Lisa Williams, is the founder and head instructor at Apsara Dance - School of Performing Art. With an array of competition accolades under her belt, she currently works at her Chester based studio providing a safe space for both men and women to connect with their bodies & to grow in confidence, without judgment.
We caught up with Lisa to chat about the process of turning her passion into one of Chester’s most popular pole dance schools.
1) Can you tell us a bit about the story behind Apsara Dance, what was the lightbulb moment that made you want to start your own studio?
I was actually kind of forced into opening Apsara Dance. I had been an Exotic dancer for 5 years & pole was becoming more mainstream as a great way to keep fit. I had many people in the Chester area asking if I would do lessons. It took me about a year to think about it, I knew nothing about running a business or teaching fitness, but I had very encouraging friends around me who helped me make the decision. I'm so glad I did!
2) Where did the drive and ambition to launch Apsara Dance come from and how difficult was it to get it off the ground?
In 2009 I remember holding an open evening of 20 people, only 1 person signed up. For the first month I only had 1 person, I was beginning to question if this would work or not. The venue I hired by the hour kindly said I didn't have to pay as I was at a loss, ever the optimist I politely declined saying 'I won't be paying you more when it gets busy'.
After that 6 people signed up, then 6 more. It was steady for the first two years only a few hours of classes per week, I saw it as more of a hobby. Then I landed a contract with the University of Chester in 2011 & it started to become more serious.
Unfortunately in 2012 my younger brother lost his battle to oesophageal cancer & I lost control of my life. A few months later I opened the studio to teach full time. I only had enough money to cover the first months rent, borrowing the deposit money from a friend. I had to make it work, there was no other option. This was my drive. And it also become a huge part of my healing, I didn't know at the time but I was creating a safe, happy space for ladies & gents to connect with their bodies & to grow in confidence without judgment.
3) What are your brand values, and how did you decide on them?
Our motto is #strongbeautifulfearless
These are the main 3 emotions pole makes you feel. You become so strong through regular practice, you feel beautiful, happy & free and you are faced with your deepest fears. When you overcome your fears & hang successfully in the air off one leg or master your human flag you create a great, deep trust with your body which makes you feel fearless.
As a studio we promise to provide safe, fun & effective pole dance classes for all. We practice no judgment, come as you are, we welcome everyone to our little family.
4) What role has social media played in your business?
Social media has been great in recent years, we are booming. We are almost at full capacity with 3 other instructors teaching part time. Social media has been a great platform to share our dancers success & show what we are like as a studio. We rarely advertise, only a few sponsored posts per year, our success is down to word of mouth both in person & online.
5) What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt on the road to setting up your business?
Hmmm this one is hard as I have learnt soooo much about everything. I've learned so much about working with people & how to bring their out their best self but I would have to say the biggest thing I've learned is doing the accounts, taxes, and learning to manage finances. I'm a very spur of the moment type of human so having to plan & think about finances was/is a challenging experience.
6) How do you use A.M. Custom Clothing products for your business?
We use A.M. Custom Clothing for our hoodies. We wear them with pride.
You can find out more about Apsara Dance on their website here.
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