Natalie Kelce, known as Miss Natalie to her students, loves sharing her knowledge and passion for dance and enhancing children’s growing years through ballet. That’s why she started Petit Ballet School—your Totally Awesome pick for Denver’s best resource for kids dance classes. Besides Natalie’s impressive teaching background and experience with the San Francisco Ballet, the Boston Ballet, and The Royal Ballet of London, Petit Ballet School is known for its community-oriented heart. Natalie recently took the time to dish about her school’s new Totally Awesome title, her key to being a businesswoman, and more:
Red Tricycle: Congratulations! Your community recently voted you “Most Awesome.” What do think your customers value most about your business?
Natalie Kelce: Petit Ballet School is specifically geared towards the young dancer who has an interest in the beautiful world that is ballet. I have created a warm, loving and supportive environment where young dancers can come to learn ballet and express themselves through dance. I believe that my customers appreciate the encouraging atmosphere within my school and the life lessons taught that I believe to be important during a child’s growing years. I place no emphasis on competition, nor do I encourage pressure within specific levels. All of my dancers are shown respect and adoration, which are two values that can be lost in a world that is full of competition. To see a child smile when he or she executes a wonderful pirouette, tendu, plié, etc. is one of the most rewarding moments as a teacher. These tiny moments of personal success are what drive me to continue my work as a ballet teacher and as a proponent of the arts.
RT: What inspired you to start your business?
NK: Two of my biggest passions in life are ballet and working with young children, so when I had the opportunity to combine my two loves in life, I jumped at the chance. I began dancing at age 3 and I was extremely fortunate to have a mother who held the same passions as me. When the time came to choose between following the path of a pre-professional dancer or to continue my education, I chose the latter. Around the same time, my mother decided to open up a studio of our own in the Denver area. Through this, I was able to finish my schooling while still having a studio space to express myself through ballet. Once I graduated from college, I was able to take a more active role in Petit Ballet School, eventually taking over the business almost 7 years ago. I count my blessings each and every day that I am one of those few who absolutely love what they do for a living. I get to come into work each day and see the smiling faces of kids longing to learn more about the wonderful art of ballet and I would not trade that for anything.
RT: Any advice for new business owners just getting started?
NK: Never give up! No matter how many obstacles may come your way and no matter how many people say no, you must learn to keep your head up and continue on with your dream. The world of dance, ballet, theater, etc. is a fading idea and as educators, we have a responsibility to keep that passion alive. One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years is to find your niche and stick with it. You must find what you are good at and what makes you different in order to stand out. Do not try to adhere to what others do or want, or you risk losing what makes you unique. In my case, it was realizing that not having tap, hip-hop or modern classes at the studio was a positive thing. Parents came to appreciate the fact that I solely focus on classical ballet for young dancers and nothing else. This of course will not be the case for every new studio out there, but I think any new business owner should find what makes them unique and go from there.
RT: Can you give us one tip for balancing entrepreneurship with parenthood?
NK: Since I am not a parent myself (although I like to joke that I have 75 of my own kids), I think that balancing entrepreneurship with family and home life is extremely important. As a small business owner, you must carry many different job titles. Owner, teacher, manager, accountant and even maintenance staff are some of the many job descriptions I carry each day on my own shoulders. Learning to accept help from family and loved ones is a lesson I learned a long time ago. I never wanted my passion to negatively affect the people that surround me, but I had to learn that they shared in my success and wanted to help in any way that they could. Whether it was through mopping the floors, helping clean the mirrors, or installing a new window sign, the help of my family and friends helped get me where I am today without. At the same time, it is important to remember that even though you are a small business owner, it is okay to still have “me” time and take some days for yourself. I know that I can only be the best teacher and dancer when I am happy and passionate. Sure, we all have our off days, but having a positive outlook on life will only bring joy to those who surround you.
RT: What is your proudest moment as a business owner or parent?
NK: Without sounding too cliché, one of my proudest moments as a business owner was winning this Red Tricycle Award. After many, many years of hard work and dedication, it was incredibly rewarding to be recognized for what I do. It brought a huge smile to my face to know that our school won because our supporters and community voted for us. Owning a dance studio is a competitive business and it can be difficult to stand out among a group of incredibly successful and large companies. But to know that our little studio has touched so many families and dancers is an amazing feeling. Of course, each and every day I experience small rewarding moments that come in the form of a first pairs of pointe shoes, a first complete pique turn or finally learning how to spot on stage, but having your loved ones help you win such an amazing award—there are no words.
RT: Is there a special offer you’d like to include for Red Tricycle readers?
NK: Red Tricycle Readers from the Denver-metro area are invited to join us at Petit Ballet School and receive 10% off their tuition. Available for new students only. May be applied once to monthly or semester tuition rates.
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