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Getting to know DanSci founder Miss Ava

We find out what obstacles Miss Ava had to overcome and how she did it in this interview and just how she manages the work-life balance of being a working woman?

My career has had several knock backs, firstly overcoming injury and having to realise that you have to adapt in life to keep following your passions. I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue in a field related to my childhood dreams, though at the time it was not an easy transition.

Financial obstacles have been a large factor on reining in my dreams. The entire business is built on loans and grants and I had no personal equity to draw upon. This adds a huge strain on day to day operations let alone future plans as everything has to take in to consideration the level of repayments just to keep the doors open. I currently cannot take a wage from the business which obviously increases personal financial strains and relationships too. We may now have employees, teachers and an apprentice but their wages have to come before my own and the development of the business.

First and foremost I am a dancer and a creative person. I have great vision of how I want the business to be and the atmosphere of the studio and opportunities it provides others but I personally lack the business knowledge to achieve these things. It has been a tremendous learning curve trying to understand the business concepts, marketing, employment legislation, etc. As much as I relish new challenges this often 'black and white' areas to the business can be a struggle to comprehend and keep my attention.

The creation of DanSci Dance Studio took masses of research. Converting retail premises and learning council rules, laws, how to talk to various different people in all walks of life that I had not before had much experience of. The most important aspect of the build was to provide a professional dance floor. I learnt some amazing negotiation skills when I managed to convince Harlequin, the world leading dance floor specialist to visit the site and provide a flooring solution 50% below their original quote. We can now boast the same flooring as the newly refurbished Birmingham Royal Ballet. However, I still wish to target MPs and local councillors to raise awareness of our facilities in their constituency and how this is beneficial to our area. Politics will definitely be a big challenge. It is easy to get frustrated when you come from an arts back ground which is continually having funding cuts.

Devon worryingly has higher childhood obesity figures for reception aged children than then the national average. I whole heartedly believe it is important to promote the health benefits of dance to every child and parent. Especially, as dance is a popular activity for children, second only to football. It is imperative that the children of Exeter have access to great classes which are well taught and structured for their age but in a caring non - competitive environment…. I just need to find a platform to express this to a wider audience so that everyone can benefit from DanSci’s existence.

On a more personal note; the finances have obviously been an issue. I have not been able to afford childcare for my youngest who has just turned three years old. She thinks the studio is home as most of her days are spent there, her only socialising activities involve meeting all the different dancers attending. From September she will start nursery for her 15 hours which will allow me a little more time to focus on the studio without feeling like I am either neglecting her or my business duties.

We rely heavily on friends and family to help with the children and my kids do miss out on some of the things their friends have. My son, will not being going on the school trip and they do not have all the latest gadgets and toys. However, I am hopeful that they see their parents working hard, not just for money but to build something for all our futures and that life is about the journey and not just the end result. I am really lucky that my mother chose to move back to the UK and now lives just a street away. Having the emotional, financial and daily support of an extended family environment is invaluable for us all.

I struggle every single day with the usual sleep deprivation, and panic, my house is an absolute bombsite and I have had to delegate, defer so many things just to try and scour back time to spend with the children. As much as I am ambitious and desperate to make DanSci Dance Studio every success. My children will only be small for a short time so it is important to make them the priority. I try to give them my attention and schedule all business hours around their school days. This results in some very late nights of admin and lesson planning. Of course there is always that guilt when I am telling them to ‘shut up’ because mummy is making an important business call, when really I need to remember that the little snippet of information they were trying to tell me was most likely even more important to them. And so, I continue to practice patience and perseverance, luckily traits all dancers have to learn in their careers…of course the scrummy little people cuddles also help dissolve all those business fears at the end of the day!


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