Monthly Archives: October 2013

How I Started And Ended A Profitable Dance School (Dance Conmigo)

Alain And CheryIt was the beginning of 2006. Cheryl Williams, my new dance partner, and I arranged to meet at a Starbucks café in downtown Montreal. I don’t remember if I was more excited about her company or about the topic of our discussion; we were going to talk about the creation of a dance school. She named it “Dance Conmigo.”

We had a brainstorming session. Some of the details escape my memory but our ambitious plan was to teach two dance classes per day, five days per week, with a minimum of 10 students each. This should give us about $500 per week per person plus a lifestyle of many hours of leisure time. Two hours of work per day and the rest of the day to f*#k-off. Of course, it never worked out that way but it was nice to have a goal.

Cheryl & Pierre
Cheryl & Pierre

In business, as in life, nothing is constant; you are either growing or regressing. We had a rapid growth, a plateau and a regression.

Between my dance students of earlier years as a salsa teacher and Cheryl’s previous students we had a nice base and when we brought those two groups together we had a full class. Also, we were fortunate to have some friends ( Robin and Marcy) who helped us with the promotion. Right from our first semester we were profitable and continued being profitable until the last days of the school.

Last Dance Conmigo Pary
Last Dance Conmigo Party

We started teaching Salsa, then Ballroom, Argentine Tango, Belly dancing (Taught by Danielle Davies), West Coast Swing, and a few diverse workshops. We had so many classes that we didn’t have enough hours to schedule all the classes that we continued adding. There were a couple of years that we had different classes going on at different places at the same time.

One of the highlights of our career was hiring Danielle, a fantastic belly dance teacher who,at one time, on her own, organised about 10 group classes and workshops with very little help (we wanted to adopt her). Also, we brought several well-known West Coast Swing teachers from the U.S.A. to teach workshops at our place. We capitalized on the popularity of the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance” and hired one of the finalist competitors to teach some classes for us.

Gary, Alain & Madelene
Gary, Alain & Madelene

We were hungry. We would search contracts everywhere. We would go to high schools, universities, community centers. We would dance for free to promote our school. On some occasions we were invited to teach in Ottawa and Toronto. Life was good!

To promote the sense of community we were hosting a weekly two-hour dance practice every Friday. Later we scaled it down to once per month for 4 hours. Our dance parties grew with the school. We had one room (the ballroom room), then we added a second dance room (the salsa room) and finally we added the third room (the tango room). We were getting over 100 people attending our parties. People were delighted. They never had so much diversity in one place for such a low price.

IMG_0869Eventually it got to us. The only way to continue the growth was through constant promotion. Email, YouTube and Facebook were our tools of choice. We would spend the day answering questions, answering the phone, promoting the next dance class, the next event, seven days per week, from waking up until going to sleep. We learned SEO, we learned how to build websites, how to make videos, how to buy Google and Facebook advertising, etc.

Gary & Catherine
Gary & Catherine

Saturated with our demanding lifestyle, we started to do less marketing and the results were immediate: less and fewer people would register, our classes began to look empty. We eliminated ballroom, then we eliminated tango. We held on to Salsa and WCS until the last moment, but eventually, there were not enough students to justify teaching these classes either.

We came to the realization that we weren’t hungry anymore, we were tired, tired of answering the phone and responding to emails. We started winding down and November 30th 2013 became the official date to close the school.

The Dancing goes on
The Dancing goes on

Overall, I must say that it has been one of the most beautiful chapters in my life. I felt that we were manufacturing smiles. People would arrive from their work full of stress and, a few minutes into the class, a smile would start to appear. They’d leave light and happy. We were so proud of our community. And the cherry on the cake; we made a nice living for our effort.

I thank my dance partner, my friends, and all our students for all their support. It will always be one of the most important and beautiful moments in my life.

Addendum

Happy students
Andre on the left provided us with a place to host our fist parties.

On November 23, 2013 we did our last Dance Conmigo party. We sent an invitation to all our previous students and many of them came to share this moment with us. Below I will post the comments made by some of our guest after leaving the party.

Thank you to all of you who came to this wonderful evening.
During all this year, Cheryl and I gave our heart and soul to this dance school. We feel that we got paid a thousand times back.
This was one of the most moving moments of my life. Thank you so much.
I have been teaching for more than 10 years, Cheryl has been teaching for more that 15 years. The satisfaction that we found in this profession has no comparison. I have been so much happier because of you, my students, my friends.
I love you.
Cheryl & Mohamed
Cheryl & Mohamed

Cheryl Williams. I truly loved every minute. Thank you all for this last wonderful memory of the studio. Je vous aime beaucoup

Katie Leen Thank you! The time I spent at the studio were some of the happiest moments for me and I have met a friend/family for life!
Dennis Tsang Sharing the dance floor with all the other styles was a great way to show all that was Dance Conmigo. It’s been a real pleasure to be part of it Alain.
Sylvie Labrosse Alain and Cheryl, thank you so much for these wonderful years of happiness, joy and shared moments!
Rogerio Lima Alain and Cheryl, you touched the hearts of thousands of people in these last years. Many, many and many years from now we will always remember Dance Conmigo. You can be proud of it. I wish both the best of luck in your new endeavours. May the winds be always on your back!
David & Mariya
David & Mariya

Cindi Hall Thank you Cheryl and Alain, last night was really great and thanks to you both, I get to enjoy so many more dance styles particularly at ballroom dance events that you made possible.

