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Holiday Recital Planning Tips

Posted Monday, November 25th, 2019 by Akada

No doubt fall has been a busy time for dance studio owners, and it probably feels like classes just started back. Halloween has come and gone, and the holiday season is underway. With the holiday season comes the holiday recital.  Recital dates are quickly approaching, so it’s time to put the finishing touches on holiday recital planning in the coming days and weeks.

Double-check reservations

Nothing could be more catastrophic than realizing that something is missing, or a date or time is mixed up. It’s worth the effort to check the dates and times with the venue for rehearsals and the recital.  If anything, it’s one less thing to worry about, so take the time to do it. Also, make sure there will be tables available for selling flowers, check-in and out, and dressing rooms are reserved.

Take care of costumes

By now, dancers should be trying on costumes so any alternations that need to be made can be scheduled. Families should be notified of the costumes, hair, tights, and make-up requirements so they can prepare and make purchases. Order extra tights for those dreaded last-minute runs that inevitably happen.

Finalize the program

Whether using publishing software or hiring a designer, make sure the programs are proofread thoroughly and ready to print. This will be one less thing to deal with at the last minute.

Put volunteers in place

Parents have a lot going on during the holidays, so do not wait until the last minute to ask them to volunteer! Be direct and specific about the dressing room needs, backstage needs and anything else they can help with. Let them know what kind of tasks will be expected, and how best to prepare.

 

Putting pieces in place may be time-consuming but doing the work now will save – or at least help with – the stress later. Regardless, remember that it isn’t the end of the world if every tiny detail isn’t perfect. Dance studios have a big part in creating lasting memories for families, so remember and honor that privilege.

Selecting the Right Costume Company

Posted Monday, September 16th, 2019 by Akada

Progressing through the dance studio year, a dance studio owner must make many decisions. One important decision is selecting the right costume supplier for recitals. Working with a costume supplier business can either make an already-stressful process even worse or a much smoother process. Preparing ahead of time and asking the right questions can prevent a lot of problems down the road.

 

Look for a variety

Does this company have a variety of styles? Do they offer a variety of accessories? Can you get a wide selection of sizes, and can you get costumes for boys too? When there is a variety of students, dance styles, ages and sizes, all of this variety must be considered.

 

Look at the fine print

It is very important to plan and not get surprised by an unexpected bill or find out that something needed isn’t included in the contract. Read the fine print so billing, exchanges, payments, and returns aren’t an issue when least expected.

 

Look for the extras

While reading the fine print, also look for the value bonuses that costume companies offer. A service is being offered, so look at reviews of the company. Check on discounts, customer service options, the turn-around time for exchanges, and any other extra that is offered.

 

Because so much is at stake with the costumes, it pays to do the homework ahead of time. Costumes are a big part of expenses, and if the studio owner is unhappy, chances are the students and parents that are ultimately paying for the service will be unhappy as well. Hopefully, the costume company that wins the studio’s business will be a company that deepens and grows a relationship for years to come. 

Energizing Fall Enrollment in Your Dance Studio

Posted Tuesday, August 13th, 2019 by Akada

Hopefully, the summer brought a newfound sense of energy and excitement for studio owners and staff as fall approaches. Soon the studio will be back in full swing of classes with a mix of new and returning faces. Enrollment stress is real though. Many studio owners nervously watch to see if the classes offered get filled. There are two kinds of students: retained and new. Here are some tips to make sure both types of students are being reached and the buzz of a new season stays energized.

Energizing retained students

Retaining students means showing your appreciation and making them feel like they belong.

  • Start with a bang! Plan some fun events, like a back-to-studio water balloon fight and picnic or a min-fair at a park.
  • Give incentives, like a referral discount to families who bring in new students.
  • Offer an enrollment period for returning students before opening enrollment to the public. 
  • Engage with students – get their feedback, listen to their ideas, and always thank them.

Earning new students

New students are earned by having a stellar reputation and offering something of value to them. 

