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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.

Making the Most of Your Holiday Break

Posted Thursday, December 20th, 2018 by Akada

A holiday break can actually be stressful to the dance studio owner. Instead of enjoying quiet time, thoughts turn to the business and all the things that need to be caught up. Yes, the studio’s health is important, but so is your health, and here are some suggestions on how to nurture both.

First, get some rest.

Give yourself permission to do nothing but rest and recharge. Even if you want to limit how much downtime you’re taking, make sure it’s guilt-free downtime.

Prioritize your projects.

When you are rested and feeling more energetic, start a brain dump of all the neglected projects waiting for attention. As you organize your list, note which items are a high priority, which items can be delegated, and which items can still be put off until the next break.

Check in with the staff.

Breaks are a great time for regrouping with your staff. Schedule meetings, delegate unfinished projects and take time to discuss new trends and dance studio development. Spend some time strategizing. If there are unanswered software questions, spend time with tech support.

Freshen up the studio.

Break times are a great time for cleaning. If you can hire help, get it scheduled. If not, gather some supplies, a few helping hands, turn up the music, and spend the day freshening up the studio. This would also be a great time to donate unclaimed lost and found items, patching paint as needed, and put away holiday decorations in preparation for a new year. Have a to-do list ahead of time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Finally, rest some more.

You just completed a lot of work! Do things that recharge you, spend time with family, take a day trip out of town, or simply enjoy the quiet time.

Dance studio owners put in a lot of work to make their studio great. It may feel neglectful to not work constantly, but your health is just as important. It’s OK to relax during the holiday break so you can start the new year with a renewed spirit.

Fun Holiday Activities for Dance Studios

Posted Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 by Akada

In most dance studios, the holidays and The Nutcracker go together. It’s OK – The Nutcracker is excellent, and it’s a fun traditional winter recital! Everybody enjoys lighthearted fun outside of the winter recital though, dance students and staff included. Make sure the studio continues to feel like a supportive community through the holidays, despite the hustle and bustle. Here are some suggestions to help.

Get involved in the community.

Coordinate a studio-sponsored food, toy, or coat drive to benefit the local community.  Schedule a time for the dance team to visit a nursing home or serve a meal. Set up a gift-wrapping table outside of a busy shopping area. Show the community that this dance studio really cares.

Create fun holiday cards from the staff.

If sending a holiday greeting card is already in the plan, make it a more personalized card with a fun holiday themed photo of the staff. Creating a card can be as simple as using a free online program like Canva for designing it. It may be more time consuming, but it’s also more special and thoughtful.

Time for a par-tay!

The time following a winter recital and before holiday break is a perfect time to slow down, get silly, and have some fun. Host a card or cookie exchange in class. Have a pajama dance party with lively holiday music. Let the students create a routine to showcase to parents.

Host a movie night, lock-in, or parent’s night out.

For a small fee, parents can drop the kids off for a couple of hours, knowing their kids will have a blast, and finish some shopping or just take a breather. After all, parents have a enormous part in the success of a winter recital.

Some of these ideas may take some time, money, and coordination but the effort is worth it to make sure the studio continues to feel like a family. Warmth and engagement matter and families do notice it, which can lead to more enthusiastic students and parents who are happy to refer others.

Recital Preparation Tips

Posted Monday, October 29th, 2018 by Akada

Fall has arrived. The weather is changing, leaves are dropping, and for dance studios, the buzz of the recital is on the radar.  While teachers and students are hard at work perfecting their routines, studio owners may begin feeling the pressure of preparing for recital time. Recitals are, after all, the opportunity for everyone in the studio to shine. Here are four tips to make the most of recital preparation.

Make a plan.

Planning is a given, it’s obvious. However, a plan in place should include the jobs for everyone from teachers to parents to volunteers. Define the roles that should be filled, descriptions of what is expected, and make sure to cover all the bases. Teams can work more effectively when they have specific instructions and tasks. Make sure the team know not only what their responsibilities are, but also when to act.

Don’t forget digital.

Whether it’s advertising for the recital, volunteer sign-ups, or ticket sales, use the tools of our digital age to help. Make sure someone is helping with social media and preparing graphics and content ahead of time. Get sign up links for volunteers ready to share. Also, brush up with software support so your transactions and scheduling go as smoothly as possible.

Reinforce self-care.

Self-care is essential for everyone involved. No doubt dance studio owners are feeling stressed, but so are teachers, students and weary parents who are always working behind the scenes and volunteering. Encourage everyone to get enough sleep, proper nutrition, and doing something enjoyable. Plan for an excellent thank-you event after the recital to celebrate all that the studio has accomplished together.

Visualize success.

A positive outlook is a must. Others will notice a stressed, downcast face. As a studio owner, keeping spirits high begins with one’s self.  Set the goal of putting on an outstanding recital performance, from the opening speech to the closing curtain, and continue to envision the best outcome.

 

No doubt recitals can be stressful and exhausting, and frustrations may be encountered. Dance teachers and students are working diligently to give their best performance, so be the role model they need – one that is cool, calm, and above all else, prepared for anything.

