Our clients say it best – Dancewise

Alison Jones is the CEO of Dancewise dance school, with branches in Hythe and Whiteley, Hampshire.

Tell us a bit about your business

I started Dancewise in 2005 and now we have a team of five instructors. We’re probably best known for our authentic street dance - we’re in the top five percent of UK street dance instructors. We also teach Irish dancing, ballet, contemporary and we have a boys-only dance programme. Our dancers are aged from two-and-a-half right up to pensioners.

How did Covid-19 affect your business?

We pivoted our business instantly into online. On March 17 at 11.30am – a week ahead of lockdown - we made the decision that we didn’t think it was safe to continue running in-person classes. By 4.15pm that afternoon our virtual studio was launched and we taught classes that night.

At the start we had tentatively told our students we had a plan if we needed it and assured them their training was going to continue anyway – but I don’t think we anticipated then that we would be the first dance school in the UK to move our classes online.

We’re quite forward-thinking anyway so our families probably weren’t surprised that we had a plan.

Our mission is to transform lives through passion and positivity so we thought the pandemic wasn’t the time where we could just do nothing – it was the time when it was more important than ever to make sure we delivered on the mission. People needed stability, and to feel good about themselves.

Although the business changed we found we had 73 per cent retention of our students when we launched online. We like to retain 85 per cent normally so we were bowled over to get that close to it in a pandemic.

We’ve been using Zoom for years for our team training so we were already set up with that. We created Zoom rooms for each studio and sent out guides to our families on how to set up a home dance space. Our teachers tailored their lesson plans to fit into two metre square spaces.

We also produced bonus video content which we uploaded to YouTube and we made an online music video and held a virtual choreography competition. It was get creative or roll over.

We’re now running a hybrid model. Once we had an online studio we started getting students from the North of England, Malta and across the world – so we’re going to continue so those students, and our local students who aren’t yet comfortable with coming into a studio, can continue to learn online.

For those who are ready to come back we have our return protocols set up and are about to start ‘normal’ classes again.

We’ve had some wonderful comments about how continuing to dance has really helped people during the pandemic. One that stands out said ‘Dancewise got it so right’. It makes your heart sing to realise that all the effort and hard work has been worth it.

Our teachers got some lovely messages about their connection with the students during lockdown. From my point of view as the CEO the best thing that has come out of the situation is knowing that all those decisions we made helped our families.

How has Blanchards Bailey supported you during the crisis?

Blanchards Bailey has been helping us with regard to our commercial lease because there’s no precedent for this situation. Covid doesn’t render your lease irrelevant but we’re not allowed to use the building and our revenue has taken a massive hit. But, equally, our rent is how the landlords put food on their table.

So it’s been about liaising with our landlord and trying to come to a conclusion that keeps both sides on an even keel financially and legally.

Blanchards Bailey have been incredibly helpful and an invaluable support. We’ve been working with them since soon after we took on our lease. The last few months in the business would have been very different without having their professional advice.

The world as I knew it with regards to the business seemed totally changed – it felt like everything was off the table because of Covid.

But Blanchards Bailey was able to say actually, no - everything that was already in place remains in place and now we have to work together to try to figure out a situation that works for everyone.

Their knowledge is invaluable – as business owners we can’t know everything about the ramifications of our lease. It’s great having an expert in your corner who can say ‘Consider this option,’ or ‘This isn’t going to work’, or ‘This would be considered fair and reasonable’.

We were fortunate to receive the Small Business Grant and Blanchards Bailey even helped advise on that, suggesting that we ring-fenced an amount.

The depth of advice was second to none. We wouldn’t be without them.

Blanchards Bailey

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