I had a long talk with a parent of mine yesterday afternoon. He is a fireman and professional photographer on the side. Very talented and hard working. He does a lot of sport and team pictures around the area. He would like my studio contract but some one else has it and I have no problem with my current photographer whom I really love. Anyway Nate (the parent) told me that he has never shot a business where people buy more photos they cannot afford than dance studios. He said Kim I can guarantee that 85% of the students you have right now have parents that cannot afford to pay for the lessons they are giving their children. They do this because they think they have to. They are compelled to do this. This is why your tuition is such a mess. He then admitted that he and his wife have trouble meeting their tuition obligations to me. Their daughter is one of my best young Irish dancers. Their tuition is $75.00 a month. I often trade with them for photographs. Sr. pictures that would cost me $400.00 were traded for lessons last year. This made me really stop and think.
I remember I could not afford my own girls lessons. My twin sister who has no children paid for the oldest daughters tuition when she was little as she got older and had to take more class I was always late. I paid a $5.00 late fee every month. I finally noticed that the University studio outreach program in our small town was very dirty. Mirrors were filthy, no toilet paper or paper towels, dust bunnies every where. I asked the director if I could clean the studio in exchange for tuition. I was not teaching dance for the University at this time I was coaching a dance team for the local high school and doing many, many shows for different theaters. The University agreed. One year when the oldest was about 10 we had a terrible snow year. Remember we don't get snow here often and driving down the prairie on a small snowed in two lane goat trail is dangerous. The dance director would call me and give me a list of all the students to call and cancel class. This was before cell phones and a long distance call could be $1.00. I did this for about 6 lessons in a row. I finally told the director that I felt that they were going to lose too much money canceling all of these classes. I could go down and substitute. I had a very strong classical dance background. She asked me to send up a resume' and I did. Then I started subbing. The rest is history. But the truth is I could not afford to give my own children the quality of dance instruction I craved for them. I found a way to do it, but most people do not have my skills.
I also know that my mother never paid my tuition. (Our father drank) My twin sister and I were very talented young dancers, we were tiny, cute and show stoppers, like little circus performers we sold tickets and brought our studio owner enrollment we were worth the scholarship whether she wanted to give it to us or not. As I got older my twin left the dance world and entered the music world, she as an incredible voice and sang light opera for years after she pursued 3 degrees in music. The dance studio became my home as our home started to fail due to my father's alcoholism and my mother's denial of all problems. My teachers became my life line, they gave me confidence and skill. The studio was my sanctuary. In a nut-shell I feel guilty when I make people pay me. I feel like these kids need me like I needed my teachers. I did not pay for lessons. I really never thought my skills deserved payment. The non profit dance program I worked for through the University kept me thinking this for 11 years until I was running their program at a huge profit to them and nothing for myself. I woke up I think getting sick did this, I realized I do have talent and people were going to pay for it. But I still have that little voice that says you are not good enough to charge for this, you need to give your skills away. Now I have to be a grown up. I can't let the past ruin my business.
I am going into my 6th year of owning this business. Two years ago I was so in debt and going deeper, but now I have worked so hard and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, maybe I will get out and be able to take home a salary. Now that I can taste the freedom from debt in the air I am angry and no one is going to stiff me or make me borrow money to pay rent or payroll. If they don't pay on time they will pay a service charge for my past sins. Does this make sense?
There now you have it. What do you think?
A letter is being drafted by my attorney (hee, hee) that will go out to all parents, that will state the new plan. Pay by the 10th or add a $20.00 fee strictly enforced by my attorney. Yes I will lose some enrollment but I do not care. It used to be 10% of people paid late now it is over 50% and it is steadily getting worse. I realize I will always have people who pay late that is the nature of the business, any business. But I am going to put on my big girl panties now and they are Pink!
Out My Window: I went out to the chicken coop yesterday and found 5 eggs in one nest tried to pick them up all at once and oops! Note to self, take out an egg carton to coop and gather eggs.
Sorry for the diatribe, but I feel better now.
Have a great and productive day!