This is a blog that I’ve thought about writing a million times but always chickened out. At Aerial Dance I have worked REALLY hard to create a community. I wanted a sanctuary where women felt safe and taken care of. I wanted a sisterhood where women felt they belonged. I wanted a sorority and playground. So I don’t often talk about the that fact that Aerial Dance is a business.
Why now bring it up? Two reasons:
1. Because awesome local small businesses have gone out of business like Wildflower Pizza. I read people saying how they loved these places and are sad and all kinds of other people saying “I always wanted to go there”. But you didn’t. And that is WHY they are out of business. And let me tell you, owning a small business is brutally challenging.
2. I had a really unpleasant interchange with a lady the other day. She was SUPER unkind to me. And in her tirade over my enforcing her contract, which she knew was a year and signed and enjoyed for many months, she had the audacity to say “I understand legal contracts. But this is an extra curricular activity…. not an apartment or insurance program. This strong of a contract is unnecessary. ” and then went on to tell me I was a thief for expecting her to abide by the legal agreement she willingly signed. And to be honest, I was extremely hurt and upset. So I’m going to be a big girl and write this blog post to address WHY we have strong contracts…Aerial Dance is a business.
Aerial Dance started out as a hobby. It was fun for me. I didn’t have much overhead, we were renting space in a gym. And I didn’t have employees, it was just me teaching. But that all changed about a year in. The more I think about the topic of why are we now a business instead of an “extra curricular activity” is because my company is supporting other people.
Even as a hobby business I ran my company 100% legally because that is how I truly believe it should be done. This means paying for a stupid number of expenses that my students won’t ever think about: like every time you walk through the door I pay $3 in insurance, I pay ~$1,000 a year to be able to play music legally in my studios; I pay to have the studios professionally cleaned and disinfected; I pay to have a website; I pay to have an online booking system; I pay a fee every time you swipe a credit card; I pay. I pay. I pay.
And all of those are the monthly expenses. Not the fixed costs. LOANS are a real thing for small business. That was one of the shift points for me from hobby to business. When I took out my first business loan it was to open the Appleton pole studio almost 9 years ago when we left the gym. Then another loan when we expanded the Aerial Studio (that I’m still paying since that beautiful black aerial rig was $25,000 alone). And another loan now that we are expanding our Appleton location. One of my pet peeves is when someone says “why don’t you open a studio in Oshkosh or Wausau or xyz”. I used to laugh and shrug it off. Now I look them directly in the eye and say, “if you have $200,000 to invest I’d be happy to look into that.” And they laugh because they think I’m exaggerating or they get uncomfortable because they had no freaking clue it would cost that much. I put my financial future on the line multiple times because I BELIEVE in my company, I BELIEVE in my team, I BELIEVE in the sisterhood we have created but it is a constant stress to me. So yeah, loans were a big shift from hobby to business. It takes a lot of courage to keep investing in your business.
But the biggest shift was when I hired employees. The cheap way, the way most studios/gyms/fitness places do it, is to hire independent contractors. This way they avoid a TON of expenses. No workers compensation insurance, no payroll taxes, no payroll service, no added insurance costs for the company. You save a ton of money and pass all those expenses to the people who work for you. I think it is inappropriate to treat people like that AND I think it is illegal hire an independent contractor for what we do (yes, I just said any studios using independent contractors are most likely illegal. boom. read the IRS code. I’m right). And I’m not going to do the unethical thing to save a few bucks. So all of my instructors are hired as employees. This means they get all the above paid for as part of their employment, just like you do at your job. New to me is offering health insurance for my instructors who work over 30 hours a week; just like you get at your job. I take care of my staff. First, I’m not stupid, they are the most important aspect of my business. But second, and more importantly, I care about these women. They are my extended family. I truly believe that they are amazing humans and deserve to be treated properly so I do everything I can to be the owner who is good to her staff. And that simply costs a fortune.
So that is why I enforce our policies and contracts. Because Aerial Dance is a real business that is being run ethically, trying to stay open, pay our expenses and take care of our employees. And if you have local small businesses that you care about – SUPPORT THEM! Support them now, because most small business owners won’t sound the alarm when things are rough, they will put their head down and keep working. Until they simply can’t keep the doors open. So if you care about a small business in the community, support it NOW.
Ways to support a small business:
1. GO THERE. Often.
2. Take the extra classes, workshops and choose to spend your disposable income at local small businesses. Every place you spend a dollar is a vote saying “I want you to stay in business.”
3. Write reviews everywhere you can. LOTS of them. Google maps, Facebook, Yelp, anywhere you can think of! Be public in your support of that business.
4. Check in on social media and raise awareness about the business. Tell everyone you can about the business and why you love it.
5. BRING YOUR FRIENDS. Often.
6. When it is gift time, buy gift certificates to the small business you support.
7. Buy your products there. Shorts, grip, supplements all sold at Aerial Dance we dramatically mark down for our members so they get a good deal but every purchase helps us pay our bills.
Is Aerial Dance in trouble? No. We’re good. Don’t worry. But know that some months are a struggle; if I’m being totally vulnerable in this blog, there are still months that I don’t get paid because other expenses come up and I always keep my business stable and take care of my employees first. I once had a student say to me “I must pay too much for my membership” when she heard I was taking a vacation. Words cannot describe how much that comment hurt me; I work for a living so don’t I deserve to also get a paycheck like you get at your job? I work stupid hours some weeks; last week was an 82 hour work week for me and I don’t get “overtime”. I could go off on a tangent here so I’ll just say small business owners are not rolling in it and we do this because we BELIEVE in what we are creating. We work stupid hard to create something where there was nothing and in a time that is not supportive AT ALL to small companies. So if you care about a small business support it and be kind to the owner who is exercising courage daily. 🙂 Is Aerial Dance stable. YES. And know that every dollar you choose to spend with us is appreciated and helps me keep our community available to you and the doors open.