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The Business of Making Money & Dance Studio Dignity


Studio Owner Article


How to Increase Revenue and Energize Enrollment

When running a studio business, particularly if someone is just starting out or competing with multiple businesses of the same kind, the marketing of the studio becomes essential as to whether it will be a success or failure. Standing out and making a name for yourself when there are 5 other dance studios in a 3 mile radius can be a daunting reality. How will you bring in clientele year after year? How will you acquire new business? How will your "product" differ and reign supreme over other dance-studio businesses? What is it that you have to offer that nobody else does and will? These are all essential thoughts and strategies that must be looked at over the trajectory of your marketing plan. The idea of establishing a "brand" that works for you and serves as the foundation of the business is key; while counterbalancing that with new, fresh and creative ideas that will liven things up and bring vivacity to the business is crucial as well.

Over the past few years I have guest taught at many studios, spoken to many studio owners and even seen dear friends of mine open their own studios; many of which are quite successful. But how do we quantify "success?" What does it cost to have a thriving studio if the quality of the "brand" is questionable? Now look, we all need to do things at one time or another to attract business that may not necessarily be something we personally love. Let's be honest. But how you remain true to your values in the dance world and still create a consistent cash flow is a fine balancing act to be approached delicately.

All of these decisions need to be given great thought and I have witnessed some unfortunate choices. I have seen studio owners give dancers solos who had no business doing so. These dancers were not ready and unprepared, but they granted the parent's wish (and threats to go elsewhere) because they had been with the studio a long time. Same goes for going on pointe or advancing to another level. I have also seen studio owners bring in "master teachers" (and I use that term lightly) because they were dance contestants on a reality show. How that qualifies them to teach still baffles me. I have seen child-dancer prodigies from YouTube fame be brought in to teach because they are a "sensation" and can do eighteen pirouettes at age ten. I have seen guest choreographers brought in to set company works which are so age and content inappropriate it's unreal….but they are brought in because of the name of the person who's setting it and who they worked with. This allows the studio to become "trendy," "in the know" and the kids and parents love it. It becomes a real coup to have locked this person in to choreograph.

Well…..honestly… there are a million talented, innovative and artistic choreographers and teachers out there doing great things and while I agree that it essential to bring in eclectic, exciting and provocative artists to work with your kids for a well-rounded, professional and exciting experience, there needs to be a balance in terms of maintaining a studio's dignity and credibility. While it might be a quick fix to give into these sorts of things, in the long run, sell-outs never have the longevity or staying power to prove they will be around very long. They are a flash in the pan. They may create buzz in the community and around neighboring competition but that is also short lived. While it's difficult when money needs to come in quickly, viewing things as a marathon vs. a race to success always fairs better in the end.

Allow yourself the time and attention to devise clever marketing strategies and a solid, professional philosophy that produces long-term results and success amongst your students. This will undoubtedly build your reputation for a long and viable future. In the end, staying true to yourself and your beliefs about proper dance training will set you apart from the rest without all the smoke and mirrors.


Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford

Jessica Rizzo Stafford is a native New Yorker and graduate of NYU Steinhardt's Dance Education Master’s Program; with a PK-12 New York State Teaching Certification. Her double-concentration Master’s Degree includes PK-12 pedagogy and dance education within the higher-education discipline. She also holds a BFA in dance performance from the UMASS Amherst 5 College Dance Program where she was a Chancellor's Talent Award recipient. Jess now works extensively with children, adolescents and professionals as choreographer and teacher and conducts national and international master-classes specializing in the genres of modern, contemporary, musical theatre and choreography-composition. Jess’ national and international performance career includes works such as: The National Tour of Guys & Dolls, The European Tour of Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, Salute to Dudley Moore at Carnegie Hall, guest-dancer with the World Famous Pontani Sisters and IMPULSE Modern Dance Company. Jess has been a faculty member for the Perichild Program & Peridance Youth Ensemble & taught contemporary and jazz at the historic New Dance Group and 92nd Street Y in NYC. She was Company Director at the historic Steffi Nossen School of Dance/Dance in Education Fund and in 2008 traveled to Uganda where she taught creative-movement to misplaced children. The experience culminated with Jess being selected as a featured instructor at the Queen's Kampala Ballet & Modern Dance School. She has conducted workshops for the cast of LA REVE at the Wynn, Las Vegas and recently taught at the 2011 IDS International Dance Teacher Conference at The Royal Ballet in London, UK. She is also on faculty for the annual Dance Teacher Web Conferences in Las Vegas, NV. Currently, Jess is a faculty member at the D'Valda & Sirico Dance & Music Centre and master teacher & adjudicator for various national and international dance competitions. Recently, she has finished her NYU Master’s thesis research on the choreographic process of technically advanced adolescent dancers and is the creator of “PROJECT C;” a choreography-composition curriculum for the private studio sector. Jess is also faculty member, contributing writer and presenter in the choreography and “how to” teaching segments on the celebrated For more info, visit her website at

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