multiple jobs and families. We also allow for creative freedom, for staff to operate in their area of genius without fear of micromanagement; this autonomy allows for a greater feeling of work satisfaction and superior outcomes.
Q: What impacts have adversities in the Toowoomba region, such as floods, drought and COVID-19, had on your business and other small business owners in the area?
Regional areas like Toowoomba have thankfully weathered the COVID-19 pandemic slightly better than our big city counterparts. Although the lockdown period was significantly detrimental to our business, we are very thankful to have not been caught up in multiple periods of lockdown.
With less than 24 hours’ notice to lockdown our business in March 2020, we moved our classes and a large portion of our clients into a hybrid online model which included pre-recorded videos on YouTube and social catch ups on Zoom with class groups. The sheer volume of the content we needed to create was daunting, and we worked extremely hard during this time to save the business. Some days I was working from 4am until midnight to edit and upload content whilst trying to home-school three kids.
Thankfully in our area, once we had our COVID-19 Safe Planning in place and we could return to our studios in late July, we have been able to remain open since then.
Q: What does community mean to you and your small business?
Community is especially important for a dance studio. We put a lot of effort into creating the family feel of our studio to strengthen the pull for students to attend. Our studio hosts classes for students from 18 months of age, school children, teens, adults, over 55s and our Dance for Parkinson’s Community Class. Much research has been done on dance and the benefits that it has on the body. However, studies have found that to receive full benefits from the dance class, participants must feel a sense of community and benefit from the holistic standpoint of being a collective of students enjoying camaraderie and solidarity in their pursuit of movement and dance.
Q: What advice would you give to small business owners in the region who might be having a tough time right now?
My advice would be to keep the main things the main things – focus on what you can control here and now. Remember your core service/product and do that better, smarter and faster than everyone else. Don’t get distracted by the competition but keep your vision clear and your purpose plain.