People always ask me about my favorite moment of the recitals, and there are always many. This year was no exception. I loved the dance that one of my students did with a high school girl who is wheelchair bound (there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience…or backstage after they were done). I loved all the unpredictable moments that happen with live performing…shoes and hairpieces flying off mid-routine, the little ones ordering their classmates around on stage, surprising the audience with different props and tricks and dancing down the aisles. I loved the creativity and originality and worshipful spirit myself and all my staff put into their choreography this year (we try to take it up a level each year). I loved the joy in all the dancers faces as they danced their hearts out. I loved the atmosphere backstage (and I think this is the first year no dancer lost a tooth and handed it to one of the staff at the finale, haha). I love seeing the students grow each year and all the years they have danced at Reverence. I love feeling the Lord’s presence each year. I love hearing the feedback from the audience about a particular dance that was especially fun or meaningful to them. I love all the volunteers who give of their time to help out at these recitals. I love to dance myself and give glory to God. I love the feeling of victory–only by the grace of God–that I feel at the end of each show. I love all that.
But, do you want to know my absolute favorite moment of recital day?
There is a moment that I take every single year after every single show to walk out on the stage. It’s quiet then, that stage. All the performers have left. All the tape has been pulled up from the floor. Pictures have been taken, flowers have been distributed, hugs and cheers have been given. We’ve cleaned up all the programs left in the audience and searched for lost and found. Seth has broken down all his camera equipment, my friends and family have torn down all the sales and backstage things. I have said, “Copy that” into the walkie talkie one last time, garnering the laughter of myself and all my students since I do not know walkie talkie etiquette. Everything is quiet in that moment that I walk out onto the stage one last time each year.
And there I stand, in the presence of my God, taking a moment to truly think of the magnitude of what just happened and giving thanks to Him for all of it. That is my favorite moment. Tears trickle down my cheeks as I think of all the feet and wheels that danced across this stage and how God used every single dancer. And I am grateful for everything…the joys, the challenges, the imperfections, the people, and Reverence. Nothing happened without Him knowing about it beforehand, and I am thankful.
People who have been business owners longer than me have often talked about the resilience required to be a small business owner, and it’s true. Resilience is not formed during the easy times. It’s formed during the difficult, challenging times.
And, only by the grace of God, here I stand.
Is it really the end of April? Is it really almost the end of the school year? Time surely is a-flyin’ by and most of us don’t stop to realize how quickly it passes each moment…each hour…each day…each year. One of my goals for 2014 is to stop and savor every moment…the large and the small, for they are all valuable and precious.
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” -Cecil Beaton
Even though we had snow and ice on April 1 (April Fool’s from Mother Nature, haha), the past few weeks have been shaping up to be beautiful. We’ve had 80 degree days, 50 degree days, and a myriad of weather in between, so Seth and I have been trying out some different hiking trails in Central PA. We love to hike, be together, and unwind from the week.
Prince Caspian has been thrilled that we’ve been able to have the windows open. He loves to creep on the neighborhood from his little bubble.
I always hesitate to write about how busy things are because, let’s face it…everybody is busy. I don’t want to be the subject of a meme! But, things are busy. This is my ultra-busy season of the year, but it is also the most fun! I love, love, love our recital season at Reverence because God always does incredible things! It is so awesome to see the fruit of the labor the students, staff, and I have invested in throughout this school year.
Time is so precious! I pray that you would each savor every moment and live life to the fullest for His glory!
There is a joke among entrepreneurs that goes, “Entrepreneurs work 80 hour work weeks to avoid working 40 hour work weeks.”
It’s true, you know. We bust our derrieres doing what we love because we love the challenge, the creativity, the joy of creating something new. Entrepreneurs are risk takers. We think differently and outside of the box. We would rather work until midnight doing something that we love, something that we’re passionate about, something that is going to change the world than work until 5PM doing something that bores us out of our minds. Trust me, I know. I worked a 9-5 job for 7.5 years (pre-Reverence and during the first four years that Reverence was open) because I had those pesky bills to pay, a cat to pamper, and a life to live. I learned so much at that job and I am so grateful for the years I spent there. However, I knew that the risk of staying the same was greater than the risk of change, so the leap of faith to open Reverence was necessary. And, six years down the road, I am grateful I took it. I remember signing the lease to the studio space we have and feeling like I was going to throw up. And I did throw up later (don’t judge–it was nerve-wracking!).
