In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this month, we want to celebrate and recognize couples who work together in business everyday.
Meet Robert and Beverley from danceScape!
- How did you both meet?
Robert developed a secret “crush” when he and his sister followed their parents to cheer them on in their first Ballroom competition. At some point, his mom turned around to wave at someone from their Dance Club. As Robert turned around, he saw a young lady in a turquoise ballgown shimmering with Swarovski crystals – who turned out to be Beverley. It was love at first sparkle!
That first meeting sparked a new interest for Robert to learn Ballroom Dancing. Their life ended up being like a Soap Opera and through a series of twists and turns, we became partners in dance, then in life, and in business. We will be celebrating our 27th Wedding Anniversary on May 1st!
2. Why did you start working/open your business together?
As 3-time Canadian and 2-time North American Ballroom Champions – as well as representing Canada at 5 World Championship – we quickly gained local, national and international recognition, especially by the media. It was during our last World Championship in Japan, that we started to seriously think about leaving our corporate jobs and take the risk of starting up our own business.
Robert was Marketing-Communications Manager for a software company headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Beverley was a software trainer for a government agency based in Toronto. The travel both for work and competitions which we fit in during weekends, holidays, and vacations started to take its toll. We started to get more and more requests to perform at corporate and community events, and had a strong base of loyal “fans” who also tracked our careers and would follow us to many community appearances.
At the same time, we had started our own personal website which quickly became the leading source of worldwide information for competitive and social Ballroom Dancing. Two “fans” of the website happened to be Venture Capitalists from Seattle, Washington and through another series of remarkable “twists and turns”, offered us Angel investment funding to launch “danceScape”. The timing seemed right that we could leverage our awareness, and the Angel investors were so helpful as we tried to define our business vision and mission on a deep, personal level.
3. Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your business. (i.e. What is your unique offering?)
danceScape is the largest Social Dance Club & Studio in Burlington/Oakville/Greater Hamilton area, with student members from as far away as Milton, London, Kitchener/Waterloo, Grimsby, St. Catharines, Niagara, and Toronto. Over the past 20 years, have taught well over 15,000 students and our collective local social media from facebook, instagram and twitter is well over 10,000. We have appeared on many television shows including the Marilyn Dennis Show, Dragons Den, Healthy Gourmet, Morning Live, W5, and ParticipACTION’s “Get Inspired. Get Moving.” Fitness campaign.
danceScape inspires and empowers others to have fun, be fit, and make new friends. We pride ourselves in transforming student members so that they shine with confidence on the dance floor, at work, and in their personal life. We provide a fun escape from the stresses of life, and a mental break from the pressures of work and distractions of cellphones and other mobile devices.
A number of our students have faced such challenges as being quadriplegic, managing anxiety and depression, and living with chronic pain – but they each share a spark of hope and optimism that enables us to magnify by their experiences at danceScape.
Our students also include couples who are getting married and learning to dance for their Wedding represents an emotional visual story of love – not only with themselves but with their parents as begin a new life path together.
danceScape provides group classes, private coaching, and online lessons/courses in Ballroom, Salsa/Latin, Wedding Dance Crash Course (first dance, father-daughter, mother-son), and danceTONE/danceFLOW fitness. Student Members learn at our main club/studio in downtown Burlington, at satellite programs around Southern Ontario, and more recently, through “online” classes and courses in the comfort of their own home.
4. When did you open your business in Downtown Burlington?
danceScape was formally launched on September 1st, 2000 and we are celebrating our 20th year in downtown Burlington!
5. What made you choose Downtown Burlington?
We were long-time residents of Burlington – Robert’s family lived in Aldershot near LaSalle Park – and when we were dating and well into our competitive career, we always loved coming to downtown Burlington to take quiet walks by the Lake at Spencer Smith Park. Downtown Burlington always represented that comfort feeling of being “home” from our travels – whether from work or from competing around the world.
