Dancewear Corner: Doing well and doing good
It’s a ubiquitous question in business – can one do well and do good? In other words, can businesses grow, make some sort of profit and make a notable positive difference in surrounding communities and the world? Dancewear Corner (DWC) of Orlando, FL, offering “everything a dancer needs in one place,” is one business that has managed to do both. The dancewear store (and Só Dança retailer), through its DWC Gives Back Program, offers scholarships, dancewear/supplies, goods to auction off for silent auctions and more – all in working toward ensuring that any person who wants to reach their dance dreams has the resources to do so.
This level of community outreach and charitable action is “not all that common” amongst dance retailers, assures Jon DeMott, owner and co-founder of DWC, due to the small profit margins involved. At the same time, the business has grown steadily for over 20 years. It all began in 1996, with DeMott working in corporate restaurant management and his wife substitute-teaching. There were several layoffs at one point at the restaurant company for which he worked, and he and his wife grew concerned that he could be laid off at any time.
At the same time, the opportunity arose to run a small dance store in the corner of a dance studio (DeMott was thought of for the role given his business background). His wife was (and is) a long-time dancer, and they decided to go for it. The business steadily grew. As it did, they started to see ways in which they could help dancers in need with shoes, gear and other necessities. Formalized programs for this giving grew as the business also did, and it had more capability to give. “You can only help people if you have the money to help them; it’s really a balance,” DeMott affirms.
Yet he and his wife never gave themselves a paycheck for the first 15 years of the business. He identified this time as an investment, building up to something he wanted to build. Today, that includes offering several scholarships. One is for travel expenses to auditions, intensive programs and other dance-related opportunities. DeMott describes how dancers in need can receive scholarships for tuition at particular dance programs, yet travel expenses can still remain out of reach.
Another scholarship is the Kathryn Morgan Scholarship. Kathryn Morgan is a former soloist with the New York City Ballet with a large YouTube fan base. DeMott recounts how he spoke with Morgan a few years ago, and she was very enthusiastic to help out with a scholarship. “She has the international reach, and we provide the scholarship fund,” he describes.
Indeed, the word has gotten out about DeMott’s offerings, and he receives emails daily with requests for assistance and “stories that tug at your heartstrings,” he says. One example he gives is that after providing a pair of new pointe shoes for dancer to audition for Houston Ballet, he received a message from the dancer’s mother affirming that he “put a smile on her daughter's face.” “It’s more than just the money,” DeMott says. “When you give, it shows people that you believe in them.”
So, in a business sense, how does DeMott do it? How does he do well by doing so much good? First, he assures anyone who might wonder, that his retail prices aren’t any higher than other dance retailers. Second, he prioritizes costs with both heart and head. “Instead of buying a Google ad, I do something good with that money,” he explains.
Additionally, those whom DeMott serves share their positive experience with friends and colleagues, and it grows from there. “Word-of-mouth advertising is the best kind of advertising, because it comes from someone who you already trust,” DeMott says.
It also makes him feel good to think of how those dancers remember how he’s helped them, and pass that goodwill on. DWC also engages scholarship and dancewear recipients in its social media and blog content, asking them to provide videos or other kinds of posts. “People appreciate what they receive when they do something associated with it, and our business gets content, so it’s a win-win!” DeMott attests.
He also believes that a key to DWC’s success has been a philosophy of “do what you do and let others do what they do”. Everyone on the DWC team has their role, and all work together within their roles to get it all done. “It all works really well for us,” he affirms.
Só Dança has been along for the wild ride. “We started doing business with Só Dança not long after they opened in the United States,” DeMott says. “In fact, Lisias (owner of Só Dança USA) was our first Sales Rep.”
He shares that he and his colleagues have grown to truly appreciate both Só Dança's product and it as a company. “Doing business with Só Dança is like doing business with your family...a good family,” he says.
Where to from here? Ultimately, DeMott would love to spend the majority of his time traveling to different dance conventions, competitions and other dance-related events for business and DWC Gives Back promotion. He’s also been getting interested in dance film and wants to deepen work in that area. Whatever may transpire, DeMott is a big believer in positive thinking. “When you think positive, positive things happen,” he affirms.