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“The best investment I made in 2020”

“The best investment I made in 2020”

How an events business, dance company and experiential agency made it through.

BY Business Chicks, 14 min READ
 

Thanks to our friends at NBN Co

While 2020 was bloody tough, the clichéd saying is right: the lessons learned were invaluable.

We caught up with three brilliant Premium members who pivoted their businesses and didn’t look back. What’s the best money they spent, how did they stay connected to their teams and customer, and what lessons changed the way they operate.

Alisa Finney is a Business Chicks Premium member, the Director of the Melbourne Ballet Company dance school and Artistic Director at the Gay Wightman School of Ballet, where she teaches over 500 students’ jazz and ballet. On day one of lockdown, she registered two new businesses, and she’s run off her feet ever since.

Back in February, I had an in person only dance studio (the Gay Wightman School of Ballet), an in-studio ballet company that toured and performed all over Australia and Internationally (the Melbourne Ballet Company), an onsite only dancewear shop and an in-person dance examination organisation (Australasian Dance Assessment Inc).

The day the first lockdown was announced, I registered two new businesses; Melbourne Ballet Company Online, a new virtual ballet school that would go on to offer 88 classes a week (plus over 50 private lessons a week) virtually for children from 3 years to adults, and an online dance shop. I also registered International Dance Assessment, a global exam organisation. We’re growing every day and now have studios in the USA, Canada and the UK working on our system of training and preparing young dance students for virtual ballet and jazz exams.

I have students from all over the world join our weekly classes and school holiday programs. We post them Melbourne Ballet Company uniforms from Australia, so they feel a part of our dance family which is so wonderful. Geography is no longer a barrier to joining our studio which is so exciting.”

The most valuable investments made in 2020…

Very early on I invested in a great course about teaching to the camera and brought in some incredible guest speakers from the USA and Canada on teaching virtually. My teachers are all now in great demand guest teaching around the world. It’s certainly a very different skill teaching dance online and I am so glad I invested in this training so early on.

We purchased flat screen TVs, moving cameras, mixers, lapel microphones, new computers and speakers in our two ballet studios so we can offer every class both in person and on Zoom.

We needed a fantastic new website for marketing, ecommerce with our online dance shop, and sharing our pre-recorded classes and training videos for both ballet and jazz students.

The most significant investment for me personally was getting a mentor and joining the Dance Studio Owners Association Inner Circle with Clint Salter. This has been the best investment in myself I have ever made. It’s taken my business to the next level, held me accountable, given me incredible daily support in the hardest year we have ever had, and provided networking opportunities with so many other incredible CEOs from all over the world. Thanks to DSOA, I now have 8 amazing sister schools from the USA and Canada.

The biggest learnings…

Growth does not sit in comfort; I am capable of so much more than I realised. I went from a Zoom newbie in February 2020 to mentoring and inspiring studio owners all over the world on how to have a thriving virtual experience for their own students.

2020 taught me to focus on the desired outcome and not the obstacles in the way. Our situation in Melbourne changed so many times that I just needed to keep rolling with the punches and make sure my dancers got the quality training they needed. From restricted numbers in the studio, to outside classes in the parks, to Zoom classes only!

The importance of the right mindset was a huge lesson learnt for me in 2020. I knew I needed to be a strong leader and project a positive mindset to my team of teachers, to my students and very importantly, to my dance parents who needed to believe that it was worth paying for a virtual dance lesson.

How nbn connectivity has empowered Alisa’s businesses…

From our adorable tiny fairy ballet three-year old’s to our professional ballerinas, nbn connectivity allowed me to keep our dancers in training throughout the eight-month Melbourne lockdown. I have loved teaching dance on Zoom and it’s been incredible to be able guest teach in exciting places such as Alaska, New York, California, Alberta, London and more, all from my living room.

 

Rebecca Burns is a Business Chicks Premium member and the Director of Activ Brand Management, a business that relied on large crowds to achieve their client’s objectives. Born out of Covid restrictions, her Brand Box offering is changing the way brand’s provide unique and engaging experiences.