In commiserating with some other entrepreneurs, we laughed at some different misconceptions that people have of us:
1. We work five hours each week and the money just rolls in.
2. We sleep in until noon each day, roll out of bed and check our Facebook for a few hours before working in our pajamas.
3. Our success was overnight/instant.
4. We have it easy.
5. We are billionaires.
The truth, however, is that it’s not easy. We all work long hours, waking up early/staying up late, for free until our business gets off the ground. More often than not, that takes many, many years of blood, sweat, toil, tears, failures, and more. It hasn’t been easy to learn all these lessons. In fact, it’s very humbling to learn them. It’s a lot of heartache, insecurity, crying. But it’s also an extremely rewarding thing to do. I get so much joy out of every aspect of being an entrepreneur (even the things that I previously thought were boring!), and I know that I am making a difference for God’s Kingdom and eternity which is worth it to me.
It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others. At the beginning of Reverence, I used to compare myself to other dance studios. They had more money that was just handed to them, they were in an umbrella organization, they had bigger spaces. And then I just had to stop and say to myself, “Look at what God is doing in your tiny little space that HE provided for you.” And I’ve been so much happier. It’s also easy to compare OTHER people to others. But it is so very dangerous.
Never EVER doubt that when God has given you something to do–whether it be in a leadership or entrepreneurial role, a 9-5 job, a job at home, being a stay at home parent, whatever it may be–that He will give you the power necessary to complete it with excellence.
Every day I have to walk confidently and boldly on the path that God has called me to walk. And so do you. Let’s run this race together!
Last week Reverence was closed for our Spring Break. Normally I correlate Spring break with Easter so that we are just closed once during the winter and spring, but Easter is so late this year that I did not want to close the studio for a week right before the recital. Spring Break always comes at a much-needed time for me, and it’s something I am thankful that I schedule into the dance year at Reverence. The studio families do not complain–many have told me that they appreciate it as well as the other two times during the school year that we are closed (Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s). My advanced dancers good-naturedly complain because many of them are at the studio multiple days of the week and they miss their dance classes and friends when we are closed. (I love that about them!) But, I get asked a lot by other studio owners why I schedule breaks throughout the school year and why we end in the middle-end of May each year, so I thought I would answer…
1. Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year and Easter/Spring are easy, natural breaks to have throughout the school year. As a business owner, I want to keep pushing the values that we have as a dance studio and Christian business of our faith in Christ first, our value of families second, and our love of dance third. That means that we are closed on Sundays for classes and other “business” things (although our traveling dance ministry teams will go minister to churches on Sunday mornings, but many of them will travel to these events with family members to all be together). That means that I value the times that my staff at the studio will want to spend time with their families over the holidays, and the times that they will need rest. It means that I value the lives that the Reverence families have outside of the studio–that while we are a fun, big dance family, people do other things and have other members of their families to focus on as well. And, it means that I value my dancers and their dance education so much that I want them to have rest and breaks throughout the school year so that they value their dance education more and can have the necessary rest that their bodies need. We’re not closed for minor holidays like the schools are–just these three ones (and a few snow days unfortunately this year)! I’ve found that these three breaks are much needed for everyone involved.
2. Our tuition is based on the entire school year and divided into monthly increments to make paying manageable. We start earlier in August so that the students can have a 9 month, 36 week school year and we can allow time for these breaks. If parents choose to pay monthly, they pay the same each month whether there are 6 weeks, 5 weeks, 4 weeks, or 3 weeks in a month, knowing that it all averages out and they are still getting their money’s worth of dance classes. We offer students the opportunity to make up their missed classes and this year because of having four snow cancellations, I offered a separate make-up day. It is important to me that people get their money’s worth in their dance education at Reverence.
3. The end of the regular school year is busy, busy for everyone! There are concerts, award ceremonies, field trips, and all kinds of things that families do at the end of the school year. I want the recitals to be a special, meaningful experience for the students and their families, so I deliberately schedule them earlier so that they can be more than “just another thing” on the list to get through.