Gevorg Hambardzumyan thank you guys! I’ve known you for only few monts but really loved you and enjoyed coming to your studio! wish you all the best in your new beginings
Rogerio & Michael
Rogerio & Michael

Lara Cardenas Grace à vous, j’ai fais de très belles rencontres à votre école de danse, j’y ai eu beaucoup de plaisirs, de plus vous êtes des professeurs merveilleux, généreux, professionnels gentils et je souhaite vraiment garder contact avec vous. Je vous souhaite beaucoup de succès dans vos futurs projets. bisous

Joan McDonough Dance Conmigo will always be in the hearts of everyone who ever stepped onto her floor. Thanks to you both for fanning the flames
IMG_0885Dan Peres shared. Thank you Cheryl Williams and Alain Dance for memories of a life time. You thought me to feel the music and dance from the heart. And for that I’m truly grateful for.
Guy Blanchard Brought back good memories of the monthly Saturday night parties at the studio Métronome! Nostalgy hit me this morning!
Silvia Rios Dear Alain and Cheryl, I wish you that this “end” is the beginning of your next exciting and interesting time in your life. It was great to dance in your studio and perform with Alain. I’m looking forward continuing our project Tango for Parkinson’s disease and obtaining useful results. All the best for both of you!!

As An Entrepreneur You Get Time Flexibility, Autonomy And More Money

Life as an entrepreneurTime flexibility

When you work for “the man” you get very little time flexibility and hardly any autonomy.

If on Friday you want to leave work early because your son is playing in the soccer finals, or any other personal reason, you have to depend on the mercy of your employer.

Some people have great employers who are understanding, but there are people who have horrible employers who treat their employees as slaves and will not give them any time flexibility.

As an entrepreneur, even if you work 18 hours per day, you always have the liberty to take 2 to 4 hours to enjoy to those important family moments. Or if you are one of those entrepreneurs who values leisure time, you can set up your business to work only 4 to 6 hours per day. Personally, I am arranging my life to work only 4 hours per day.

Autonomy

If you have a great boss, you may be at liberty to do your job the best way that you see fit as long as you deliver results. But if you get one of those micro manager bosses, you are in for a very unpleasant ride. You will be in a state of asphyxia the whole time.

As an entrepreneur you get to decide how to do every part of your job. You can create systems and procedures to fit the way that you work.

Dress code

The way you dress at work  could range from formal to casual. Usually the the closer the contact with the clients the more you have to conform to the dress code of the imposed by the employer. This applies to whether you work at a bank or at the local McDonalds. I just heard of some one who got refused of a job at McDonalds because he had tattoos on his arms.

As an entrepreneur, your clients might expect you to dress in a particular way,  but most of the time you dress whichever way makes sense to you. I have been criticized by my dance partner for always wearing old and ugly clothes. I will make an effort to listen to her, but still, the final choice is mine.

Working in Quebec.

If by any chance you work in the province of Quebec (a francophone province), and you work for the government, you are not supposed to speak any language other than French at work and you you are discouraged to wear anything that showcases your religion. I don’t know why anyone would work for the Quebec government, but if you do, your are more restricted than in any other province in Canada. If you do work for the government, the best thing is to start drafting your escape plan as soon as you finish reading this blog.

Money

As employee, your earning potential will be determined by your boss. Very few companies will allow you to become financially independent. You probably will no be poor, but for sure your earning potential will never be maximized. Your earning potential is supposed to make your boss rich.

As an entrepreneur, your earning potential is unlimited. All the wealthy people of this planet are entrepreneurs. They decide how high they want to go and they go for it. Personally, as an entrepreneur I am in a position where I can increase my salary every year and I do increase my salary every year.

Conclusion

As an entrepreneur, your life will be more fulfilling, you will have flexible hours, greater autonomy, no dress code and your self steam will be higher.

Sure, being an entrepreneur is not easy; you have to put up with a lot of uncertainty, you have to have a strong belief in yourself and go against the popular belief that we all should get a degree and work for the man. But when you create your own road, ant things work out well, there is no other way of life that can compare.