  • Offer a free trial class.
  • Offer shorter commitments. Maybe some new families aren’t sure they want to lock into a long contract.
  • If these students don’t enroll, reach out to them later with free tickets to one of the shows. 
  • Make sure every student is welcomed by teachers, every time. If they feel appreciated, they’re more likely to return.

 

Overall, show that you love your studio and everyone in it. Be enthusiastic and welcome people with genuine care. Emphasize to the staff that this care is also expected by them because everyone has a part to play.  By striving to make students feel like a family, the fall return could feel more like a fun family reunion, without embarrassing relatives! 

2019 Scholarship Recipients

Posted Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 by Akada

Ballet Hawaii, Honolulu, HI – This money will help with our Angel Program. We supply buses to underserved schools to bring the school children to see our annual Nutcracker performance free of charge with the Hawaii Symphony, professional principal dancers and the Ballet Hawaii Ensemble. We also invite Social Agencies and military children that have a parent deployed. Thank you for letting us apply for these funds for our Angel Program.

Kennedy Dance Theatre, Houston, TX – We would use these funds to help students who can’t afford to dance to go towards their tuition. We have several families that were greatly impacted by Harvey that are still in the recovery stages and could use the help towards tuition. We appreciate your consideration.

Variations Dance Studio, Auburn, AL – We strongly believe in the importance of creating opportunities to provide exposure to the arts. We feel many times these opportunities can result in positive life-changing experiences. The faculty at Variations Dance Studio is striving to expand our outreach efforts this season by introducing a sensory-friendly Nutcracker performance through our Graceful Gift Foundation. We have partnered with many area organizations to initialize arts outreach and performance opportunities. We would utilize this scholarship to support some of those organizations to be able to easily transport their students/participants to attend the performance. In years past, we were able to provide transportation to every area 1st grader to attend at no cost. In addition to helping with transportation costs, we are hopeful that this scholarship could allow us to stream the performance to organizations that have children/participants who cannot easily attend due to obstacles with medical challenges. For more information about our cause, please visit our site www.GracefulGift.org or www.GracefulGiftBook.com. Thank you for your consideration and for providing this opportunity.

Colts Neck Dance & Performing Arts Academy, Colts Neck, NJ – Colts Neck Dance would like to apply for a scholarship for our student Scarlett. Scarlett is a Leukemia survivor who has been cancer free for approximately 3 years! After undergoing strenuous cancer treatments her doctors never thought she would be able to accomplish such great strides in dance. They felt the effects of chemotherapy would be too much on her body physically. But she continued to dance even while under treatment. Well, she absolutely proved them wrong! On June 9th, Scarlett performed in over 15 numbers in one day at our annual recital. She dances over 13 hours per week as well as being an integral part of our assistant teacher work/study program. We salute Scarlett for her bravery, drive, and determination to be the best she can be!

Barton & Williams School of Dance, Stafford, VA – I don’t know if this is specifically for dancers, but it’s worth a shot. One of our front desk staff, Tracey Hughes, who uses Danceworks on a daily basis is currently battling 2 kinds of cancer. She gets chemotherapy every Monday, but yet still manages to come in to work the desk at our studio by Tuesday. Her daughter danced here for years growing up and now teaches for us, so they have been a part of our dance family for decades. All the dancers love Ms. Tracey, and she is very open with them about why she has a new headwrap or bandage. On top of all that she is the most positive person I know and such a great worker. She has no insurance and it would be such a help financially for her. When I sat down to apply and thought of which dance family would benefit the most, she came to mind first, so I hope you consider it even though it’s not the ordinary use of the funds I’m sure. If our studio received the scholarship, we would donate it to our amazing Ms. Tracey!

