If you were at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Huntsville last Saturday, I know you saw them… a handful of beautiful girls with etheral flame-colored skirts dancing on top of a huge trailer alongside a giant Trinity knot rocket pointed heavenward.
The dancers at Brandan Newman’s Fitness Arts Center in Madison have had a VERY busy month. Charity fundraisers, public libraries, upscale restaurants – they’ve performed all over the place, gearing up for March and St. Patrick’s Day. But March 17th isn’t the only day of the year Brandan focuses on Irish heritage within her business. “We primarily serve Madison area families with children in elementary school, especially those who are looking to have their children learn more about their heritage.”
The Fitness Arts Center opened in June of 2009, after Brandan moved here from the Washington DC area. She had already taught dance for 9 years, and decided to take the leap and open a studio of her own. “I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so it was only natural to become my own boss.” Brandan started dancing professionally at the age of 17 in Las Vegas. In addition to Irish dance, she trained extensively in ballet and ballroom dancing. She also has a B.S. in Elementary Education from UNLV and is a former school teacher.
After she took a breather from last weekend, Brandan took some time to talk to RCM about the joys and pains of being a small business owner.
What is the most challenging thing for you about owning a business?
I find that I have very limited time to do everything, and combined with the physical exhaustion of teaching 15+ hours per week, it’s really tough to go clean my entire facility, or any other issues that might come up. There are many aspects that are incredibly challenging, and trying to find the balance of doing it all is hard. I’m the only employee of my business, so if something doesn’t get done, it’s entirely my fault. Also learning to not take things so personally, because my business is my biggest passion and the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do. If anything affects it, it also affects me greatly.
What is your favorite thing about owning your own business?
I love the fact that I have the freedom of choice to do whatever comes to mind. In my previous corporate job, I had lots of creative ideas that always got vetoed. Now, if I have an idea that might seem absolutely crazy to others, I can still pursue it and make it become a reality. I have created projects on many occasions, and they usually turn out to be awesome and I’m thrilled they turned out in reality just as I had imagined in my mind.
Now that St. Patrick’s Day is over, what will be going on at the studio?
We also perform year round through out the community, and registration is now open for the summer session, which includes Irish dance classes and American Girl Camp. We also offer American Girl themed dress up parties, as well as Girls’ Night Out events in which we provide 3 hours of dancing, dress up, crafts, hair and nails are done, as well as dinner.
What kind of advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
Know the business side of your business. I’ve known plenty of creative people who are awesome at what they do, dancing, painting, etc. but they don’t have the first clue how to handle the business aspect of it. Take classes, read books, join your chamber of commerce, use the Women’s Business Center, anything! Just start learning about it, and pay attention to it and put time into it. You can’t have a successful business without participating in all aspects of it.
My daughter has been taking Irish step dance lessons from Ms. Brandan for more than a year now, and she loves them! As a parent, I am very appreciative of Ms. Brandan’s encouraging interaction with the kids and the true professionalism she gives her dance school. Her classes have enhanced my daughter’s confidence, posture, and pride in what she learns. And they’re fun, too! – Sherry (a pleased parent)
Try it for yourself and see what all the buzz is about! Fitness Arts Center is giving away 2 group classes during their spring, summer, or fall semester to a Rocket City Mom reader.
Stephenie has worked with and around books and authors for over 12 years, both at retail booksellers and public libraries. She is a rare Huntsville native, mother of two high-energy boys, wife of one, and eerily addicted to community volunteering. When she's not being the Managing Editor for RCM she likes to stalk her favorite authors online, cook with way too much butter, and also manages to conduct freelance marketing and PR work.