Small Business Story: Beaverton Dance Center Overcomes Risks Following Rebranding

The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Avery Turner, University of Oregon

Small Business: Beaverton Dance Center

Beaverton Dance Center

Beaverton Dance Center is a locally owned and operated dance studio at which I have been a student for twelve years. In the dance world, reputation is everything. Since my studio changed ownership six years ago, there has been a concerted effort to rebrand it. The previous owners were the Billings family and they had named the studio Billings Dance Center. They ran the studio as primarily a recreational facility with very little emphasis on competition. This was perfect for many young dancers like myself at the time who were just interested in learning and getting good exercise. However, this created a reputation in the dance community for the studio that was not in line with the vision of the new owner when he took over in 2011. The new owner just so happened to be my neighbor and a current faculty member.

Immediately after acquiring the studio, he assembled several competitive teams and hired new staff members. Because of my neighbor’s insistence that I audition for one of the teams, I was a founding member of my studio’s very first teen competition team. In the beginning years, our studio was relatively unknown in the competition world. We would only bring a handful of dances to each competition and the style in which we had been trained was noticeably different from the other competition-oriented studios. The new owner faced a difficult time with attracting the clientele that he wanted. Many younger dancers would take a few classes mainly for recreation and most of the dedicated dancers were put off from the teams because they were more expensive, time consuming and required an audition. Although it has taken several years, he has finally achieved a much larger group of students that are highly motivated to compete and willing to spend the extra time and money. In 2014 my team and I were even able to travel to Disneyland to perform. Then in 2015 we went to Las Vegas for a national competition and returned to Disneyland to perform again this summer.

Although the rebranding of the studio from recreational to competitive was successfully overcome, my neighbor still faces many difficulties. One of the main issues that I have noticed is the decreased retention rate of students since he took over. When BDC was owned by the family I mentioned earlier, they had several lifelong customers that were not only loyal to the studio but also the family that run it. When my neighbor took over, several dancers quit, switched studios or significantly decreased the number of classes they enrolled in. I, on the other hand, became a lot more involved and really liked the changes that were taking place. This year I graduated from high school and they always make a point to celebrate that accomplishment with a presentation at our annual recital. Since I was the only graduating senior this year, the owner decided to give me a page in the program for the show instead. This was a very special gesture that I appreciated, however, it made it even more apparent that this was the very first year only one person had stuck with the studio throughout their whole childhood. There are a much higher number of students enrolled every year but fewer that stay with the studio for longer than a couple years. I believe this is the unintended consequence of the rebranding process. Competition dancers are more likely to change studios frequently in order to acquire a broader range of skills. Recreational dancers, on the other hand, tend to stay loyal and grow in a more familiar environment. I hope that over the next few years the effects of the change in ownership will diminish and allow my neighbor to have a more loyal customer base that share his desire for a more competition-oriented studio.

Small businesses face so many obstacles, especially when a new owner wants to change a studio that has been around for decades. I am very grateful that my neighbor, Tony Loupe and his wife Kristi, have dedicated their time and resources to such a difficult task. They have truly created a friendly and welcoming environment that fosters growth and creativity. This kind of family that I feel I have acquired could not have been founded in a larger organization that was solely motivated by money. Small businesses are advantageous in their niche and allow for creativity and personal interactions. Not only are they a necessity to the economy but also to the communities that they enrich through job creation and the education they bestow upon their young dancers.