Dance Impressions by Ryan, Vermillion, Alberta (Canada) – We have a relatively very small school (100 dancers) in a very small town (4500 people) in rural Alberta, Canada. Amazingly enough, 3 of our dancers age 9-10 auditioned and were accepted for a position on Team Canada Dance Children’s Team, and 1 of our dancers age 13 auditioned and was accepted for a spot in the Junior Division of Team Canada Dance. These 4 students will be traveling to compete at a World Dance Championship representing Team Canada in Germany in November 2019. We think this is huge in accomplishment for any dancer, but the fact that we have 4 dancers from our tiny school, from our tiny town is absolutely incredible!!! It is prestigious, but it does come with a cost. I am so proud of them, but unfortunately, I don’t have a large school with the financial ability to be able to donate funds to these dancers to help them get there. If we were chosen to receive the Scholarship, I would use the funds to donate $250 to each dancer to send them off to Worlds! What an opportunity of a lifetime!

Rhythm-N-Jump Dance Academy, Clair Shores, MI – Thank-you for giving us all this scholarship opportunity again this year. We love your Company and your product and what a great way for you to give back! I would like to nominate one of our Company Dancers, Skyler Salgot. Skyler has been dancing with us for 8 years now and will be a Senior next year. She is a beautiful dancer and someone that our young dancers look up to. 2 years ago Skyler’s father was diagnosed with throat and lung cancer. Last night on her last night of class before our Recital we had to pull Skyler out of class because her dad, who is in the hospital, had been moved into the ICU. This amazing family has been through so much in the past 2 years, emotionally and financially. One of the big concerns is how they will ever pay for Skyler’s senior year of dance. This money would help them out so much. Please consider Skyler for this awesome scholarship. 

Taylor Academy of Dance, Wake Forrest, NC – We have 2 very talented sisters who started dancing at my studio 4 years ago. They both love to dance but are at the point where they need to take more classes to continue to develop as dancers. They are both excellent students who are always willing to help others. It is heartbreaking because even with sibling discounts and tuition discounts they are struggling to pay tuition. Both girls dream of being in our dance company so they could dance more, but they just can’t afford it even with the studio giving them multiple discounts. I know there has been a discussion about one sister quitting so the other can dance more which is very upsetting given the fact that they both truly love to dance. Both girls would be so appreciative of any help towards furthering their ability to dance more and at the level they belong. Thank you for your consideration! Sincerely, 

Elizabeth’s Dance Expression, Williston, ND – One of our dancers has been with us since the age of 8 and was a competitive dancer for the first time during the 2017-2018 year. During the year her mother, a single mother of four, was diagnosed with melanoma. When auditions began for the 2018-2019 dance year, funds were not available for her to continue dancing. She has remained a dear part of Elizabeth’s Dance Expressions despite not dancing with the studio. She still attends competitions in support of her former dance mates, and even volunteers at studio recitals. Since the time of her diagnosis, her mom’s health has taken a turn for the worse. Her mother remains on hospice care in her home and has been given an 8-10 month diagnosis. This spring her sister, 20, has reached out to the studio to see if she can return to dance, as she just craves dance and hasn’t been the same girl since not participating. When their mother passes, her sister plans to seek custody of her and wants her to do the thing she loves the most, dance. As a studio we are willing help the family in any ways possible, but the extra funds would help cover competition costs, costumes, and even basic dance and personal needs.

Art Beat Dance Center, Cedar Park, TX – The funds will be used to pay our instructor for our Dance for Parkinson’s Program. Every week, we teach FREE dance classes for patients with Parkinson’s Disease and their caregivers. Over the last 15 years, dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s have stimulated research at major universities around the world, indicating that the academic medical community acknowledges the potential benefits of dance for people with Parkinson’s Disease. These studies have shown that dance classes can improve balance, control of movement, and overall mode. Many participants report feeling strong, uplifted, and empowered! Art Beat’s Dance for Parkinson’s classes tailor movement in a way that allows the students to receive all the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of dancing. The participants are encouraged to explore movement and music in ways that are refreshing, enjoyable, stimulating and creative. Students stand or sit during the class. Every class uses elements of narrative, imagery, music, and community to develop artistry and grace while addressing such PD-specific concerns as isolation, balance, flexibility, and coordination. We offer Dance for Parkinson’s class once a week at the studio as well as take it out to several assisted living facilities every week to provide Dance for Parkinson’s classes in the community. The classes are offered free to the patients, their family members, and their caregivers. We currently do not have any funding to support this program. The funds from Akada would provide classes for 6 months and over 360 patients living with Parkinson’s Disease.

