How 80/20 Dance was born

Jeremy Ruben. Co-Founder | Business Development & Operations Manager

Jeremy Ruben. Co-Founder | Business Development & Operations Manager

The dance industry, specifically the partner dance instruction industry,  is so very unique. I fell in love with this business relatively later in life at the age of thirty-three (late for this business!), and while I have been thoroughly captivated by the intricacies of various realms of the dance world, I have always felt there could be a better way to do things. I have seen so many dancers attempt to make it in this business and fall short, and I truly believe there is a lack of support for dance professionals who want to sustain a comfortable standard of living in this industry. Following is the short version of the story of how I came to develop the concept of 80/20 Dance, LLC. It is a story of my desire to help other professionals (and myself) be successful by serving their customers in a new way. 

To be perfectly honest, when I opened my first studio, I had relatively little experience in dance. I was a businessman who had a knack for teaching and motivating people to give dance a shot... and I had some serious marketing chops! Ninety-five percent of my dance education came AFTER I opened my first studio. I partnered with a local instructor who sought me out after experiencing challenges sustaining her dance business. I had untapped talent and serious business skills and she had knowledge and skill in dance and dance instruction and was in need of a competition/business partner. Within months of partnering, my first studio venture was underway.

Because I was so new to dance, I was open to learning all kinds of teaching methods. My philosophy of dance changed and morphed as I observed the cause and effect of different methods. I quickly realized there are a lot of traps the majority of dance instructors fall into. Too many dance instruction professionals fail to change and adapt their methods. I have seen scores of instructors struggle for years, doing the same things and expecting different results. I witnessed too many dance professionals "age out" of teaching and competing because their business was dependent on their physical ability to dance. Their systems of teaching required them to dance CONSTANTLY with students. And when their bodies gave out, they found themselves in pretty bad financial situations. I found it interesting that even some of the most talented dance professionals could not make a living teaching dance; so many dance professionals who would LOVE to teach full time can't because they cannot generate a business model that sustains them. I was determined to not fall into this trap. I set out over the last several years to find a better way.

I was never afraid to try new things as General Manager of our studio. I was perhaps a bit hasty in my decision-making process, but many of my ideas resulted in a lot of short-term success. Some of the things I implemented literally saved our business from death by attrition. At the same time, I recognized A LOT of problems with industry norms, and therefore, I committed myself to developing a better way to operate a dance studio, build a dance community, and develop skilled dancers. One of my goals has been to develop a system of operating a studio that allows instructors to be truly successful, because let's face it, without their success, we can never have strong, vibrant dance communities. 

I wanted to find a superior way to help people learn to dance quickly and efficiently. I wanted to find a way to retain dancers longer. I wanted to develop a way to get more dancers to embrace the benefits of competition dancing. I wanted to create a system of running a dance business that offers more longevity to dance pros... a system of teaching that doesn’t rely so heavily on an instructor's physical ability. The four-and-a-half years I spent managing my first studio served as somewhat of a graduate level of education where I was able to test theories and learn new methodologies. I started seeking out the knowledge of what I felt were the most successful dance professionals from across North America. I started looking into methods used by other industries. I spent time studying business models of industries like martial arts, Pilates, yoga, and some of the newest group fitness concepts. I looked into the use of technology to enhance the learning experience. I studied the effects of teaching in different environments. I started experimenting with my physical teaching environment and took note of the results in student behavior and their ability to learn.  I tested different syllabi. I dabbled in different styles of dance. The lessons I learned and the knowledge I gained was priceless, and I wouldn't trade that time for anything, despite the fact that it was an extremely challenging period of my life. And most importantly, I discovered that the dance instruction industry at large operates in what I consider an archaic way, resulting in many dance communities that stagnate in both skill and motivation. I decided to put my career on the line in an effort to make a change in the industry.

I tried to implement many changes into my studio based on what I learned, but by this time our team had grown and my new theories required more change than I could expect an established company to embrace. Putting my plans into action would have required a complete overhaul of our business structure and much effort into learning new methods. I started to experienced the same issues in my own studio that I observed in the industry as a whole... resistance to change, and after nearly 5 years of creating a certain type of culture in our studio, I realized trying to change that culture would have yielded less-than-desirable results. I knew what I had to do to realize my dream and make a bigger impact on the industry. I left my half of the studio to my partner to start over from scratch.

This is how 80/20 Dance was born. 

New Beginnings

This was a bold move. I gave myself a year to open up a new studio. I had no money. I had no place to teach. But I believed in what I was doing and I set my sights on making my dreams come true. Little did I know, my timeline was about to be moved up dramatically! 

A couple weeks after leaving my partnership, I stumbled across a little retail strip mall in Pace, FL with a vacancy. I had absolutely no money to work with, so I considered just passing it by. Something told me to call the number posted for information. I was convinced they would want too much money to lease the space, not to mention, I had no capital to get started! But I called anyhow, and I am so thankful I did!

The price was right. The location was superb. The owner wanted to work with me. Now all I needed was money to build out a studio. With my confidence somewhat waning because of a difficult transition away from my former studio, I was apprehensive to seek help. What I didn't realize was a very important, albeit elusive reality... people believed in me. People wanted to invest in me and my vision. Several people stepped up to become what I now call Founding Members with modest investments. One of those individuals I am confident has changed the course of my career forever.

Ralph Schofield, Co-Owner | Strategy and Growth Manager

Ralph Schofield, Co-Owner | Strategy and Growth Manager

I would like to introduce you to Ralph, the person who is making 80/20 Dance a reality. Without Ralph, all the talent, skill, knowledge, and drive I developed over the last several years would be dead in the water. 

Read on as Ralph tells you in his own words how he came to be my partner in this new venture: 

"I joined Jeremy on his 80/20 mission because of a shared vision. I am a longtime lover of song and dance, having performed salsa and hip hop exhibitions along the Emerald Coast, danced jive and tango fusion at a charity competition, and more recently spent significant time with line dance. But my failure to consistently dedicate to proficiency taught me that some of us need a teaching method that provides students with the drive to keep coming back to the studio, more development per class, more memorable instruction, and encouragement and facilitation to participate in the social aspects of dance. The methods taught at 80/20 Dance are designed with these goals in mind.

As we build our dance community and grow the concept, I bring to the table a career as a Florida attorney and diverse professional education, training, and experience in teaching; counseling businesses on law, strategy, and client relationships; negotiation and mediation techniques for business growth and client satisfaction; leadership and community engagement; and hospitality, event management, and marketing. I look forward to growing as a dancer, business owner, and member of the community thanks to 80/20 Dance." 

Location #1... of many!

I write this entry while taking a break from building out our first location in Pace, FL... Something I have to get back to before our soft opening next week! This will be our first location of a concept we plan on taking to other locations over the coming years! We hope the dancers of this Emerald Coast Region take pride in being part of the beginning of this special journey! I will be documenting that journey as this story unfolds!




Jeremy Ruben