Entrepreneur: the owner or manager of a business enterprise who, by risk and initiative, attempts to make profit.
Parentpreneur: See above, and also juggles the day-to-day demands of parenting, provides income for one’s family and attempts to live out one’s dreams.
Parentpreneurs: How Do They Do It?
by: Jen Wainwright
A single mom of six – she works seven days a week, 11 ½ months a year.
On any given weekday, two children stay home all day, one attends half-day preschool, three attend two different schools, and one needs to be picked up at lunchtime to attend a specialized art school. She must prepare dinner in advance for the sitter to serve while she is at work, and weekends? She works anywhere from seven to 12 hours each Saturday and Sunday.
And she runs a business.
“It’s hard. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I do wonder what it’d be like to have a normal life…to actually sit down to dinners with my kids.”
But the payoff…is pure passion.
Meet local Parentpreneur Jamie Wallace, owner of Extreme Dance Arts Studio in Saginaw and mother to Addisyn, 14, Rielly, 12, Carston, 10, Camdyn, 4, Elyse, 3, and Ty, 2.
Dancing is, quite simply, a way of life for Wallace. Her own mother taught dance while she was growing up, and still teaches at Extreme Dance Arts Studio along with Wallace’s sister. Wallace began dancing at age 2, and five of her six children dance today.
“Teaching, dancing…,” Wallace says, “I guess you could say it’s in our blood.”
Wallace was working at Joan Malone’s Dance Center when Malone announced she would be retiring from the business – and offered the business to Wallace. While she had zero knowledge of running a business, Wallace had ample knowledge of dancing and was more than familiar with dance studios…
Through a note payable, Wallace purchased the studio in 2005 for $50,000 (at 8 percent interest), and sent out fliers to the 230 students enrolled at Malone’s — welcoming them to her new studio, Extreme Dance Arts Studio!
Hip Hop & Hardships
Wallace changed more than the name of Extreme Dance Arts Studio, adding classes continually and implementing direct requests and suggestions from dance families. Over the last ten years as a business owner, Wallace says she’s reached a point where she believes her studio sets itself apart from competitors.
“Every day, I am brainstorming about another way that we can be more helpful, more involved…create an even more encouraging atmosphere,” says Wallace.
Currently, Extreme Dance Arts – the first studio in the Saginaw-area to offer Hip Hop dance and now including an All Boys Hip Hop and Tot Hop (toddler Hip Hop), too — offers classes for two-year-olds to adults, male and female, from Contemporary to Ballet, Lyrical and Point to Acrobatics, and even a Superstars class for dancers with special needs.
Wallace says business is good right now, with over 300 students, but she’s also aware that competition is stiff in the area — studios open and close all the time. And, as Wallace says, “you never know with the economy”.
“Extracurricular activities are the first to go when things are bad in the economy,” says Wallace.
She’s seen it firsthand, having operated through 2008 when plants and large employers were closing, and her student enrollment dropped to its lowest point of around 180.
“I just keep going, doing what I have to do,” says Wallace. “What else would I do? I didn’t go to college, I danced. I worked at studios. I have no back-up plan. This has to work.”
Just The Facts: How Does She Do It?
“I love my students like my own kids,” Wallace says. “It’s so rewarding to watch students grow in skill level and confidence, and get accepted into college to dance…watching them win competitions and earn rewards…watching them succeed. Our students love it. I love it.”
- Wallace works from two – four hours each Monday – Friday at her studio. She works eight – 12 hours each Saturday and Sunday. Her sister and family friend babysit for her, in her home, while she is at work. She takes two weeks off each summer.
- She juggles fundraising orders, marketing, and business details with attending to her small children during the day, and driving her older children to and from school(s). “I get things done either while my kids are eating, or sleeping.”
- Extreme Dance Arts Studio employs 12 people, including a secretary and Wallace’s mother and sister. Wallace says she runs business ideas by her mom and sister, but ultimately – she handles the business end of her business.
- Wallace launched a website for her studio in 2007, and recently rebuilt the site herself through GoDaddy.com. She purchased their $400 web-builder, and pays a $150 annual hosting fee – she said it took her around 30 hours to complete.
- Wallace dabbles in Instagram, but finds the most social media success via her Facebook page with over 3,000 “likes”. She pays varying monthly bills (approximately $40 – $200) to sponsor posts depending on whether she is hosting an event – Princess For a Day, Child in Need (offering one year free tuition to the contest winner, via Facebook), Open House, Special Class with “So You Think You Can Dance” Teachers, Summer Camps, etc. Wallace says she replies to approximately 20 messages weekly from interested customers, and Facebook has been invaluable to her in reaching new customers while maintaining relationships with current ones, and helping to keep everyone informed.
Wallace says she hopes for things to keep going – she gained 80 new students to Extreme Dance Arts this year. She said she has considered opening a second location if and when the time comes, possibly in Midland.
“The goal is to just keep going, keep making people happy, keep bringing people in to our encouraging atmosphere,” Wallace says.
For Aspiring Parentpreneurs:
Wallace acknowledges that being a Parentpreneur can be downright exhausting.
“I’m always trying to balance [family and work]. I do miss games, I do hear, ‘Oh mom, why can’t you be home…?’. But I think my children are learning. They see the hard work I put in, and hopefully they’ll learn from that, and it will pay off in the long run.”
One of Wallace’s daughters, a student at Extreme Dance Arts Studio, is, indeed, interested in taking over her mom’s business someday.
“Out of six kids,” Wallace jokes, “hopefully one of them will!”
Wallace also acknowledges how lucky she feels that her work “doesn’t feel like work.”
“I love what I’m doing,” Wallace says. “If someone has the drive and the passion [to attempt parentpreneurism]…I say ‘Go for it’! But, it’s got to be something you love.”
Jen is a freelance writer, parent to three, and she’s been a stepparent for over 15 years. She is well-equipped to discuss and write about the great, and the not-so-great, details of all-things-parenting. Along with spending quality time with her family, Jen enjoys music, chocolate, camping and relaxing. And laughing!