Updated: Mar 15
In this new blog series we aim to highlight fantastic creative people who we either work with or admire every week! This week we interview Angélina Jandolo founder of Angelina Jandolo Dance
1. What led you to start up your business?
Ballet has long been a huge part of my life: I had been training from a very young age in France, then went onto to continue my education at 18 in London. Like a great many dancers, alongside the performance work I was taking on, teaching was a way of working flexibly as a second source of income.
It became quickly clear, though, that I was enjoying teaching as much as, or more than, the performance side of dance. Up until that point I’d been teaching for various schools and dance franchises in the area, all run by wonderful women, and I thought “well, maybe I can do this too.”
2. What were the biggest obstacles to starting up?
I started without a penny of investment, teaching four children in a school hall, with no knowledge of how to grow a business: it was quite a daunting idea to say the least. What I knew how to do was to teach dance, and how to do talk to the parents of the children I was teaching, and in hindsight those have remained core qualities in the growth of the school.
But understanding the more nuanced sides of business, efficiencies in particular, meant quite a lot of trial and error. When you’re starting so small, it’s also easy to think of any tiny mistake as being a huge problem to worry about. We have nearly 500 students at the school now, and looking back it’s easier to see how small those problems were, but when you’re starting from nothing and every penny counts, it feels like a far bigger deal.
3. What do you love about your business?
Managing people has been a challenge but one that has been hugely rewarding and led to some strong friendships. There are at any one time about 10 staff working for the school, not including off-site accountants, marketing and tech support – and they’re taking on the stresses (and also joys) of being a teacher, and need support to make that work. It feels good to help them grow – I have a sneaking suspicion that one day some of those teachers will go on to put together dance schools of their own, and I’m proud of that.
Separately of course it’s wonderful watching our students progress as they grow up with our school – I’ve known some of the children since they were babies, and seeing them take to the stage in our yearly shows or ace their exams is something special. Likewise, watching adults find a new confidence from dance is wonderful – I’ll often drop in on a class to say hello to students (as otherwise I spend too much time cooped up in the office) and the happiness they take from learning to dance is particularly striking.
4. Who would be your dream client
Oddly enough, despite being a relatively young business, we already have some students who are the children of various important or high-level dancers, choreographers and dance teachers. That’s a bit of a badge of honour for me – it reminds me that we’re able to impress dance professionals with the work we do, and meet the standards they expect.
5. Where would you like to take your business ultimately?
We now are at a size in the South East of London that almost grows itself: establishing ourselves took a long time, but it feels like we’re there. Of course, there’s a much wider world out there, and while we’ve made small forays into other areas of the city, there’s a lot more work to be done.
We’re also thinking a bit bigger lately about the brand and how else we can get it out there. There’s a few ideas in the works at the moment so keep your eyes peeled for the Angelina Jandolo logo outside of the dance school!
6. Where have you received the most support along your journey?
I have had huge support from friends, family and other teachers and dance school owners. It’s helpful I think to take advice from people doing exactly what you are, but also from people in completely different businesses – they provide much needed insight and help you to think around problems that might otherwise appear to be insurmountable.
I’ll spend a fair amount of each day talking to my teachers in particular. They’re simultaneously looking to you for support, while also functioning as a support network for you, so there’s a sense of balance there, and it’s an important one.
7. Would you consider going back to employment for someone else now?
I think it would be tough – you learn to be accountable for yourself, and to trust your instincts, and ultimately you start to get an idea of the way you think things should be done. It’s hard to ease back into employment under a different set of rules after that I think. Somedays I still end up ‘working for the school’ in a way that’s reminiscent of my early days starting out – I’ll still cover lessons that my teachers can’t do, or teach privately, and it reminds me to stay a little more grounded and take note of my teachers’ perspectives carefully.
8. What do you consider the key skills a small business person must have?
Organisation is key. You can do a lot by ‘winging it’ when you start out, but it’ll come back to get you as you grow. Getting processes in place early means that you can scale that as you scale the business, and that’s crucial to stop yourself from going mad.
Being able to step away is a big one – a small business is so much a part of you that you take every hit personally, and you lie awake thinking about the changes you need to make, whether positive or negative. If you can’t leave that behind for a few hours every day, you’ll lose sight of what you’re doing all of this for – fulfilment. What’s the point in being successful if you feel unable to enjoy it?
Being decisive is a third huge boon to any small business – you should obviously be considered in your choices, but being able to decide on a direction and sticking to it is incredibly important. On any given day there’ll be people trying to persuade you to take different routes with the business so you need to know your own mind and be confident in your decisions.
9. Have you been influenced by any business books or blogs recently?
Oddly enough its not something that I’m too invested in – I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by successful business owners, entrepreneurs and consultants for various sectors so I have quite a lot of advice from people I can trust if I need it.
Dance schools are quite quirky businesses to run so a lot of advice (other than the very obvious) tends to not apply to the nuances of what I need to learn, and that’s in the case of anything from accounting to marketing. There’s a significant amount of figuring out things for yourself, which is tiring but rewarding.
I read a huge amount, but that’s for my own wellbeing as opposed to for business purposes.
10. What would your top tips be to anyone considering starting their own business?
I would keep it succinct in terms of tips:
Is there demand for what you’re doing, or are you reasonably sure you can create demand? Make sure you understand this early on.
Do you know why businesses in your sector have succeeded or failed? If you don’t, find out before you make any grand plans and try and be honest about why your business will likely succeed, and how it could potentially fail.
3. Be ready to take risks. The school was in profit from year one, but I was aware that that could change at any time. You’ll find a way to make it work, but the more accepting you are that stress might rear its head the more you’ll be able to cope without panicking.
11. Do you think networking is important for your business?
There are huge upsides to networking, of course, and from my perspective it has yielded a huge amount of opportunities.
To get the best from it, though, you need to be able to spot events that will bring you into contact with the right people – it’s easy to sign up for generic networking evenings for instance and realise you’re absolutely in the wrong crowd.
As with all things, ensuring you’re spending time with the people who will add to your life is crucial, and removing the unnecessary elements of that is just a good lesson in efficiency. So stick to ones that are relevant in a specific way: shared goals, location, customer demographic.
But when you get good at that, yes – talk to people in your sector, your industry, and in services too. They all have things to offer from advice to direct help, and you’ll be surprised quite how much you’ll be able to offer in return, too. Part of growing a business is understanding its worth to others, and networking helps you to realise that I think, which is incredibly valuable.
Thanks so much for taking part in this interview Angelina.
To contact Angelina Jandolo
Don't miss reading more in the 'Have you Met?' series
Interview 18- Maddy Carrick
Interview 17 Anja David
Interview 16 -Bridget Daley
Interview 15 -Karen Arthur
Interview 14 -Rebecca Trowbridge
Interview 13 -Angélina Jandolo
Interview 12 -Kelly Harris
Interview 11 -Sara Dalrymple
Interview 10 -Ciarán O'Fathaigh
Interview 9 -Elizabeth Knights Trench
Interview 8 -Aba Edwards-Idun
Interview 7 -Roxsanne Slatford
Interview 6 -Lara Pearce
Interview 5 -Ashanti Jason
Interview 4- Shannon Reed
Interview 3 -Claire Connor
Interview 2 -Becca Teers
Interview 1 -Cat Bateman
Singing for my Supper
If you enjoyed reading this article and maybe others I've written, found a tip that worked for you or learned something new, it would be great if you'd consider sending me the price of a cup of coffee :) https://www.paypal.me/thanksforreading/2.50
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