 

Get Pumped! It’s Conference Time!

Posted Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 by Akada

Attending a dance teacher’s conference can be overwhelming, even for a seasoned dance teacher. They can also be fun and so educational. Dance teachers, studio owners, and studio managers can walk away from a conference completely inspired and refreshed, with re-ignited passion to bring to the studio and students they serve. Here are three reasons why it makes sense to attend a dance conference.

A break from the humdrum.

It has been a busy year. It has always been a busy year. Getting away from the studio, maybe even out of state and out of a normal routine can be the break a studio owner or teacher needs to refresh. That in and of itself is worth the trip!

Meet the experts.

Expos bring in everyone from business experts, choreographers, master teachers, and more. By attending, the teacher becomes the student, and wouldn’t that be a nice change of pace!

Find your passion again.

Dance conference seminars are available to give you ideas, inspiration, and know-how to make a plan for your best year yet. It’s a great place to network, meet others who understand what you go through, and find support. The best part is that dance conferences have something for everyone, from new and seasoned teachers, administrators, and business owners. 

 

Akada is pleased to announce our sponsorship of the Dance Teacher Summit in Long Beach, California from July 26-28, 2019, and August 1-3 in New York; the Dancelife Teacher Conference from July 19-21 in Atlantic City, NJ; and the Dance Teacher Web in Las Vegas from July 29 through August 1. Come get refreshed, learn something new, get inspired, and stop by to say hello!

Dance Registration Tips!

Posted Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 by Akada

The summer wane is no surprise to most dance studios. As recitals come to completion, it can often feel like suddenly your dance studio is empty, and maybe even feels lifeless. Break out by ramping up your summer and fall registration with these five tips.

Reach out to your current students.

Sometimes students and parents get busy and forget to register. Make sure they know how important they are to your dance studio and make them feel like family. Send a personalized postcard, email, or phone call to express that you miss them. They will likely appreciate the warm gesture, and even if they don’t re-register, they may refer others.

Create buzz around new programs. 

Sometimes people need an exciting change outside of typical ballet, tap, and jazz classes. Work with your teachers and get ideas from your students about the various kinds of classes that may interest them. Decide what to offer, announce the registration dates, and watch your classes fill up when they open. Students and parents alike will be excited about the changes.

Get ready to spend money to make money.

Using paid advertisements on Facebook can help you reach audiences who may not otherwise see your posts. Your budget doesn’t have to be high. Make your call to action specific and boost posts that get a lot of feedback and shares. You want your message to go beyond your current students and faithful families to reach those who would love to take your classes – they just don’t know it yet!

Offer registration incentives.

Move people to register early with timed discounts, like a percentage off if enrolled by this date. Offer a drawing for discounted tuition for a month for everyone who registers. Offer a gift card to families who convince their friends to sign up for a class. Get creative and be sure to promote your valuable prizes on Facebook. When you announce winners, share their happy reactions as well.

Structure performance company placements to include registration.

When students audition for performance companies, require registration for future classes upon acceptance. Not only will you encourage your classes to fill up, but it could also help keep students motivated during breaks if they know what to expect of future classes. 

 

By planning and getting creative about what your studio offers, you will keep families engaged, involved, and spreading the news about the wonderful things your studio does for their children. After all, their word of mouth is some of the best marketing you can get!

