I find my creative passion through real life experiences. I love to tell stories with my dance pieces and truly motivate audiences to feel the passion behind our stories.
Candy Dennis is an inspiring entrepreneur who has successfully owned and operated her dance studio for the past 16 years. Having a passion for dance at the early age of two, she knew that she always wanted to pursue dance as a career. Candy graduated from Dean College with highest honors and a degree in Dance and then continued her education at Salem State University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in the field of exercise science.
Candy Dennis continued to receive many certifications in the field of dance and fitness shortly after graduation and throughout the past 16 years of her career. Some of her great achievements are: passing the exam certification membership for Chicago’s National Association of Dance Masters, becoming certified in group and personal fitness training from American Fitness Association, as well as being the first in her area to receive a certification in Rhythm Works Dance program. Her certification in Rhythm Works Dance Program allows her to teach dance to students on the spectrum and with many other learning challenges.
Candy Dennis has a passion not only for dance but also for holistic bodywork. Candy has just passed 450 hours of massage therapy classroom work from U.S. Career Institute and is looking to further her passion in this field by attending school for clinical body work. She hopes to bring relief and joy to those in hospice care with her love of holistic healing and body work.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
When I started my own dance school 16 years ago, I started with the name Candy’s Dance & Fitness Academy. After many years I did not feel comfortable with my name being the forefront of the business. The sole reason for this was that I wanted a dance studio where everyone could feel like it was their own. With my name being front and center I felt that sense of pride could not happen.
One night my husband and I were sitting and brainstorming about the new name for my dance school. I expressed to him that I wanted it to be an exchange of dance styles and something new and revived. I also expressed that it had to have the word dance in the name. My husband, being not much of an artist, just listened to me explain my thoughts and then he said “I got it! Revive Dance Xchange!” This was a moment I will always cherish and remember. It was at that moment we developed a wonderful name that could be loved by so many. Most of all, clients could make this name something special to them. I never wanted my studio to be all about me but instead about the collaboration of many artists.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My days are always very long and jam-packed with group classes, private sessions, fitness coaching, being a wife to my husband and mama to my two girls, working out, and dance training to keep me fit for my students.
My day typically starts at 6am with getting my kiddos and myself ready for the day. By 7am I am leaving my house to do school drop off and meet my dad for breakfast. I always cherish this little moment I can be with him before the day really gets started. By 9am I am at my studio starting my first session for the day. My schedule at my studio does not allow me breaks so I pretty much work from 9am to 10pm without any time for myself. I usually leave my studio at 10:30PM and home at 11pm. When I arrive home, I am always greeted by my amazing husband with a tea in hand. Then I get ready for bed and start my day all over again the next day. Weekends are when I get some extra dance training in for myself and Sundays are always free for family time. Sadly, this business has taken many moments from my family because it is so demanding, but I always think about how I am providing for my family and it keeps me going strong.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I find my creative passion through real life experiences. I love to tell stories with my dance pieces and truly motivate audiences to feel the passion behind our stories. I completely believe in healing through dance and this is why I offer special dance classes that strictly focus on healing through movement and music. I have listed these classes as Dance Therapy Sessions. In these classes, students can express a moment in their life that has changed them or an episode that has caused great pain to them. Through my choreography I help them express their innermost feelings and help them recover and heal from these events. I do most of my healing through dance and I feel most artists are the same.
What’s one trend that excites you?
This one might shock you a bit. The trend that excites me the most is burlesque fitness! I was one of the first to really jump on board and start to offer these classes at my studio.
The reason I love burlesque dance is because of the feeling it gives women when they leave my classes. I developed a great burlesque class that allows women to feel sexy, confident, and empowered throughout the whole class. I wanted women to know that regardless of their insecurities they too can feel beautiful and powerful. I have been teaching Burlesque for the last 15 years and I hope that this trend never dies for I have seen some amazing things come from this style of dancing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I would say the habit that I have that leads me to be productive is my daily writing of my to-do list. I love to start my day with a list for myself as well as for my employees to accomplish. This is a list I like to use to consider my daily accomplishments. Now why I say accomplishments and not tasks is because every time I check off something from my list I feel empowered and a sense of accomplishment. This little ritual I do every day certainly keeps me productive and on-task with my business.
What advice would you give your younger self?
This right now is a very heartfelt question. What I know today about this world I live in and how I perceived it to be when I was just graduating college is so very different. I wish I could say I still have those blind eyes to reality, but this business has hardened my soul quite a bit.
If I could go back and leave a note for myself I would advise the younger Candy to always continue her passion for dance but to stay clear from owning a dance studio. By owning a dance studio, I felt that it took my love for what I do away and at many moments in my life my family had to be second to my business. I missed out on a great deal of my children’s lives and precious family moments. Because of the demand of owning a large dance studio, I lived a life full of worry and stress.
