What My 5th Grade Dance Class Taught Me About Starting a Business

I’ve loved dancing my entire life. For the better part of a decade I spent three school nights a week practicing my little heart out at my hometown’s local dance academy. Dancing felt good, it was a release from the daily routine of school and homework, and even at 10 years old I knew and craved that feeling. And because it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t going to make a career out of being a dancer, dance became just that: a simple and satisfying release.

More recently that feeling has re-entered my life in a very different way. This year I launched a side-hustle business called Work It Web, a content strategy and consulting company. I’ve been planning this venture for almost a year and as I got closer to launch, I began to feel about my business the way my 10 year-old self felt about dance. I started coming home after a long day excited to do something fulfilling for myself

Now I’m not saying that being a dancer as a teenager makes you a successful entrepreneur as an adult. However, as I began to think back on my countless hours spent in that Vermont dance studio, I couldn’t help but draw parallels. This has since provided me some comfort knowing that my efforts in 5th grade dance class weren’t completely wasted. Sure, I didn’t become Beyonce’s back-up dancer, but I learned a thing or two about starting a business.

Don’t get caught up in your own reflection.

If you’ve ever been to a dance or fitness class you probably catch yourself looking in the mirror a lot. And why not right? It’s fun to watch yourself doing the moves. As a young dancer, I would easily get caught up in watching myself in a routine. So much so, that I would forget to look around and see what everyone else around me was doing. Then sometimes I would be a beat behind and not know it. Or, my feet would end up in the wrong position and I would be the only one.

When I started Work It Web, one of the first things I did was research the competitors in my space, what they were doing, and how they were doing it. I don’t ever want to feel behind in my business because I’m too caught up in solely what I’m working on. No matter how good I look dancing the routine, there’s always value in observing others.

The solo comes to those who ask for it.

So often we are under the impression that if we follow the rules and do everything we’re supposed to, then opportunities and success will come. When in fact, never once have I been handed something I really wanted by passively standing by and waiting. This reality became abundantly clear as an eight-year-old who danced her heart out week after week and was never given the solo. So one day I simply asked my instructor if I could have a solo part, pleaded my case convincing her I was the next broadway sensation and promised of course to practice till my feet turned blue. To my surprise my instructor didn’t protest, and instead said she was glad I asked – she was focused on challenging some of my other classmates and hadn’t thought to give me a solo.

Despite being young, I realized that my biggest advocate in this world was myself. No one was going to fight harder for my success than me. Starting and owning your own business magnifies this feeling. I didn’t expect anyone to hand me a check and give me business. I knew that I would have to ask for it, plead my case, and convince them I was going to work my booty off for them.

To make it, you have to love it.

As I got a little older, my tight group of pre-teen dance girls began to branch off into their respective categories. Some got caught up in high school sports and extracurriculars and decided their dance days were over, while others thought about a career in dance and went into full on Abby Lee Miller Dance Moms mode. I, of course, fell somewhere in between. I liked dancing more than kicking around a smelly soccer ball, but there was no way I was going to make a career as a dancer. I didn’t love it enough. And here’s the crazy part: even the girls that did love it, and worked so hard, and probably sacrificed a lot for just one shot at making it, never became career dancers.

The point is it, they had the drive and passion I didn’t have. They took risks and made sacrifices because to them, it was worth it. And even though not all of them became prima-ballerinas, they were stars in my book because they pursued their passion in an unforgiving industry. Entrepreneurship is similar, which is why I knew that the business I started had to be something I was head over heels for. Work It Web is something I would make sacrifices for, and work day and night for. If it wasn’t worth it, than I know I wouldn’t have even the slightest chance of succeeding.

Do you have a startup story to share? Comment on this post and tell me about it! 



Meredith Gonsalves

Meredith Gonsalves is an editor and digital enthusiast who moved to Chicago six years ago to pursue a career in media. She has a degree in Journalism from DePaul University and has worked for news organizations such as CBS and the Tribune. In 2014, Meredith launched Work It Web (workitweb.com), as a way to help other women entrepreneurs elevate their business online. In her spare time she is a career and professional development mentor to her fellow Blue Demons. She has had a number of speaking engagements at DePaul on everything from building a personal brand to making the most of an internship. If you catch her on the weekends she will most likely be scouring a neighborhood farmers market, or on another biking adventure with her new mint green beach cruiser.