We love to share more about the amazing women who are doing business here in South Australia. This week we feature the fabulous Jo, who is bringing dance back to the lives of adults here in Adelaide!
Tell us about your business, Move Through Life Dance Studio.
At Move Through Life Dance Studio we offer dance classes for adults of all ages in dance styles like ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, and mature dance. We welcome men, but find that most of our clients are women aged between 20 and late 70s. Our classes address the lack of dance classes available for adults aged over 25 in Adelaide.
We create a welcoming, non-competitive, and judgement free space for people of all levels of experience and physical ability to experience the joy of dance.
Our dance classes fulfil the desire to dance that many women have, and gives them a way to exercise both body and mind, connect with inner self and other women, and take some time for themselves to recharge.
We help adults to be physically fit, mentally alert, and creatively fulfilled by offering dance classes for adults of all ages, in a number of different dance styles, and at different levels to cater to both beginners and more experienced dancers. Our dream is to give as many adults as possible the change to dance throughout their lives.
I started Move Through Life in 2004 because I wanted to keep dancing and to continue to develop as a dancer and choreographer, but there weren’t any opportunities to do that really. I was dancing at a dance studio that focused primarily on children. We started as a group of eight dancers who worked together to put on a short season at Marion Cultural Centre, and eventually incorporated as a not-for-profit. Over time, we started adding dance classes because of interest. At the end of 2015, the company folded (we were all a bit tired, and people had started having babies and couldn’t be as involved), so I took on the classes as a sole trader, and re-branded as Move Through Life Dance Studio.
Why did you decide to go into business?
At the end of 2012 I finished a full time contract with Country Arts SA, where I had been for the previous 8 years. I couldn’t face applying for other jobs in the government, university, or not-for-profit sector, where I had always worked. I was also tired of being restricted by a job description that assumed I only had certain skills. I wanted to be free to grow. I also had a 6 year old daughter and wanted to be able to pick her up from school, be home with her during holidays etc. I started out doing freelance work in similar areas to what I was doing, then dabbled in having a business as a creativity consultant. All through this I was still running Move Through Life. I was also President of Ausdance SA, the peak body for dance in South Australia. I realised I was doing a lot of things and none of them very well. Move Through Life seemed like the the area that had a clear demand, and where I had the most expertise. So I decided to stop doing other work, and focus exclusively on Move Through Life.
Your passion for dance shines through your videos, how long has dance been part of your life?
Since I was three years old. So that’s 43 years. I started in calisthenics, and decided I wanted to be a dancer at age 13. So I started taking ballet classes. I had the body awareness and skill to enable me to quickly pick up ballet. I started out in grade 2, dancing with kids much younger than me, and then skipped through the grades to the get to intermediate ballet in 4 years. Ballet has a number of grades, then you enter the ‘major’ grades, which at that time in the syllabus I studied was senior, pre-elementary, elementary, intermediate, advanced. My goal was to get into the full time Bachelor of Arts course at the South Australian College of Advanced Education, which I succeeded in doing. I only lasted six months before I decided to defer (who knows why), and of course didn’t go back. So I felt locked out of dance, until I decided to go back to a suburban studio. So that feeling of having closed that door and not being able to return really influenced the development of Move Through Life, which is all about wanting to open a door to dance for anyone, whether they have always danced, not danced for a long time, or never danced.
What has been your biggest hurdle? How did you overcome it?
Cashflow! I didn’t start out the way you probably should when starting a business. It kind of evolved. And I didn’t have any cash behind me to invest into the business. In fact, I was quite depleted financially by the time I decided to make it a business. Also, I think coming from a not-for-profit / public sector background in the arts meant that thinking about making money was a big mindset shift. I’ve always focused on doing the work for the good it does in the world. I’ve learnt that you have to make money to do good in the world, otherwise you end up burnt out and broke. I’ve also learnt that to make money, you need to have a great marketing and sales system. In the arts sector, there is so much focus on attracting funding, that the idea of earning that money through sales is very foreign. I’ve learnt an enormous amount in the last 2 years.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Staying afloat. Seriously, to have been able to keep going over the last two years where I feel like I’m always on the backfoot financially has been a major achievement. Luckily, I’m a creative type who also happens to love data and graphs and spreadsheets, so I’ve done a great job of managing my finances. The biggest lessons have been around making sound financial decisions, even if it sometimes means letting people down, like few really dedicated clients who are in a class that just isn’t covering costs.
On a more positive note, some of the achievements I’m really proud of include having sell-out shows in the 2009 and 2014 Adelaide Fringe Festivals. And I’m also proud of creating a community of over 120 dancers whose lives are enriched by being a part of Move Through Life.
Let’s talk South Australia, What do you love most about doing business here?
Actually, it’s tough doing my business in South Australia in my industry, due to the lower population. I think I’d be having an easier time of it in Sydney or Melbourne. But of course, being in South Australia means I can afford to live even when my income is not so high.
What advice would you give other women wanting to start a business?
Get a mentor! If I’d had a mentor at the outset, I’m sure I’d be in a better position now. It really helps to have someone who can get to know your business really well. Who you can bounce ideas off. Who can help you stay focused. And most importantly, who can remind you that you can value yourself, that you are worth the money you are charging, that you know your stuff, and that you are in business to support your family and as such, it’s okay to make money.
What is the best advice you have received that has stuck with you?
Believe in yourself. Know your figures. Be clear about the culture you want and what your dream team would be.
Share with us a quote or mantra you live by
Jump in the deep end. You’ll learn how to do things as you go which you never would have learned if you didn’t have to. If you wait until you know everything, and everything is perfect, you’ll never get there.
Want to know more?
Get in touch with Jo and find out more about Move Through Life Dance Studio at:
WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM
Jo is a member of SA Woman. You can be part of it too by jumping on board HERE.