Around 1999, we were part of a book launch at Indigo on Brant Street for local author, John Lawrence Reynolds, who wrote a booked called “Ballroom Dancing: Romance, Rhythm and Style”. After our Ballroom demonstration and as we were speaking to spectators in attendance, we casually mentioned that we were saddened that we could not find somewhere local to practice that was a proper Ballroom with wood floors.
Suddenly, we hear a lone voice say, “I know of one!” That person turned out to be the Chair of the Hamilton Section of ASQ at McMaster’s Engineering Program, who also happened to be a member of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of BVM – located in downtown Burlington! Their committee had just renovated their community hall, which had a wood floor and chandeliers! We were just a month away from announcing our retirement from competitive dancing to start coaching/teaching in Waterdown, so this seemed like a “sign” from the universe that we could teach here in our home town of Burlington!
Our current office upstairs was not yet available, so we leased a tiny 350 sf “booking office/retail space” at Upper Canada Place on Brant Street. Around 2006, the upstairs office space became available which enabled us to bring everything together under one roof at danceScape!
We love sharing our love of dancing and continue to bring so many student members into the downtown core for their lessons, social parties, community events, and galas. Downtown Burlington becomes their weekly “date night” where they have dinner and drinks at nearby restaurants before (or after) their dance lessons and then take walks by the lakeside at Spencer Smith Park. Some even spontaneously danced on the promenade!
6. What other downtown businesses do you frequent and do business with?
Ti Vesto Boutique, Bank of Montreal, TD Bank, Spencers by the Lake, Express Italian Restaurant, The Poacher Pub, Paradiso, Picadilly Cafe, Pharma Plus, Dollar Store, No Frills, Tim Horton’s, Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, Lettuce Love, Crema Di Gelato, I Love Gelato, Molly Cake, JC Bagel’s, Mirella’s, Smith’s Funeral Home. (Our student members frequent many more businesses in the downtown core).
7. If you had a piece of advice for other couples starting a business together, to help them succeed, what would it be?
Understand and respect each other’s contributions to the business, and try not to take things “personally” if there are differences in opinions. Understand that the “art of business” success is to have a team that share common values, with complementary skills and strengths. Our core values include:
- Being Adventurous, Open-Minded, and Daring.
- Pursuing Growth & Learning.
- Thinking Like a Champion but Acting with the Heart of an Underdog.
- Embracing and Driving Change.
- Doing More with Less.
- Having an Opinion and Communicating Honestly, Openly and Respectfully.
- Having Fun.
Starting up and managing a business can feel like a Roller Coaster at times, but we share those Core Values.
As a couple, we find that our relationship mirrors the Eastern principle of “Yin – Yang”. Complementary opposites that come together to create “magic”. For example, Robert’s strength is in written communications/PR, while Beverley’s strength is in customer relations and oral communications. Robert also tends to be a “big vision” and “numbers” person while Beverley is a “details” and “relationship” person. And when we come together, we have a collective sense of style in the way we dress and are authentically dedicated to creating the best learning experience for our student members and fan base.
For couples doing business in a creative field, it is important to have a complementary balance of creativity, communications, and “numbers”. In fact, entrepreneurs in the creative field are now starting to connect with us to ask for our consulting advice about starting their own businesses!
8. Do you have any Valentine’s Day traditions?
Valentine’s Day tends to fall on days that we are teaching/coaching, so we create romance and helping others to celebrate or rekindle our love for each other.
But during those quiet times by ourselves (and especially on Valentine’s Day) – after coming home and preparing a late-night snack – we spontaneously embrace in the Kitchen (which has a beautiful view of the lake) and look into each other’s eyes. We then do a slow “high school” dance shuffle rocking back-and-forth to silence; then throwing in some spontaneous twirls and dance dips. Filled with gratitude that our life paths intersected and that we are so fortunate to have family and friends who share our values and to have made a life doing something we both find inspiring, rewarding and passionately love.