Run by founder Joan Gibbs for more than 20 years, Acacia School of Dance provides dance classes to people of all ages, welcoming them to “our community for friendship, improved fitness and releasing their stress.”

Indicating that surviving and recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdowns and increasing her business skills and confidence were priorities, Joan also needed to understand how to publicise and market her services on a limited budget.

Before the programme, Joan felt lacking in skills and confidence in pricing her services, as well as with marketing and communications. Covid-19 meant she had lost her clients, so there was a substantial dip in income. Although she had moved her classes online, there were considerable challenges for teaching dance.

“We'd be well-known locally so anyone who thought of dance classes would know where to go. We'd be running classes to help older/retired people and those with special needs that people of all income levels could access, as well as high-standard classes for serious dancers. We'd be more involved with performances and activities in the local community - charity, amateur and professional. We'd be teaching teachers. We'd have at least one other teacher and other paid help for reception/admin roles etc., and enough income to be able to choose from a variety of premises or improve those with a lower fee.”

Joan was matched with business coach Nat Harrison. In her three 1:1 sessions they focused on practical strategies to enable Joan to better promote her business online, and connect with potential clients locally. This included knowledge sharing to improve the visibility of her website, connect and communicate via Facebook and engage with local parents’ groups.

Joan also attended 2 of the 3 Skills and Networking events. Both these and the 1:1 support Joan found extremely effective, with her stating, “Being held to account was really helpful when I wasn’t feeling confident.”

In terms of skills and confidence, Joan went from scoring herself 0 out of 5 for marketing and sales, PR and publicity and digital/the web, to scoring 5 out of 5. Joan told us, “It was useful having a oneto-one advisor to help with digital skills I just didn’t have. It was also good having someone to spot mental blocks.”

Because of the programme, Joan feels her business is more resilient:

“I have 30 new core clients in addition to those already with me and am expecting many more in the Autumn when people begin new programmes. I had thought I'd have no classes left as many pupils moved away during the lockdowns, or left as their finances, schoolwork or mental health were adversely affected. I have changed the way I communicate with existing and future customers, started an Instagram account and changed the way I use Facebook. I also have a new strategy for printing publicity and advertising.”

Re:Create 2021 was a programme designed by Creative United, and delivered in partnership with Wandsworth Council and Hive Collective. It provided free, specialist 1:1 business support for 51 artists, makers and creative businesses in the borough, plus 3 connection-making, informative and engaging networking events that were open to all.

You can find out more about the Re:Create 2021 programme here.