I always loved to teach, and I still do, but I now realize that I do not have to sacrifice my health and family for my business. I can have a great career in this field of dance and also pursue a career of clinical body work too, which I had always wanted to do since the young age of 11. I would encourage my younger self to stay strong and to never let business be your forefront of who you are. I would make sure the younger Candy knows her worth and beauty and that she is worthy of such great things. With God’s strength I am living that truth today and striving for a bright future.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I would say knowing how to chill out. Many people including my husband feel that I do not know how to relax and just enjoy life, for I always have to be working or striving for something bigger.
In truth, I do know how to relax and find ways to do just that. Just put me at a beach or in a zoo with nature and I am so good. I love to do these activities with my family because this is truly when I can let loose and my family can see a different side of me. I am now eager for that simpler side of life.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would bring back my little daily ritual of making to do lists. I really feel that doing this has helped me so much with my business and help keep me right on track. I highly recommend being super OCD! It is great for business-minded people.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I would say the one thing that has helped me grow my dance studio business is good word of mouth for sure. This is why I am so focused on great customer service and always trying to please. This can be quite exhausting and I have learned, after many years in the business, that you just cannot please everyone.
Another strategy that has worked quite well for me is putting up ads on Facebook and other social media outlets. We live in a social media world today and this is where everyone is getting their news from and seeking out what businesses have to offer.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
This is another heavy loaded question. I believe that, being an entrepreneur, there are going to be a lot of failures, but it is how you learn from those failures that will make you stronger and grow your business.
I have faced two big obstacles within my business and I would not call them failures for I feel that is very negative, but I did learn from them and they did change me for the better.
My first obstacle was when my business went into great debt due to my scholarship programs that I offered. When I first started out my business I wanted to offer dance to everyone even those who could not afford dance classes. So, I came up with a great program to help those who needed help and labeled the program the Dance Scholarship Program. The funds for this program came directly from my earnings from the business; no other company or private person helped with this program. At times we might have done bake sales to raise money for the program but 98% of the funds came from the business directly. This program was great but being young and a little naïve I had no idea that I was giving more than I was taking in. I basically was running a non-profit dance studio because I was giving more in free dance classes than I was taking in. I had a big bump in my business and with some help from a great advisor I learned how to get my business back on track and limit my scholarship program so that my business was not negatively affected.
My 2nd obstacle is what I am personally experiencing at this moment in my life: social media bullying. Being in the forefront all the time with a successful business you tend to be the easy target for attacks. In this business of dance, many studio directors face some gruesome situations that almost destroy them emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I just never thought it would happen to me. I let my guard down and became too close to some of my clients and after a while realized that once they were not getting what they wanted from me they started to become cruel. I tried to overcome this with being professional and setting boundaries, but hate had already set in. I was then bullied daily from this small group of dance parents for about a year until I realized this was not a life I wanted to be part of anymore.
What I am trying to get at is that I wished I had someone to tell me right off the bat to never get close to your clients, to always keep it professional and set boundaries. I wanted so badly to please everyone and be friends with everyone and that is not good business practice. I have learned my lesson and I have learned it in a very hard way. This lesson has shaped me into a different person and has reset my goals and passion in life. Again, I do not think of these hardships as failures but as obstacles that were placed in my way to overcome and most importantly to rise above.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
One business idea I would give away is something I have been wanting to develop myself: a new car seat for toddlers. This new car seat would position them in a safe way so that if they fall asleep their heads do not keep bouncing around. Being a mom, this was something that always was on my mind. My little girl could only sleep in the car and when she did fall asleep she would be woken up very quickly again by her head bobbing around. To this day I have not seen any good invention on how to properly address this concern. So, there it is, I guess I just gave away my big idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Recently I went to New York with my oldest daughter to train in dance. This is something I do twice a year. I feel taking professional dance classes and receiving private professional training is a great way to stay current in my field of dance. So, I would say spending money on dance classes. I honestly do not see any better way to stay educated and keep my spirit alive.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I would say MailChimp has been a great tool for my business. It is a great way to set up emails that are professional looking and eye catching to my clients. I would use chimp mail about four times a month to keep connected to my clients. Even now that I have closed my business after 16 successful years I still do private training and the software of MailChimp still helps keep me connected to my personal training clients.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I always go back to this one book: A Child Called “It”. This book is a true story of a young boy who went through some gruesome hardships of child abuse. I strongly feel that anyone who reads this book will develop a sense of empowerment to plow through any hardships they might endure. For if this young boy can overcome what he was put through and still come out on top then we can too. I always try to remind myself of my blessings in life and this is truly what keeps me fighting and pushing through. This book is great for all readers and all communities.
What is your favorite quote?
“Keep ya head up, ooh, child, things are gonna get easier
Keep ya head up, ooh child, things are gonna get brighter”
These are lyrics from Tupac Shakur and since a young teen these lyrics have been inside me. When I am feeling low of all lows I just remind myself of this and continue to keep fighting and striving to do my best.
- Learning how to grow from failures will make you stronger
- Never give up on your passion
- Love what you do but not at the sacrifice of your health or family.