Five Ways to Boost Summer Enrollment

Posted Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 by Akada

When the temperature rises, enrollment in dance studios tends to fall. Whether families are taking a vacation or just taking a break, this swing can cause cash-flow challenges. Thankfully, strategizing and creativity can help prevent cash-flow problems that occur during the summer for dance studio owners. Here are five ways to ease the burden and keep enrollment steady.

 

Do something different

Even the most committed students sometimes need a change of pace. Consider themed camps and shorter classes that focus on the fun. This may also attract new students looking for something to do during the summer.

Be flexible

Offering a mix of classes with relaxed rules for enrollment allows families to take a class one week and go on vacation the next. Studio teachers may also enjoy the break from full-time classes, which helps them feel refreshed and ready to teach.

Appeal to the youngsters

Weekly themed classes for the younger dancers with a mix of dance, crafts, and fun will keep them – and their parents – happy and ready for more. Use popular movies, books, or shows for themes to really get their attention. 

Focus on Technique

Near the end of spring, ask students what their summer goals are. Have an open and honest conversation about improvement and offer the opportunity to take steps toward those goals over the summer. Technique intensive classes will help students work toward goals and create a buzz for the fall.

Rent the space

If the studio is short on teachers for the summer, or the owner needs a break, there is the option of renting the space for fitness classes. Whether it’s for special needs, senior fitness classes, or as an indoor play center to give parents and children a break from the heat, renting the space could be a low-stress way to bring in money. 

 

Every student looks to create a perfect summer, so get creative and partner up with them. Not only will the studio get used and summer won’t be as lean, but as a dance studio owner, you will have a part in creating fun and lasting memories for the families in your community. 

What’s next for your studio in 2019?

Posted Thursday, January 31st, 2019 by Akada

Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Whether wishes are personal or for business growth, without planning, they just remain as wishes. If you have big wishes for your dance studio, now is a great time to look back, look at the present, look ahead, and plan for the year.

Evaluate the past.

What has been working? What was successful? What did you consider a failure? These are basic questions that can help you reflect and evaluate the action you’ve taken over the past year. Maybe you remember that recital costumes were a mess and a huge stressor. Maybe your Nutcracker performance went off without a hitch because you used a new tool for tickets. The most important reason to look back is to learn from the past.

Observe the present.

Just like reflecting on the past, observing the present helps you determine what is working and what isn’t. What are some of the strengths for the studio? What are some areas that could use improvement? Is your staff focused on growth, or just barely staying afloat? At the end of the day, are you energized or exhausted by your studio?

Look ahead.

After reflection and observation, narrow down goals. If there is an area to improve, be specific about what will improve it, and write down the steps to make it happen. Just remember that your goal is your wish and wishes take work.

Make the plans.

At this point, use a calendar and checklist and start making a plan that includes specific tasks and deadlines. Communicate plans with the staff, and make sure they really understand the bigger picture of the studio. Delegate what you can, use tools that work for you and keep you and your staff on task.

Whether your studio is large and established, or small and new, yearly planning is critical to keep the studio running smoothly and instill confidence with your dance students and their families. A family may be less likely to invest in classes if the studio is chaotic and unorganized. Having plans in place is a great way to reduce the chance of anything negative happening and will help you focus on everything good that is happening instead.

25 Year of Akada – Our Story

Posted Friday, January 25th, 2019 by Akada

Akada Software was founded in January 1994 by Dale and Suzi Roedger in Sarasota, Florida.  Suzi was managing the dance studio where her daughter Amy-Kate danced. At the time the studio was using an out-of-date DOS (anyone remember that?)  program that was difficult to use and offered poor technical support.  Suzi grew so frustrated with the program she was using that she asked Dale to help find a new solution. Dale had worked for years as a programmer and at the time  was running a successful hardware and software consulting company providing software solutions to local businesses. Dale researched available products but found that they all lacked major features dance studios needed — and none were Windows-based programs.  So he drew up a specification for a Microsoft Access-based program and began to build what would become DanceWorks. Just like that, Akada was born!

