By Paul Henderson.
Every dance studio I’ve ever come into contact with has a cash flow problem that rears its ugly head primarily in September and October. This happens for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into, but here’s a partial solution where everybody wins. What if I told you that a studio of 150- 200 dancers could raise a few thousand extra dollars right at that critical low-point of your cash flow?
The Nutcracker shall set you free! If you’ve never produced a Nutcracker before it may seem completely overwhelming, but I’m not talking about a full-blown Nutcracker with a semi-professional Clara and a Prince that you hire from a ballet company.
The first year we tried The Nutcracker at our studio we explained to our dancers and their families that this was going to be a very low-key performance opportunity and we called it “The Nutcracker Project“. We performed 11 or 12 of the traditional Nutcracker pieces. We rented a theater that seated about 500 people and do you know what? We sold out. Do you know why we sold out? It’s because there is just something about The Nutcracker that dancers and their families can’t resist.
Our first Nutcracker Project was literally so bad that as I was standing in the back of the house looking out at the audience I heard a young boy of about 10 whisper to his father, “This is really bad, isn’t it Dad?” We literally had one of those four-foot tall plastic Christmas trees on the stage with an extension cord trailing miserably behind it upstage. Here is a picture to prove it.
Despite this, the dancers loved it. Incredibly, the moms and dads loved it too. In our first Nutcracker Project there was a total of only 28 minutes of actual dancing, but the dancers and their parents absolutely loved it and we enjoyed producing it.
Not only did The Nutcracker Project provide a fun and educational performance opportunity for our students, but it was great from a cash flow standpoint. Starting right away in September, your ballet dancers have an extra rehearsal that they will happily attend and pay for. So, that’s about 10 dancers in each piece. If you have 80 dancers in 10 classes your extra tuition revenue from September thru December will be roughly $2,400. On average a dancer performing in The Nutcracker brings six paying audience members and 6 times 80 is 480 audience members. At $15 per ticket, this equates to $7,200, which is more than enough to pay for the theater and crew for such a short performance.
Next, of course, these dancers will need costumes and they will happily pay for them. Since this is an extra performance for the dancers and cost is important, we selected costumes from catalog companies and tried to keep the prices as low as possible for the families that would need to pay for them. Tack on at least $15-$20 to each costume to cover your own shipping, handling, credit card fees and administrative time or use a service such as CostumeManager.com to eliminate the cost and workload. Costume profit will roughly be 80 dancers times $15 per costume, equaling $1,200.
Revenue for our first Nutcracker Project was over $11,000 and that money really helped us out in the months of September, October and November as we recovered from the summer cash flow crunch.
This year, over 600 dancers will audition in August for our Nutcracker. We will find a space for everyone that wants to dance. And, you know what? Now we have a Mother Ginger, two of the dancers that performed in that first Nutcracker Project were just accepted into the Joffrey Ballet School, another just received a scholarship to attend the prestigious and highly-competitive dance program at the University of Arizona, and a local newscast celebrity plays the part of Mrs. Stahlbaum!
So, begin small, but dream big. Start now by securing a venue and hold an audition. The sky’s the limit.
About Paul Henderson
Paul Henderson is an expert on administrative technologies for the dance industry and has been around the business for almost 30 years. His sisters were elite state champion gymnasts and dancers and his mother owned a dance studio and eventually a dancewear store. He managed the dancewear store for a few years before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area. He and his wife, Tiffany, currently own and operate Twinkle Star Dance™ – an online choreography and curriculum system for recreational dancers ages 2-11; seven successful dance studios in Northern California (www.tiffanydance.com) and one in Southern California. Tiffany’s Dance Academy’s annual enrollment of over 4,500 students caused Paul to invent ways to automate most of the day-to-day business transactions that take up so much of a studio owner/instructor’s time. Paul’s goal has always been to smooth out the business side of the dance studios so that his wife can spend more time in the studio doing what she loves…teaching. Automating online registration and monthly automatic tuition payments was achieved eight years ago but perhaps the most revolutionary invention is his web-based application – CostumeManager.com.
For the past six years, Paul Henderson has worked tirelessly with most of the major costume and dancewear manufacturers to consolidate their catalogs into one searchable website. Developing relationships with these companies has been crucial to the success of CostumeManager.com and his efforts have paid off for studios all across the United States and Canada. By creating one searchable website, it is possible for a studio owner to browse all catalogs simultaneously, assign items that they like to a dance class, establish their profit margin, create an online store or print a color worksheet for dancers explaining how they can order their required and or/optional items online or via toll free telephone. Dancers purchase their items securely online and CostumeManager.com orders, receives, sorts and ships the individually packaged items to the studio owner. The studio owner or instructor cashes their “commission” check, hands the bags of goods to the dancer and goes back to teaching. CostumeManager.com eliminates 90% of the work and all the worry associated with distributing costumes and dancewear to dancers while preserving all of the profit margin…if not more.
Photos courtesy of Paul Henderson.