I’ve been thinking for a while about how to tell my audience and customers about why this business exists. I’m finding that large part of marketing involves telling the story of the company.
I’ve tried a lot of story angles for this little business. To create beautiful dancewear, yes, to work my own creative muscles with art and design. But I have to be honest, I started this little project (which has yet to really yield a profit that could pay for a week long ballet workshop) to make money.
There are two points I want to make here to try to soften that vulgar little phrase. First, I’m an artist and a ballet addict and ballet (all art, whether we artists like it or not) costs some amount of money. Second, as a Libertarian and a believer in the free market, I don’t see making money as a bad thing. There are of course bad ways to make money, but there are bad and good ways to do just about anything.
I hope my choice to create dancewear is a good way to make money. I have tried so hard to be real in my marketing, to not scam or spam people. To be collaborative and supportive of others.
This is one reason I wanted to make giving a big part of my business, even before it can really afford it. I gave away business money last year to fund a pointe shoe scholarship. Sure I wanted the publicity, but I hoped to earn it with something positive. I didn’t chase people down and demand they buy my stuff or make deals with them about buying a certain amount.
I do ask customers for photos, but in return I share their images images on my social media. We both get some positive exposure, which is what the dance community is all about.
I got this idea for funding my dance addiction with a business from the Internet’s favorite Financial Independence Man, Tim Ferris. Yup, I too read The Four Hour Work Week and annoyed everyone in my life with its principles for about a year. I researched stuff I was interested in and decided I could compete in the garment industry.
Do I even need to write that I have learned a lot? Actually, I feel I’ve got a pretty good deal as far getting a business education. I’ve spent quite a bit less than if I’d gone to school for it. I’ve read a lot of books and articles on business, marketing, and branding while trying to apply the information in real time to my project. I’ve spent plenty of money too, on ideas that I couldn’t make work. and on poor products that I’m embarrassed to say I took money for.
By the way, if you are reading this and you were one of my first customers and your leotard is falling apart, contact me and I’ll replace it for free. You deserve that for believing in me. I promise the quality has gone WAY up since 2016. I have access to better fabrics, a more flexible printer, and two excellent seamstresses/tailors who can work faster than I was doing by myself. Please let me share my improvements with you.
So here is my final point. Ballet costs time and money, just like everything else wonderful and worthwhile in life. Shoes, clothes, classes, workshops, massages, attending shows, these just start the list of things that take funding. Professional dancers, before they start earning pay checks, have these things funded by parents and scholarships. And many dancers who do earn a paycheck for actually dancing still have to do other work to pay rent.
I was not gifted dance student and I didn’t have parents or connections who could fund a pre-professional ballet education. My parents did do their best, I must say. I had many many classes and I attended lots of summer intensives, but I’m from a small town, and as I said, am not particularly ballet facile; no one would have been motivated to grant me money to study.
As an adult I have shaped my life so that I am involved in dance. I take work that lets me work with other dancers, students, freelancers, and professionals, and this work also gives me time to take classes and take time of for workshops.
I’ll also admit that my husband pays rent and the grocery bill. This humbles me. not that I couldn’t have made this work on my own, but I appreciate that i live in a house with a sweet supportive man and I don’t worry about buying food. If I did have to get this far on my own I’d be somewhere with very cheap rent, a handful of roommates, and I’d have to watch the grocery budget a lot closer.
However, this still doesn’t mean I’m financially able to drop everything and just train. To really compete in the dance world you pretty much have to have a period of time where you do that, and I missed it.
In the book Talent is Over Rated by Geoffrey Colvin, the author picks through the creation of a world class violinist. A child starts with an expert teacher and daily practice by at the latest 5 years old. This person has to put in hours daily for years with quality instruction, quality instruments, and quality focus to perhaps get into a good music school. Ballet is very similar, at least if you’re going to dance on world class stages. An adult does not have the time or resources to do all of that. Usually.
I wanted, I still do want (I think) for this business to eventually fund a trip or two to Russia to watch the Bolshoi and the Mariinski, to buy pointe shoes for me and for young dancers who come to Salt Lake City to train, and to maybe cover house keeping costs if I find I’m able to spend more time training myself.
I’m finding I have about as much talent for business as I do for ballet though. I have to work really hard at both. And with this business, there is no one pushing me to make it work. I do what I can when I have the energy and the ideas and the funding to do something. So for now, its pace is really slow.
I’m not really sure how to conclude. I want to be open about why I want you to buy my leotards and skirts. I want your money, but I hope that you and I both love dance enough that you’ll understand that I want it to further my goals in dance.
What those goals are is probably another rambling inconclusive post, but I’ll leave you here for now.