The best investment I made in 2020

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Alisa Finney is a Business Chicks Premium member, the Director of the Melbourne Ballet Company dance school and Artistic Director at the Gay Wightman School of Ballet, where she teaches over 500 students’ jazz and ballet. On day one of lockdown, she registered two new businesses, and she’s run off her feet ever since.

“Back in February, I had an in person only dance studio (the Gay Wightman School of Ballet), an in-studio ballet company that toured and performed all over Australia and Internationally (the Melbourne Ballet Company), an onsite only dancewear shop and an in-person dance examination organisation (Australasian Dance Assessment Inc).

The day the first lockdown was announced, I registered two new businesses; Melbourne Ballet Company Online, a new virtual ballet school that would go on to offer 88 classes a week (plus over 50 private lessons a week) virtually for children from 3 years to adults, and an online dance shop. I also registered International Dance Assessment, a global exam organisation. We’re growing every day and now have studios in the USA, Canada and the UK working on our system of training and preparing young dance students for virtual ballet and jazz exams.

I have students from all over the world join our weekly classes and school holiday programs. We post them Melbourne Ballet Company uniforms from Australia, so they feel a part of our dance family which is so wonderful. Geography is no longer a barrier to joining our studio which is so exciting.”

The most valuable investments made in 2020…

Very early on I invested in a great course about teaching to the camera and brought in some incredible guest speakers from the USA and Canada on teaching virtually. My teachers are all now in great demand guest teaching around the world. It’s certainly a very different skill teaching dance online and I am so glad I invested in this training so early on.

We purchased flat screen TVs, moving cameras, mixers, lapel microphones, new computers and speakers in our two ballet studios so we can offer every class both in person and on Zoom.

We needed a fantastic new website for marketing, ecommerce with our online dance shop, and sharing our pre-recorded classes and training videos for both ballet and jazz students.

The most significant investment for me personally was getting a mentor and joining the Dance Studio Owners Association Inner Circle with Clint Salter. This has been the best investment in myself I have ever made. It’s taken my business to the next level, held me accountable, given me incredible daily support in the hardest year we have ever had, and provided networking opportunities with so many other incredible CEOs from all over the world. Thanks to DSOA, I now have 8 amazing sister schools from the USA and Canada.

The biggest learnings…

Growth does not sit in comfort; I am capable of so much more than I realised. I went from a Zoom newbie in February 2020 to mentoring and inspiring studio owners all over the world on how to have a thriving virtual experience for their own students.

2020 taught me to focus on the desired outcome and not the obstacles in the way. Our situation in Melbourne changed so many times that I just needed to keep rolling with the punches and make sure my dancers got the quality training they needed. From restricted numbers in the studio, to outside classes in the parks, to Zoom classes only!

The importance of the right mindset was a huge lesson learnt for me in 2020. I knew I needed to be a strong leader and project a positive mindset to my team of teachers, to my students and very importantly, to my dance parents who needed to believe that it was worth paying for a virtual dance lesson.

How nbn connectivity has empowered Alisa’s businesses…

From our adorable tiny fairy ballet three-year old’s to our professional ballerinas, nbn connectivity allowed me to keep our dancers in training throughout the eight-month Melbourne lockdown. I have loved teaching dance on Zoom and it’s been incredible to be able guest teach in exciting places such as Alaska, New York, California, Alberta, London and more, all from my living room.

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