- Gabriella Palmieri
Dancing Through Life with Kim Leary
Kim Leary of Glen Dance Studio Ltd, has dedicated her heart and soul to bringing the gift of dance to thousands of students in Long Island, NY. Both a creative, and a business minded woman, Kim has built a very successful and resilient business from the ground up. Over the past 25 years, Glen Dance Studio has expanded tremendously. Having grown through two locations, Glen Dance Studio now resides in Old Brookville, NY in a spacious location that many dancers consider their second home. Through the years, Kim's students have performed all over the world, representing the studio at: National Competitions, during the NY Knicks half-time shows, the London Olympics and Disney World. Together under the leadership of Kim, the staff at Glen Dance Studio fosters an environment that turns friends into family while teaching students how to dance their hearts out on stage. Having grown up at Glen Dance Studio myself, I am forever grateful for my time spent with Glen Dance Studio and for the mentorship that Kim has given me!
featuring Kim Leary, owner of Glen Dance Studio, Ltd.
What's your craft?
Dance and Marketing…yes I think with both sides of my brain!
How did you get your start?
I began dancing at the age of 3 years old with a small local dance studio. At 12 years old, I auditioned for Nutcracker with Ballet Long Island. I switched to Long Island Ballet Center to dance more seriously. I took 10 classes a week for years focusing on ballet. Every Saturday was spent at the studio rehearsing for hours with professional dancers. By high school, I was an apprentice with Ballet Long Island and captain of my high school kick line team. I started teaching dance at age 16.
However, I did not major in dance. I surprised everyone by getting a degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. After college, I danced professionally with Ballet Long Island, taught at their school and did all the marketing as the Company Manager. With my marketing skills, the ballet company tripled its number of performance bookings. While dancing, teaching, and booking performances, I travelled into the city to take graduate classes at Pace University. Dance was something I thought was temporary. Eventually I thought I would get a job in business.
While getting my MBA, I made a life changing decision. The realization that the only thing that made happy was dance and TEACHING dance changed my path in life forever. I knew I could do it. I started to create a business plan for a dance studio on the LIRR while commuting to class. I had no idea how I would get the money to start a business, but I had a passion and a vision. A college friend had seen me with my students and heard the passion. This friend came to me with a plan to put money behind me as a 50% partner. We bought Glen Ballet Studio from a wonderful ballet dancer named Anita. It was a dingy one room studio by the Glen Street train station with a handful of students, but it was a start. The studio grew and I bought my partner out. The studio’s reputation and enrollment continued to grow and blossom over the next 25 years!
What has been the largest obstacle you've encountered so far?
If I was asked what the biggest obstacle I faced so far in business was two months ago, I would have spelled out the frustration involved in my expansion into our current space in Old Brookville. It was a financial challenge, required town approval and was all under a ridiculously short timeline.
However, this current pandemic is by far the most difficult challenge I have ever faced. Never in a million years did I think the government would shut me down. Twenty-five years and it could all be over. No recital or money coming in. Rent and expenses are going to drown me!
After a week-or-so of feeling sorry for myself, I shifted gears. We applied for any government support available. I rallied my staff of teachers. We began making Youtube videos and experimenting with Instagram Live and Zoom. We created a whole new way of teaching dance. We closed on March 15th and by April 1st we were up and running 50 Zoom dance classes a week online! We have attacked our social media to continue to stay relevant in our students’ lives. We took the time to handwrite notes to our students and brought in guest teachers. The online classes have given students and teachers a sense of normalcy in a crazy world. The story is not over. Glen Dance Studio will come back even stronger than before.
Check out this video created by the Glen Dance Studio Elite Dancers:
What has been the 'best day ever' for you and your business so far?
The best day of my business so far was the celebration of our 20-year anniversary. Glen Dance alumni and parents organized a party to celebrate the 20 years! As I gave a speech on the microphone, I could see the faces of my students that were now grown and successful. Some were married or engaged. Some were working and others had children of their own. Mixed in between these beautiful women were the faces of my youngest students. Pre-School dancers had become my current teachers. It was a beautiful and touching event.
What types of marketing have been key to your success?
Our website has been our strongest marketing platform. Social media is a good supplement, but the website does the convincing. Referral programs bring more students than any ad I can place. Word of mouth truly is the best marketing!
Who inspires you?
My mom inspires me. When I was a child, she worked full time from midnight to 8:00 AM while also going to college. Our clothes were ironed and laid out each morning and dinner was always on the table. She was able to balance being a mom, a professional and a student, all while having her hair look beautiful and wearing great shoes. I learned from her that I could be both feminine and strong.
Any words of wisdom to leave us with?
Answer the phone! I know it sounds silly, but I have often said that if I ran a small business convention I would stand up in front of that hotel conference room and say “All you need to do is answer the phone!” Seriously though, I noticed one small business after another not answer my phone calls or not return my e-mail. I wonder…do they so busy that they don’t need any more business?!? When someone is interested in your service, get them while they are “hot”. Give people your attention and do not take your clients for granted.
GET TO KNOW MORE ABOUT KIM and Glen Dance Studio:
More about Kim + Glen Dance Studio can be found on:
This is an example of some of Kim's choreography performed by company dancers.
This production number is one of the biggest we ever produced. (Angela Malone and
Alison Farfan also contributed to the choreography.)
This is a tribute to the heroes of 911 choreographed in 2012. It was performed in
London at a dance festival during the 2012 Summer Olympics.
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