Hear from Marguerite Howlett, owner of Renaissance Dance Studio
Located in Hunters Corner, Papatoetoe, Renaissance School of Dance has a healthy roster of over 400 pupils taught by seven dance instructors. They teach a variety of disciplines, responding to what the community wants. It’s very much a community-focused business, which is natural given Marguerite grew up and went to school in the area. In fact, she gave her first lessons just along the road.
The Renaissance School of Dance is a business that almost wasn’t. Marguerite has always loved dance and having studied all sorts of forms, from tap to jazz, to more traditional Ballroom and Latin, she wanted to share that in her community. When she was studying for her visual arts degree, she planned to offer kids classes in the local hall simply for the love of it, until her parents pointed out she’d be paying for hall hire and should at least get that covered. What started as one class grew, and grew, and when she graduated, she was faced with a choice; find a job, or take her growing side business to the next level. She followed her passion.
When you talk about dance schools, too often it brings up images of kids under pressure and dance mums anxiously directing from the wings of a stage.
Marguerite has always done things a bit differently, and while there’s the technical knowledge you’d expect, her dancers aren’t drilled under pressure for competition. It’s about growing confidence and wellbeing, giving kids the power to move, and experience the joy that comes from the expression with a sneaky bit of exercise thrown in.
As Marguerite has grown and evolved the business, it initially was a rather organic growth process, which quickly found a tempo. From taking on staff to cater to
different dance class demands, she has also developed a rapport with the community, and works with the local primary school to deliver some specialist teaching in areas where teachers just aren’t trained. Recently she has been working with the local Spark team to streamline her communications as she develops her digital footprint, building on some of the lessons learned during lockdowns.
Marguerite's outlook is infectiously positive when she talks about every aspect of her business. She still loves the dance classes, but her love for growing and developing the business itself has become another part of her purpose. She reels off quotes from business thought leaders like Richard Branson and Simon Sinek as she talks about her vision for the studio.
Of course, that positivity is tempered by the experience she has gained along the way. The challenges of the last year have seen her make some tough calls. Sadly, that meant closing one of her two studios, but it also saw her find new ways to deliver her services, refine her classes and refocus her energies on delivering on the values that were always an underlying, if unwritten, part of what her dance school is about. When she talks about those key values, it’s clear she’s got the foundations for success that go beyond financial, rewarding her, her community, and her students in so many ways.