For more information on how Akada can help you with managing your recital visit our Recital Support page and, as always, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Five Tips for Costume Ordering

Posted Thursday, September 27th, 2018 by Akada

Outside of the recital, probably one of the most exciting moments for parents and dancers is the costume reveal. Before reaching the grand reveal, dance studio owners have the challenge of making sure the right costumes get ordered in the correct size, and that they arrive on time. Whether the studio is large or small, this can be a big undertaking so taking steps to plan will help the process from start to recital. There are five considerations that studios must make when it comes to costumes.

Deadlines

Take the time to have timetables planned and have some wiggle room. Skipping this step will heap stress onto everyone involved when last-minute changes occur. With that extra time, those last-minute changes aren’t as last minute and reactive. Make sure that deposits are charged to parents when it’s time to order as well.

Organization

Before even placing the order, use a system designed to help you. Akada’s costume management function is fully set up so you can keep it all straight – vendors, the costumes selected, measurements, prices, and any changes that may come up along the way.

Measurements

There are two ways to get consistent measurements: either train the staff to measure according to the vendor or have a designated measurement person. Allow plenty of time for measurements to be complete.

Cost

Costumes can be a sizeable investment for parents, so it’s important to be up-front about the price. Nobody likes hidden fees, and if there must be a markup to cover alterations, sizing, fitting, shipping, and handling, be forthcoming about it.

Arrival

Before the costume delivery, have a space ready to organize, inspect, and prepare to distribute the costumes. Newly arrived costumes should be labeled for each class and each student, and payments double-checked before costumes are sent home. Build anticipation by displaying that the costumes have arrived.

Getting in costume is a fun part of dance for so many students. Make sure the process isn’t a headache because of poor planning. Being organized and proactive is just one more way for the end product – the recital – to be a fantastic representation of a thriving dance studio.

Akada Scholarship Winners!

Posted Wednesday, September 12th, 2018 by Akada

This year we were so excited to introduce the Akada Scholarship Program. We invited anyone to apply for the opportunity to receive five $1000 scholarships to benefit a student or program within their dance studio. The response we received was overwhelming. There were so many heartwarming stories which made it difficult to choose only five. But, we feel like our five recipients were more than deserving. You can read those stories below. We look forward to continuing to grow this program in the years to come and helping more kids benefit from their dance educations.

 

  • We have two sweet sisters that have grown up in our studio. They lost their loving mother two years ago to cancer and their dad is doing their best to keep their dreams alive. The oldest daughter just became an assistant for our studio last fall and she loved it. Unfortunately, her scoliosis became so bad she just had back surgery twice, and is dealing with no feeling in one foot. I say all of this as our recital costumes are now due. I would love to offer the money to this family for their younger daughter to continue dance, purchase costumes and not burden the family with finances. Both girls were on our competition team but were not able to compete this year. Both girls were also on our Antelope Valley Ballet company. I’m sure this would be a gift from heaven. Thank you! – Nancy Scott, Dancin’ in Acton. Acton, CA

 

  • This scholarship would be used for a young talented male dancer of ours who started dancing at a later age. He will be a Senior in High school and he commutes 50 minutes to and from the studio daily. He is a talented, hard working and disciplined dancer. Currently he is on a tuition waiver but needs help funding his convention and competition fees and minimal costume expenses. These hard costs are things that he has to cover and trying to dance, the long commute, and school work make it hard for him to get a job. This scholarship would be well-used, very appreciated, and an amazing gift to a young, talented dancer. We believe he deserves opportunities to participate with his teammates his Senior Year and this would make it possible! – Kandee Allen, Dance Impressions. Farmington, UT

 

  • Thank you for this opportunity! We have a tuition free Special Needs class that meets weekly and performs in our annual recital with about 20 dancers in the class. I would love to be able to use these funds to purchase their recital costumes for next season so they don’t have to purchase them. These dancers are so inspiring to all of us with their contagious joy and determination! If there are funds left from that, a group of dancers from our studio are going on a mission trip to El Salvador in June 2019 and will be working with Amazing Love Missions to bring dance workshops to under-privileged children. Our students will also perform for schools, churches, and orphanages throughout the country in our week long trip there. We would be able to put some funds toward their trip as these students learn to use their gifts and talents to bless others and make a difference! Tina Cook, Turning Pointe Dance. Colorado Springs, CO

 

  • Thank you so much for this possible opportunity! At our studio we have a program that is funded strictly through donations. Darby’s Dancers, a non-profit education program for dancers with special needs. This program allows families to have their children take dance classes at no cost. At our studio, everyone volunteers their time to make this program possible; the director, the studio and the mentors (we call them buddy’s). Even with time donated it cost around $350 for one dancer to go through the program each year as we pay for their dance outfit, shoes, dance bag, recital costume, recital participation, parties and a year end special event. This year, through generous donations from businesses, we were able grant this opportunity to 10 families/special needs dancers in our community. Because this program was so successful we have a waiting list of dancers who want to participate but can only open the door to as many dancers as we have fund for. A scholarship of $1000 would allow us to sponsor three more dancers into this program.Thank you! Brooke Maxwell, Utah Dance Artists. South Jordan, UT

 

