In Conversation with Brianna Hairlson of Bri’s Dance Place

Brianna Hairlson_Blog Header

Describe your business in a few words?

Bri’s Dance Place teaches dance to all ages, stages, and abilities!

What made you take the leap to start your own business?

As a consultant for a large IT company, I always worked with youth and taught dance on the weekends. However, after 4 years in Corporate America, I felt the tug to finally open my dance studio, so I enrolled in Entrepreneurship school, not knowing I would be laid off from my job at 3 months pregnant. I started teaching pregnancy dance classes and eventually opened my dance studio for all ages, stages, and abilities. I guess you can say entrepreneurship chose me!

What was your background prior to starting your own business?

Prior to starting Bri’s Dance Place, I was a traveling consultant for a large IT company. I received my degree from Howard University with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Marketing and a Dance Minor.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I do believe I always wanted to create my own lane. I’m kind of rebellious when it comes to just following the rules and I like to paint outside the lines. As a child, I was always creative from writing, coloring, choreography, and even making up silly songs. I think it was in me to march to the beat of my own drum.

Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?

We originally launched with Pregnancy and New Mom Dance Classes, so I used social media to invite others into my pregnancy journey by posting videos of me dancing from 1 month-9 months. When we opened the studio in October 2019, I already had an audience and traction from my pregnancy classes as well as all of the work in the community over the years. Our strategy was referral based, word of mouth, giving back to schools, organizations, and churches, and promoting via social media.

We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?

The Pandemic was a whole Challenge! Going to virtual classes, running classes simultaneously, and being drained. I learned the importance of delegation and training others to be responsible. When you start your business, it’s your baby, but you have to trust others to execute if you hire them on, instead of taking back their control. I definitely understand the importance of allowing others to take ownership.

What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?

Receiving $50,000 in grants, services, and fellowships for Bri’s Dance Place in 2020 makes me proud because it shows that we are needed in the community and others recognize the impact we are having on families in the African American community.

When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?

I always ask if you were any flavor ice cream what would you be and why? To showcase their creativity and imagination skills since we work with children at our dance studio. Hiring tips, always do background checks, check social media to see if the values of your business and potential hire align, and have other team members whose opinion you value give you feedback on what they think.

How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

We were only open for 5 months before COVID hit and had grown to 75 students. We ended with 34 students participating in our recital and had to pivot to virtual classes. Not only did we lose students, but were still responsible for rent, utilities, payroll and other expenses with having a physical location. We are currently crowdfunding here.

We are back growing, but COVID-19 taught us to be creative, to increase our digital presence, and to always have a reserve of funds.

What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?

We are growing our digital platform, focusing on pregnancy and new mom dance classes, also virtual classes for students. We are growing in our production to

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?

You don’t have to allow fear to dictate your business because you already have on the inside of you everything you need to accomplish your goal.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?

I would have loved more legal information concerning leases and how to prepare and protect yourself in a pandemic.

How have you managed to stay grounded this year?

My family and husband have allowed me to thrive. They are my support system, so knowing that I’m making them proud has given me hope.

Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?

Yes, it’s necessary. Solo trips and getaways. Ask for help from your tribe. Especially moms with little ones. And schedule your work so you have rest days.

What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?

I danced up until 4 days of giving birth to my first son and am currently still teaching at 6 months pregnant with my 2nd son.

What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?

  • Use a calendar in a phone or write it down.
  • Make To Do Lists and check them off.
  • Limit time on social media by scheduling posts.

What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?

Being a Trailblazer in your industry and creating your business on your terms while inspiring and giving back to others to encourage them to do the same.

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