Reflections on 15 Years in the Dance Business

We opened the first Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Michigan 15 years ago, in 2005, and at the time, I looked at it as a good business opportunity. It was a time when Dancing With the Stars was a new and exciting show that attracted audiences across America. Plus, I thought a ballroom dance studio would be a fun business to own and run.

That notion of fun has become a mantra that has stayed with me. It IS a fun business.

I’ve owned many businesses in my career, and succeeded with them, too, but running Fred Astaire Dance Studio is more fun than anything I’ve done before. We’re dealing with people, excitement, music, energy, and a general all-around positivity, which just makes it fun, day in and day out.

When we began, my lovely wife Lada did all the teaching, until she brought in a couple of brand new dance instructors. We inhabited a small space at Telegraph and Square Lake Roads when we began; today, we are the second largest FADS studio in the country, among 185 studios, and we teach hundreds of lessons every week.

That’s me up high on a ladder holding a sound board!

We have two studios and are poised to open two more in the coming months, with a goal of 10 new studios in the next five years. We own the rights to open Fred Astaire Dance Studios throughout the state of Michigan.

Over the years, I’ve learned an awful lot about the business. I’ll be honest – at the beginning, it looked pretty easy. I guess I was a little cocky, thinking it’s just dance lessons!

I didn’t realize how much I’d have to pull on my business background and marketing skills, to draw in more people, and keep them coming back.

When we opened, it was a very competitive market. There were two other ballroom dance studios less than a mile from where we opened up. Today, those two studios are long gone, and I own the building that one of them used to inhabit.

To grow, we had to learn a lot of management skills, recruit a lot of dancers and train them to be instructors, and learn how to manage them, manage the time, run the studio under the FADS way of doing business. It helps that FADS is a brilliant franchise that really guides its franchisees in a smart way of doing business. There’s a reason this company continues to grow!

I’ll admit, I made mistakes along the way. Who doesn’t? We tried different marketing activities that didn’t pan out and hired employees who were not a fit. All along the way, we stayed positive, continued to grow, remained persistent, and now we are expanding and opening more studios with greater responsibility as Area Developer for FADS.

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I want to be able to help other studios, help dance teachers build sustainable businesses in this industry. So many fail. Just because you’re a fantastic dancer winning competitions does not mean you can succeed as a studio owner. Too many dancers hit their 50s and 60s and have nothing to do, nothing to show for their hard work and great talent.

It shouldn’t be that way. Most dance studio owners start off as just dancers who lack business training. They may not understand how to run a business, which includes marketing, finance, human resources, and more. That’s why they often fail.

We seek to change that by guiding new studio owners in the FADS way of doing business. With us, they will win, grow, thrive, and flourish.

After 15 years, I still like being able to work with my wife every day. Our abilities are completely different but complementary, which makes us great business partners. She’s from the dance side of the business and she is able to focus on dance instruction and work with employees. That allows me to work on the more traditional side of business like marketing and sales, finance and planning.

It doesn’t feel like work because I love what I do. In previous careers, that was not always true. Owning Fred Astaire Dance Studio Michigan is always fun. There is always something exciting or interesting happening here.