“Pre-Covid we were an events business specialising in face-to-face events. 95% of our work was bringing brands to life at mass public gatherings. Whether it was running events on the concourse of the MCG for an AFL sponsor, or running kid’s activities at shopping centres, it was all about engaging with people in a face-to-face environment.”

The most valuable investments made in 2020…

We ramped up our digital and media capabilities to provide our clients with digital solutions to keep their customers engaged. Launching the Brand Box concept kept dollars coming in the door and conversations going with both existing and new clients.

We also took the opportunity to revamp our website during the quieter months which is something we probably wouldn’t have done if we were busier. So, despite the loss in business, it was nice to work on the business rather than in it for a change.

The biggest learnings…

2020 has shown that the human spirit to help one another through tough times is alive and well. Collaborating with like-minded, complimentary companies has been fun and the centre of the success of our Brand Boxes.

My key learning is that the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, but we will get through it. Being creative and nimble is key to this. That, and turning off the news to avoid the negativity!

How nbn connectivity has empowered Bec’s business…

Without a stable internet connection most of what we have been able to do would have been impossible. We’ve been able to stay connected with clients via many video calls, and we’ve been able to work at home throughout the hard lockdowns in Melbourne.

We had to take our events/activations online which meant building multiple websites for different clients across multiple industries. Much of these was ‘entertainment or education’ focused so required the ability to upload many large video files at once. Something that would have taken days, not hours without the NBN.

Kaama Joy is a Business Chicks Premium member, Business Club member and Founding CEO of The Social Producers, a transformation agency helping companies play a bigger game and tell memorable stories along the way.

“Pre-Covid we had an office in Bondi with team members also in Victoria. We spent a lot of together; meeting clients face-to-face, networking and attending events to build our sales funnel. We also led lots of in-person workshops and personal coaching sessions. Since about 2016 we’ve also had teams working on different time zones around the world, so we’ve had no push back about working remotely for the past year.

We haven’t been together in the same place since January 2020, which is tough, but somehow, we’ve become more productive, more connected and have improved all our key metrics.  We are a transformation agency, so we had to walk our talk and transform our own business process over the past year.

The most valuable investments made in 2020…

We have invested in education, team development and networking.

As CEO the most powerful things I did last year were joining Business Chicks Business Club to surround myself with women in business and an elevated conversation from all the incredible content Business Chicks offered last year. I just kept saying YES to everything.

I also joined Cathy Burke’s Rising Women leadership program.  I can honestly say this has transformed my life and has had a huge impact upon the business too.

The biggest learnings…

Too many! I realised that my whole life had been in preparation for this time, so I rose to the occasion and lifted my game in all areas.  I honestly have never been happier in my life and I am LOVING The Social Producers and what we are up to right now which is a big call at this point in my professional life.

How nbn connectivity has empowered Kaama’s business…

I’m in a regional area and it has been a tricky year to ensure we had good connectivity. Prior to the nbn we invested heavily in wifi until the whole area became overwhelmed.  I use a lot of data as I am uploading and downloading constantly, creating content and participating in webinars, conferences and presentations. Our whole team are now on the nbn in Sydney, Melbourne and Regional NSW and this has transformed how we interact.  If I had to ask someone to turn off their video one more time before the nbn connected them onto a reasonable speed I think I could have screamed! It has finally removed a lot of daily stress for us.

 

For more than a decade NBN Co have been helping Australia transition to a digital future by building and operating this new high-speed, wholesale local access broadband network.

Their purpose is to lift the digital capability of Australia, allowing Australians to have access to fast and reliable broadband. Thanks to NBN Co business productivity and global markets have been unlocked, and our way of working, learning new skills and connecting with others has been totally transformed.

To find out how the nbn network is changing the way Australians live, work, and connect, you can:

  • Use the business nbn solution finder to ensure you have the right nbn solution to meet your needs. 
  • Read about nbn‘s connected community and learn about their nbn stories
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

©2020 Business Chicks

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