How DIY Can Trip You Up

It really does takes a village to raise a successful studio after all—or any dance business, for that matter.

Sometimes, DIY isn’t the best solution after all. Getty Images

The I’ll-just-do-it-myself instinct can be strong in anyone with the chutzpah to start and grow a successful dance business. Recently, Rhythm Dance Center in Marietta, GA, was prepping a prop-heavy piece choreographed by RDC and “So You Think You Can Dance” alum Melanie Moore. Studio owners Dani Rosenberg and Becca Moore needed a fake coffee shop logo and label designed in a week, and to save time, Becca Moore says, “I thought I could just design the logo myself. But I hated what I came up with.” So at 11 pm that night, she e-mailed their graphic designer with the subject line: ‘BIG ASK’—could the designer provide a logo and label design with specific colors by the following day? “She e-mailed me back, saying ‘We’ve done way harder stuff than this,’ and it was done by noon the next day,” says Moore, who reports that the design was so perfect that someone working at the FedEx where the labels were printed asked her and Rosenberg where this new coffee shop was located in town.

Why It Makes Sense to Delegate to Pros

Though most small-business owners have probably dabbled in graphic design (or construction, or cleaning or negotiating a contract—you name it), DIY is often not the smartest—or even the cheapest—answer. Delegating work to a professional graphic designer brings consistent design, visual appeal and strong marketing communication. An insurance agent can protect your studio from massive losses when the unexpected happens—accidents, lawsuits, natural disasters—and educate you about the specific types of business-related insurance you are legally required to have. And consulting with a lawyer, at the very least, can save you from any unexpected legal ramifications of business decisions you make. 

After 27 years of running Rhythm Dance Center together, Rosenberg and Moore have a lot of respect for the relationships they’ve established with outside pros. And they’ve sometimes had to learn this the hard way. In the early days of their studio, they signed a contract for a vending machine to live in their lobby, without reading or understanding the contract’s terms. They thought it would be a convenience for students and add a little revenue stream. When it failed to make them money and stopped working, they chose to stop paying for it—and the vending machine company sued them for thousands of dollars. Luckily, their lawyer (the husband of Moore’s sister) was able to help them settle the case out of court. Although they don’t keep the lawyer on retainer, he is now their go-to source whenever they are unclear about a contract or document’s language. 

The Bottom Line

With a student body of 1,100 and a staff of 25-plus, Rosenberg and Moore have by now worked with some of their outside providers for years—whether it’s an accountant or a web designer, an insurance agent or a custodian. “We hired our cleaning person when we built our studio building 20 years ago,” says Moore. “He still comes to our studio every single night. He looks out for us—he’ll text us if a door is open or a light is left on. He’s as big a part of our faculty as anybody else.”

They turn to these go-to professionals in emergency situations and rely on them as mainstays in their studio’s journey. The two owners value not just the skill, trust and longevity of these relationships, but the ability to enjoy the company of the professionals they work with consistently. “Good relationships leave us feeling confident that we can focus on the creative part of running a studio—and leave the other stuff to someone else,” says Rosenberg. “We’ll stand our ground with what we want when it’s creative, but we know there are professionals who do stuff better than we do.” 

Rachel Rizzuto reports on studio business for Dance Teacher and is a second-year MFA student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.