Business Owners Report: BalléNess Online Dance Studio

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Your name: Megan Berryhill

How many years have you been living life in the Foreign Service?

5 years.

Where have you been posted?

Haiti and Azerbaijan.

Briefly describe your career path:

I have been teaching dance since the age of 15 and have been dancing since the age of two. I attended an arts magnet school for dance and also worked with a pre-professional ballet and modern company throughout high school. I graduated with a degree in both Psychology and Dance from Denison University. After teaching dance classes in my hometown, I moved to New York City (our first post). In Manhattan and New Jersey I continued teaching at various dance studios, teaching dance and nutrition at inner-city public schools, and training with a contemporary dance company.

While we were posted in Haiti I performed and guest taught at a Haitian Ballet Company. After starting to teach my Ballet Fitness class at the Embassy and getting wonderful feedback and regular clients, I knew it was something I would continue teaching from post to post. Although I was very grateful for new students, I missed my old dance students and wanted to find a way to continue teaching and training my students from post to post. That led me to opening BODS: BalléNess Online Dance Studio.

What is the name of your business?

BalléNess Online Dance Studio

Briefly describe your business:

BalléNess Online Dance Studio is a studio offering dance and ballet toning classes for all ages. Our classes are taught live, and in real time online; they are not pre-recorded videos. Clients have the option to log in for group classes or train privately with an instructor. You can virtually take class from anywhere in the world from the comfort of your own living room.

Why did you start this business?

To share dance with everyone in the world in a convenient way.

When did you start this business?

1 August 2013

What makes you stand out from your competitors? What makes your business unique?

That you can virtually take our dance classes anywhere in the world. Additionally, all of our students get sent bi-weekly or monthly practice videos covering steps they have learned and any choreography that they should be practicing from week-to-week. We have found these videos to be very helpful with improvement and remembering dance vocabulary.

How does your business fit into the Foreign Service lifestyle?

It allows adults to log in from the comforts of home, even with children in the background. It also provides children and adults dance classes at posts that do not have dance or fitness classes locally or where it is unsafe or difficult to travel to these classes. This is also an option for those transitioning domestically, as some dance studios do not have open enrollment and may not accept dancers temporarily. BalléNess has year-round open enrollment.

What has been your biggest challenge with your business so far?

Marketing and Advertising. This is such a new and different idea that people do not always immediately understand that BalléNess is a virtual studio.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?

Growing and expanding in over 17 different countries. It is always very rewarding to see students we have never trained in person, grow and develop as dancers from our online classes.

What resources have been particularly helpful to you when you were starting your business?

Legalzoom.com and Wordpress.com.

Which resources do you use to maintain your business?

To host dance or BalléNess Classes: Skype, Google + Hangouts, Fuze (fuze.com), FaceTime, Paypal.com, Legalzoom.com, Wordpress.com, and various social media sites.

Any advice for EFMs thinking about starting their own business?

If you are overseas, it is extremely helpful to have a person you trust to be able to answer the phone, receive mail, and help out if you need anything to ‘prove’ your residency or location of business.

Second, continue to educate yourself. I will never stop learning. For example, I continue taking dance classes, virtual business seminars, workshops on wordpress.com, reading marketing books etc.

Third, go for it! It’s hard to take that first step and remain optimistic 100% of the time. Take baby steps and learn along the way. Keep at it and trust yourself to do what you love. The final outcome (ideally) will be a happy you, earning income, and continuing your career in a portable way that can travel with you from post to post. It might be a slow start but it will be worth it for your sanity in this FS lifestyle. 🙂

Are you on LinkedIn?

See my profile here.

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