After DanceWorks was introduced, Suzi began running the customer support side of the business, consulting with the early customers to solve problems, better understand their needs, and sometimes just catch up like old friends. As sales increased, Amy-Kate would spend her summer working on demonstration packages, labeling, and shipping CDs to new customers. For the next 10 years or so, the company grew and at a steady rate — but big changes were on the horizon.

In 2009, after finishing law school and working for a few years, Dale and Suzi’s son DJ approached them with a new vision for Akada. With the advent of smartphones and apps, the times demanded a change to a web-based platform. So DJ joined the company and spearheaded the development of a web-based version of DanceWorks (now simply called Akada). The web application offered many benefits to studio owners by cutting down on some of the technical aspects of a desktop software. There were no more updates to download and no more networking hassles to deal with, and you could access your information from any computer with an internet connection.

A year later, Brett joined the team as a customer support rep supporting both the desktop software and the web-based application. In 2015, with Dale and Suzi getting set to officially retire and hand over the reins, Akada announced the retirement of the desktop versions of DanceWorks, focusing all of our resources on our online application. Now DJ and Brett run the company, with DJ focusing on the product development side of the business and Brett running the support and marketing side.

It has been an incredible 25 years, and we look forward to making the next 25 even better!

(Oh, and about the name Akada — it is simply a combination of Amy-Kate and DJ’s names!)

Akada 2019 Outlook: 25 Years Strong and Only Getting Stronger

Posted Friday, January 25th, 2019 by Akada

25 years! That is hard to fathom, but here we are. Akada started as a small home office business and grew to where we are today with seven full-time employees in two offices providing services to dance studios in all 50 states, Canada — and even a few in Australia! And we couldn’t have done it without you, our incredible customers. All of Akada’s success has been completely organic and through word of mouth — in fact, we didn’t hire our first salesperson until this past year.

That’s not to say that we can’t always get a little better. In December we surveyed our customers and received a lot of great feedback. We have listened and, more importantly, are ready to take action. So, in 2019 be prepared to see and hear a lot more from us. Below are some ways that we are looking to give back to you and areas of improvement that we will be focusing on this year:

  • Referral Program – Word of mouth is the best advertising and what Akada was built on. But now we want to incentivize that.  Starting now, when you refer someone to Akada and they put your studio name in the promo code box at sign-up they will receive their first 90 days free. Once they become a paying customer we will credit your studio for 3 free months.

  • Scholarship Program – In 2018 we launched our scholarship program for the first time, and it was the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done. But we think it can be a little better. So this year we will be moving up the timeline a bit so that we can announce our winners in June. We feel like this will help both the students and studios plan ahead a little better for the fall.
  • Trade Shows – We sought your input on where you’d like to see us this year, and it all came back pretty spread out. So that is what we’re going to do. Spread out!  We are already booked for the Dance Teacher Web and DanceLife Teacher conferences, and in the fall you’ll see us at multiple UDMA shows. We are also excited to announce that we will be a title sponsor of the Dance Teacher Summit in Long Beach, Ca and New York City — and the best part is we’ll get to invite some guests!
  • Education – One of the most frustrating things we face in supporting customers is having a long-time user tell us they aren’t using a feature because either they didn’t understand it or were afraid/didn’t have time to call and ask about it. We want to change that! Starting in February we’ll be starting a series of webinars focused on a function that is specific to the dance calendar. February’s topic will be ordering costumes, and then in March we’ll talk about planning for the upcoming summer and fall. We’ll be sending out emails with more details as we get closer.
  • The Studio Interface – We are developing a completely new interface that will be mobile-friendly and will have a much sleeker look to it (akin to the more recent version of the parent portal). We hope to have the new interface ready by spring 2020, but in the meantime, we are working to improve the existing studio interface. Based on your feedback, we are working to clean up a few minor quirks and limit the number of clicks required on tasks such as emailing or printing receipts.