  • I have an eight-year-old who has studied with me for five years. She is a sweet, introverted child who has the soul of the artist and needs dance as an outlet and for physical activity. Why? Well, she is a little overweight and constantly bullied by her peers in school. Her dance friends surround her with love and care. She has a severely disabled two-year-old brother. His needs and care cost have mounted to the point where the parents have spoken with me to let me know that they simply cannot afford dance for her next season. I have sought funding, sponsorships, and scholarships locally to no avail. Seeing this scholarship in my inbox raised my hopes for this sweet child. For five years, dance has made life bearable for her. With your assistance, she can continue to seek refuge at our studio and grow as a dancer in a positive, nurturing atmosphere. Rhonda Foote, Rhonda’s Footeworks. Watertown, NY

Five ways to double new student enrollments

Posted Wednesday, August 29th, 2018 by Akada

Competition is generally a common thread for dance studios. Not only do dance studios prepare students for competition, they deal with competition first-hand. Children are kept busy with extracurricular activities, and studios compete with other studios, sports and clubs in the community to get students through their doors. When a studio begins to see waning enrollment numbers, there are a few things that may be able to help get the enrollments to increase again.

  1. Create a family environment. Your customers want to feel like they’re a part of a community. Make sure the teachers and staff are personable and put an effort into making families feel welcome and cared-for.  Host customer appreciation events. Show off members on social media. Give back to the local community. Little caring messages go a long way.
  2. Incentivize referrals. Your current students sing your praises, so reward them for the friends they bring to the studio. If a current family refers a new family, reward them with a discount on their tuition next month, a free t-shirt, or another prize.
  3. Offer a free trial for new students. A free trial could be a one-time event, such as a free dance day. Promote your event, share information with parents who bring their student, and offer the opportunity to enroll in regular classes. When parents see how much fun their children had, they may be more likely to say yes.
  4. Communicate with previous students. Sometimes when students leave, it isn’t because of anything upsetting. It could simply be for a season. Reach out to previous students, see how they’re doing, and let them know much they’re missed. Chances are, they miss you too!
  5. Offer classes with a shorter commitment. Signing up for a weekly class for a nine-month commitment can feel intimidating to some people. Even if their children love dance, the fear of having to break the commitment and pay extra fees can be a deterrent. Offering shorter commitments may help more parents feel more comfortable with saying yes to a class.

Growing and keeping healthy enrollment takes a lot of effort. However, a thriving dance studio with quality instruction and management will continue to observe, monitor, and adjust to keep new and familiar faces happy and coming back.

New Features: Student and staff profile pictures and new additions to the parent portal.

Posted Wednesday, July 25th, 2018 by Akada

We’ve have had some new features available as a beta for a couple of months and have now made them available to everyone. Below you’ll find a quick summary. Click on the section name for complete details.

 

Student Profile Picture – You can now upload pictures of you students  to the student’s info screen. We’ve have been receiving requests for this for a long time and are finally delivering. *In the not too distant future the parents will be able to upload the picture themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staff Profile Picture and Contact Information – We have added some additional information to the staff profile page that you can make available to your customers through the parent portal. You can now upload a picture of your staff members, make contact information available (if desired), and add a bio for the staff member. This can be made available to the parents by turning it on though the General Settings Screen in your Customer Access Settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studio Contact Info – You can now make your studio contact information and social media links accessible to your parents through the parent portal.

 

 

Five Benefits of Dance for Kids

Posted Wednesday, July 25th, 2018 by Akada

While there are many options for extracurricular activities for children, dance continues to offer benefits for children that parents may not have considered. Families are busy between school and life but squeezing in dance class has value. Here are five reasons why dance classes and dance schools are great for kids.

Physical activity

Obviously, dance is physical movement, and physical activity is great for everyone. Regular dance can improve balance, range of motion, flexibility, and stamina. Children who are involved with dance can see improved posture and coordination. Plus, dancing is just a fun way to move!

Cultural exposure

Throughout history, dance and music have been expressions in nearly every culture, telling stories of the past and expressing values. Dancing can be a valuable way to expose children to beautiful music and movement from other cultures, giving them a bigger worldview and an appreciation for heritage they may not have otherwise approached.

Teamwork and social skills

Just as the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a village to put on a dance performance – even a solo. Children learn to work together, with teachers, and with choreographers during preparation for productions. Even from an early age, participation with dance class means sharing space with other dancers and making friends with fellow dance participants.

Homeschooling options

With the increased number of families who pursue alternative education, like homeschooling, dance classes can be an excellent way to remain connected with friends and other members of the community while doing something fun, educational, and physical.

Improved self-esteem

A child comfortable in their own body, growing their skills, and passionately expressing themselves is generally going to be more confident and have a positive attitude. Physical activity also relieves stress, so when a child has an opportunity for movement and focusing on the present, they can let go of the stress they encounter through the day.

While dance classes may add a little more to a busy family’s schedule, the benefit that children receive from having the opportunity to pursue dance can ease the burden of the time and money it takes. The mental, physical, and emotional benefits will help children grow and continue life with passion, which is worth the efforts of raising happy, well-rounded children.

Dance Registration Tips!

Posted Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 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 advertisement 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!