In Conversation with Sofia Blasco of The D.A.NCER Movement
Describe your business in a few words?
The D.A.NCER Movement is dedicated to reimagining the experience of dance and mobility for differently-abled persons. Through individually tailored dance classes with professionally trained dance instructors, The D.A.NCER Movement provides the tools, direction, and access which are imperative in enabling the participant to dance, regardless of ability.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
I was saddened to discover just how little representation and opportunities existed for differently-abled persons who want to dance. I knew that I had the skills and the drive to make the dance community more inclusive. Also my mother Shawn Blasco, who is Co-founder and Artistic Director of The D.A.NCER Movement has always inspired me to see the beauty in the differences that people have and I knew that together we could create something amazing, and quite frankly much needed.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I am a graduate of Marymount Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. I am currently still a freelance artist, dancer, and performer in New York City.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Absolutely not! My senior year of college I took a seminar class that was designed around creating our own (pretend) business and I found the whole idea pretty creative and inspiring but I never thought I would actually do it. I really went for it when I realized I had an idea that was necessary for a certain community of people. I knew it was my job to make it happen and I have already learned so much.
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?
I definitely learned from my mentors to get a very cohesive and well written plan together then to make a list of every person that inspires me and reach out to all of them. I was honestly so amazed at how many people respond and are willing to help spread the word and share our mission. Do not be afraid to use your voice and tell people what you are creating, almost always you will find support in that.
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?
When starting The D.A.NCER Movement it was easy to feel like I had to do everything or have the final say, but I had to remind myself why I trusted the people I hired. You will absolutely be making most of the big decisions but you will burn yourself out if you try to do everything by yourself. Hire people you can trust and trust the people who hire!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Graduating college early and starting my own business within that same year! Both things that I never saw happening for myself but when the opportunities presented themselves I ran with them and, while knowing it would (and did) take so much motivation and hard work everything has been so worth it.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
Right now our team is still pretty small but we hope to be expanding soon! When working with someone I definitely ask what they are most proud of about themselves and what they know their best qualities are. I think self confidence is key especially when you need someone to get a job done. It’s also great to know their best skills when putting them with a team and important for each member to have the same ambition to normalize differing abilities.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
In-person dance classes have become almost nonexistent during COVID-19 which has really flipped our line of work. We have been teaching our classes online and while it can be very challenging at times we have connected with a much wider range of students from all over the world. It’s amazing to realize how many people and lives we can touch now that we’ve been forced to go virtual. There’s always a silver lining.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We hope to continue to grow and expand. Along with offering more dance classes for differently-abled persons we want our growth to bring awareness to this unseen and underserved community. In a more distant future we hope to expand the programs to include opportunities that revolve around what it means to be a dancer as a whole, not just specific classes.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
Roll with the punches and don’t be afraid to change your course. The world is ever changing and so are we!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Do not be afraid to reach out to people you trust for help or advice. I would never be where I am right now without the guidance of other Entreprenistas! Sometimes the greatest courses or classes don’t come from college, they come from life experience and that is all around us.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I have had a lot of time this year to think about other people before myself. I am constantly reminding myself of everything that I am privileged enough to have and always asking myself how I can extend that to others.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Of course. As a dancer I have always had a hectic work and life schedule but I think it’s vital to find little things in life that can remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing (I love to journal). Small things throughout the day can change your productivity and attitude and that can make for a better work environment for everyone involved.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
My sister and I started a coffee blog, Hold the Sugar, (just for fun) during COVID! It was a way for us to find a purpose everyday and to stay connected across states (and an excuse to drink loads of coffee).
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Give yourself a clear agenda but also don’t overbook yourself! I need to have a list to check off in order to feel productive but I’ve learned that sometimes I make myself a list that is just impossible to accomplish in a single day.
- Do three things everyday that work towards a big career goal. They can be the smallest things (like an Instagram post or an edit on a website) but knowing that everyday you are working towards something, whatever that may be, has a way of making your entire life feel productive.
- My mom always used to say when I was in school “Don’t panic. We will put on a pot of coffee and get it done.” Just remember that what needs to get done will get done. Sure you’re going to have some of the longest most stressful days in a business but try your best to not stress or panic, find that one thing that motivates you and makes you happy and get it done!
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means I am working everyday to build a better world for the next generation of women entrepreneurs.