Paul Zaidman & Anna Selleck, Dance House International
Melbourne VIC | December 2018
What is your business? How long has the business been operating?
We had an idea. My partner and I are dancers and we were working on cruise ships for 3-4 years. We named our business Dance House International because we were stopping at different ports around the world and teaching. We teach partner dance, specialising in Latin American and Ballroom. We’ve been at the studio I’ve just leased for 6 weeks. Before that it was a couple a years from operating at satellite locations.
Why did you want to go into business?
We’ve created a company that’s all inclusive, it allows people to feel comfortable. A business like this allows us to continue doing what we love. Our ‘business’ isn’t something we do for money, it’s something we do to spread the joy of dance.
Our new model has centralised marketing, a central database, and we train other teachers to go to satellite venues. We’ll be continually training them and creating a place where they can get support. We redirect people to locations in their area. People can learn to teach and do what they love on a part time basis.
What were you doing before you made contact with Many Rivers? What was your previous work experience?
This is a new business. I’ve managed other studios, but this is my own thing. We started doing classes in satellite locations and so the business model has changed. Previously we’d pack the car with equipment, drive to class, pack-down, drive home. It took from 2pm-midnight. On one hand it was taking up our time but on the other hand it was giving us an opportunity to touch different areas so when we got the lease it meant people already knew us.
What services did you receive from Many Rivers? How did it help?
We had a lifeline via the NEIS program, developing our business management. We didn’t know where else to turn. They said, “If you want legal support or monetary support have a talk with Many Rivers”. The business management part of NEIS was finished but we needed to chat to someone to continue what we started. We started a relationship with Gina from about a year. She’s been keeping us on track. Going through cashflow mostly. I’ve been a dance teacher all my life, but this was the first time going into a proper business with my girlfriend. Gina’s been providing that support as far as mentoring and cashflow. There was some legal assistance but it just never eventuated in the end. (Note: Many Rivers provided pro bono legal assistance to discuss a lease mid 2018, however another location was selected and MR wasn’t involved in this lease negotiation.)
What did you find the most useful about the assistance from Many Rivers?
Cashflow understanding. The importance of cashflow. Gina kept us on track, reiterated what we were doing and how we were doing. We had to work this stuff out. We didn’t have another job to fall back on. This is what we do, this is all we do.
Did you get a loan from MR? How did you use the loan?
No, not yet. It was really hard and felt like there were lots of obstacles in the way.
Do you have any current employees? If so, how many employees? Are they full time or part-time?
No, not technically. We’ve created our business so that others can hire our hall space and learn to teach. We’re not ready to hand out money for permanent employment yet. It’s not your average business model.
What has been the biggest challenge to date?
Mainly with each other! When you’re running a business with your partner and your living together it becomes a ‘triple threat’. We’ve had some big wars, and I’ve had to pull back on the amount of input and vision and authority I want to wield and Anna has also had to manage herself. I think this is why family businesses fail, the strain on relationships. I can pull myself out of business struggles and depression and move on, but I see other people get stuck.
What has been the biggest success to date?
The way we speak to management from other companies. For example, we sent an email to The Leader newspaper, wanting to pay for advertising but also wanting guidance on whether my story is newsworthy. They sent a photographer and reporter the next day. Had a major newspaper for our area cover us which was great.
We found that Anna has a flair for advertising and she’s taken on that role and is pumping out amazing design work and she’s loving doing it. It’s giving us a boost.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
It’s safe to say world domination (haha). I think if I had the money and the people it would be to take it to the world. I want to have a central place in every city in Australia and have the corresponding satellite venues to go with them and I’d be doing training in each location. And then we could have a manager in each country and go international. That’s where I see it going.