4. But what about the moo-la? Of course, if Reverence continued through June we would make more money through the traditionally lean summer months that most dance studios experience. That’s why many studios do go through June and then start their summer classes right up in July. I’ll be honest with you–I’m not in the performing arts business to make the big bucks. Seth and I don’t have a money room. We don’t swim around in cash like Scrooge McDuck. We don’t live in a mansion house and our cars were used before we bought them. But, having a lot of money has never been my goal in life, and it’s not Seth’s and my goal as a family. When I first opened Reverence I decided that I would value having a rest period for myself, for the studio, for my staff, and for the studio families more than I would value that extra income. Because I know that, while we do make a smaller amount of money through our camps and classes over the summer, the summer months are traditionally leaner financially (and I do not typically take a salary over the summer), I save and budget funds for the studio and personal funds all year so that we can thrive even through the summer. And you know what? God has always provided–every single step of the way.
5. It’s all part of entrusting my business, my livelihood, and my life to God. I was not able to start a business or run a business to this day without hustling. I still make it a practice to rise early and put in 12-14 hour work days, Monday through Saturday of each week. I strive to the very best of my abilities to make Reverence a studio where families want to send their children to dance at and a place that is making a difference in the world, and that takes an incredible amount of work and investment to do. But you know what? My work only gets me so far. As a Christian business owner, I have to truly live out what I preach. I HAVE to trust God to keep providing, to keep working, to keep orchestrating like He has done in the past. Reverence is His business alone–I’m just a steward of it. A good steward recognizes that, like the seasons, a business runs in cycles. We have a spring, summer, autumn, and winter in the business each year–opportunities for planting, sowing, watering, growing, reaping, harvesting, and resting. And, I’ve seen the different years encompass whole seasons in and of themselves over the past 7 years.
The bottom line is this: my purpose and passion is to invest in people. Dance is just the tool and mechanism that I use to do it. Building in these rest times not only helps Reverence be a successful business, but it benefits the people who I am called to serve–the students, staff, and families of Reverence. And, it reminds me that I can’t take any credit. It’s all about Him.
If you are considering taking that leap of faith and opening your own business, here are some questions to ask yourself before you get started:
1. Is there a need for your business? Will you be adding value to the lives of your customers through your business?
Sure, you might be fulfilling your long-time dream, but is there a need for your business in the market? Will you be fulfilling a niche? Is the business you want to start a trend that will be outdated in just a few years, or will it last?
2. Are you willing to wear many hats?
One of the things I love about owning my own business is that I get to do a beautiful combination of things that I love every day. I get to teach, I get to be creative and choreograph, I get to do finances, I get to work with people, I get to manage a staff, I get to plan large events, I get to write, I get to develop curriculum, I get to mentor, I get to clean, I get to costume, I get to do PR, I get to teach workshops, I get to do so many different things. And, I get to incorporate my faith–the driving force behind everything that I do–in every single aspect. If you enjoy doing a combination of different things, then owning your own business might be a great fit for you!
3. What are the costs and skills necessary to starting your business? Do you have them already? Do you have plans to acquire them?
Opening a business requires a LOT of funds. It’s important to have a plan. Are you going to take out a small business loan? Save your own money? Acquire investors? What skills do you need to open a business? Do you need to take any additional courses or certifications?
4. Do you have a solid business plan?
Having a solid business plan is CRUCIAL to opening a business. It’s important to map out the structure of your company, realistically crunch numbers, and create lasting goals and visions for your organization. Each year I still pull out my original business plan and look at it to see if I’m on target with the original vision I created for the studio.
5. Are you willing to change your entire lifestyle around?
When I seriously started praying about opening Reverence, I was working a regular 9-5 job. I was able to teach dance and co-lead the dance ministry at my church in the evenings, be a part of a small group, lead women’s Bible studies, do volunteer work, date, and hang out with my friends whenever I wanted. I had money. I had a great life. I had a safe life. When I opened Reverence, the lines between personal and business blurred. I started early in the morning and worked late into the night. Reverence is like my child–I have stayed awake worrying about it and praying for it, I have invested blood, sweat and tears into it. It is an extension of who I am.
Some people understood when I started saying “no” to activities, leading ministries, my usual dinners with friends. Some people did not understand. You are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your business. There is a tension that needs to be managed in order to be a healthy small business owner–a delicate work/life balance. It’s hard work. Are you at a physical, spiritual, and emotional state to handle it?
6. Is the risk of staying the same worth more than the risk of change?
Every entrepreneur needs to ask himself or herself that question. My answer…after months of prayer and soul-searching…was that I needed to take the risk and open Reverence. And you know what? It’s been worth every moment. When I look back on these past six years, every drop of sweat has been worth it. Not because I’m perfect or have done things perfectly along the way, but because He has used Reverence to change lives. And changed lives are worth it…