Dance has been my passion for over 20 years. I started dancing at the age of 3, and since I was a teenager I have wanted my own dance studio. I have been a teacher for almost 10 years, and after teaching in several studios, I decided that it was time for me to open my own business. I wanted to be a business owner because I wanted to share my creativity, vision and love of dance with others. So I took the plunge and opened Ni’Cole’s Performing Arts Center. Ni’Cole’s Performing Arts Center provides dance instruction to children ranging from walking age through adult. Specific classes offered include Mommy & Me, Pre-dance, Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-Hop and Adult.

Although I was excited to be a business owner, I knew that I needed a plan. I thought of the Small Business Development Center and contacted Keith Bowers at the SBDC at FAMU. He helped me organize my business plan and look for funding resources. He challenged me with questions about my business structure and how would it operate. Keith assisted me in developing my pricing structure to ensure that it was competitive, realistic and adequate to sustain my operations. He helped me apply for my LLC. Also, he challenged me to conduct research that would help me develop a plan which would allow my business to succeed in the Tallahassee area. The research component was also an obstacle as well. There are several key elements that go into a business plan including the marketing strategies and feasibility plan. These two components combined require a lot of time and research.

The SBDC offered many training opportunities, and one of the trainings that I took advantage of was on social media. The class was centered on how to build your business around social media outlets such as your website, Facebook, Twitter and blogging. This information was beneficial because before the class, I did not see any real benefit to engaging in these outlets; however, after taking the class I realized how important social media is to building a business.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications with an emphasis in Broadcasting from Georgia Southern University. I also have a master’s degree in Non-Profit Management from the University of Central Florida. I have worked in public relations for non-profit organizations, and I also worked in grant writing. Working with non-profits is very important to me. I have been a volunteer since I was a teenager, and I believe that we owe it to our community to give back.

Although I have started a new business, I am still active in the Tallahassee community. I am on the executive board of Big Bend Pop Warner as the Cheer and Dance Commissioner. My volunteer experience has served as strength in business. The community resources and leaders that I have met have been some of my strongest supporters and allies. Community partnerships, however, are not the only tools that I have utilized. I have utilized strategies outlined in the business plan, such as Facebook, website, local newspaper and resources to spread the word about my business. I have utilized my broadcasting background to market my business via, newspaper, magazine, radio broadcasting, and other online marketing publications.

Deciding to be a business owner can be a rewarding yet challenging experience. Some of the rewards are being your own boss, creating a work schedule that can be beneficial to you and your family, and pursuing the dream. Some of the challenges include making sure the business is sustainable in a stagnate market. Additionally, it is challenging to get funding for a new business because many banks are not willing to take a chance on a new business with no financial history.

My advice to anyone thinking of starting a business is to do your homework, implement a strategy, and adapt to the market. There are many tough days but the key is to maintain a positive attitude and visualize where you want your business to be in the marketplace, being a self-motivator, communicator and networking are also key ingredients to keeping your spirits up during the rough times. Opening Ni’Cole’s Performing Arts Center has been a life-long dream and I am so happy that I am able to live my dream each day.