Into dancing? Dream of starting your own business? Then take note of what Nataliya Grigorova, founder of London-based dance school Dancebuzz, has to say.
Grigorova, 34, had no prior experience of running a dance business, but that didn’t stop her leaving a lucrative city job in investment banking to follow her dream. She gave us the lowdown on what it’s really like to take the plunge.
1. How did you know you wanted to open a dance school?
I had been dancing since I was a child, but pursued a career in investment banking. While I was working, I continued dancing and although not with the same intensity as before, I used it as a much needed release from the working environment. I was surprised that most of my colleagues had no passion or hobby to help them switch off and lighten up their daily routine.
I wanted to do something with dance and decided that bringing dance to people was something I had become passionate about. My plan was not to be part of the teaching team but to focus solely on the management and strategic aspect of the business. However I taught some of the classes as a way of gaining full understanding of the service we were offering, our clients and structuring our programs.
2. How did you get started?
When I left banking, I had no plans about what I was going to do next. I wanted to spend some time clearing my head and think about my next move. So I did what most bankers do when on gardening leave – I went travelling. At the time, I was passionate about Brazil, its language (I studied Portuguese) and its dance scene. I spent a couple of months in Rio perfecting my Portuguese and visiting some of their big dance schools, taking dance classes. I got inspired by how many people of all ages were into dance and decided, upon my return to London, to set up a dance school for adults targeting young professionals. My goal was to appeal to those who were brand new to dance and left intimidated by getting started in their 20s or 30s. I set up a team of instructors and started working with them on dance programs which were goal orientated, yet fun and welcoming for those starting off.
3. What’s been the most important moment in your career so far?
Discovering a passion for entrepreneurship and realising that there are endless opportunities, no matter what you do. As long as you keep an open mind and you are willing to learn and develop, you can be successful in your career both financially and emotionally.
4. Talk us through your day…
My focus within the company is two-fold – improving the operations and marketing and looking at the strategic development such as expanding our offering. I look at our course programs, teachers’ recruiting, training and monitor their performance within the company. I explore and learn about new ways of marketing our business.
Although I said earlier I was not planning to be part of the teaching team, I do teach two to three hours of classes per week as it helps me maintain my understanding of how best to deliver our programs and collect direct feedback from our customers.
5. What are the best things about doing what you do?
Not having a boss and driving my business in the direction and with the intensity I feel is right.
7. What do you think people don’t realise about your job?
The main thing has to be understanding that running a dance school is just like running any other business and has all the the different aspects that any other business has – customer service, marketing, finance, operations, human resources, business development etc. Just because we offer a service which is a hobby for people, all components above have to be in place to ensure we can offer quality and can drive business forward.
8. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
If you try you may succeed or fail, but if you don’t try you have already failed.
9. What advice would you give someone wanting to be a dance instructor / own their own dance business?
If you believe in your idea and are passionate about it, go for it and do it. Don’t listen to what everyone around you says and thinks. Most people (family or friends) wouldn’t have done it themselves and would not know what to say and what advice to give, so they would be quick to be negative as a way of protecting you.
10. Have you ever had a moment of self-doubt? What happened and how do you get through those?
Many times, especially in the early stages of Dancebuzz.The truth is that you don’t really know whether your business will succeed. In fact, most start-ups fail so it’s natural to have those type of thoughts when you still can’t see the results from your hard work. My partner helped me a lot to get through those moments, stay positive and focused on my goals.
11. What would you say to your 15-year-old self?
Expose yourself to various things in life. Study and experience as much as possible, learn to deal with change. You never know what direction life may take and the more options you have, the less you’ll be affected by external factors.
12. What are your career goals?
Growing Dancebuzz bigger and stronger alongside some new projects in different areas of business. Keeping the entrepreneurial spirit up.
Dancebuzz runs classes all over central London in a variety of different styles. Find out more here.