The COVID-19 global pandemic was a tough one to get through.
But, in the midst of the tough times, resilience, creativity, and new endeavors shined through. While the world was just starting to very slowly re-open, ELEVATE Dance Company was born.
During the summer of 2021, doors opened for an all-girls summer camp, and then as August rolled around, the brand new build dance studio was ready to welcome its first dancers as the studio filled with parents and their little girls in tow as the registration began. These parents were not only registering these girls at a brand new studio, but them back to normalcy—back to their passions, back to dancing.
As I stood against a white painted wall, with the glowing lit words “Elevate Dance Company” spread across behind me, I witnessed my best friend and her business partner and dance sister Erica, make their dreams a reality.
How do two women start a new company and fulfill their dreams all while battling with the circumstances of the world not being totally reopened, mask mandates still a common denominator, and COVID-19 still very much a reality? Well, the lockdown put things in perspective for many people. But, for this duo the endless amount of time on their hands, lead them to take the leap and create something of their own.
Let’s hear how Celioni Sena, 41 and Erica Martin Hidalgo, 28, both from Miami followed their hearts and made their dreams a reality in one of those most difficult times we have all lived through.
Tell us about your business?
Elevate: We own a dance studio/Dance Company. We have about 130 recreational dancers, plus 35 company members. Our company competes at regional and national competitions throughout Florida
How did this idea come about?
Celioni Sena: Erica approached me with the idea in March of 2021. It’s something that both of us have always talked about. I thought about it for maybe 1.5 seconds and said ‘YES!’
What prompted you to starting your own business?
Elevate: Again, it’s always something we both wanted and the time just felt right. We had both worked for a local dance studio and knew it was attainable on our own.
What drew you to starting your own business in the middle of a pandemic?
Celioni Sena: I would have to say that what drew us most was that during the pandemic, like most people, we were forced to stop our usual daily lives. We had lots of time on our hands. We were able to analyze our lives. We knew we wanted more. Erica was a second grade school teacher and I was the director of another dance studio. We were both drained and ready for a new start.
How was starting a business as the world was mostly shut down?
Elevate: We started our business one year after the shut down. It was scary. On the flip side, we were able to get an amazing location at a great price because not many companies were opening up new businesses.
What challenges did you face? What challenges did you face that were particular to starting this during the pandemic?
Elevate: The biggest challenge we faced in particular to the pandemic was the mask debate. It had already been 17 months since the pandemic began when we opened our doors. We both had strong mask opinions. So we decided to make it optional. It worked just fine.
What did you learn about yourself during this endeavor?
Elevate: We both learned that we are actually stronger than we thought of ourselves to be.
We both had to make huge adjustments in our lives, both personally and professionally. It was a scary time, but we had each other to lean on.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Elevate: The biggest challenge we faced was the buildout of our location. Neither of us had ever done anything of the sort. So it was a daily challenge. We learned something new every day and had to deal with setbacks all the time.
What was the toughest thing you had to do?
Elevate: The toughest thing we had to do was part from our old dance studio. We had both been there over 20 years. We had special friendships that suffered a bit as a result.
What has been the most satisfying part of this experience?
Elevate: We both love to teach, so seeing our dancers grow as dancers is definitely the most satisfying part of the experience.
We also have a huge dance family and their support is incredible. We are truly blessed with some of the best.
What are you most proud of?
Elevate: We are most proud of our beautiful studio and of how far our students have come in such a short time.
What advice would you have for other women thinking about starting their own business during a pandemic or even during regular circumstances?
Elevate: Our advice would be that we know it’s scary, but you can do it. Make a list and a plan and get to it! Anything is possible if you truly want it.
What goals do you have for your new business? What do you want to accomplish with your new opening?
Elevate: We’d love to expand our studio location and have a larger company. We want to continue teaching and inspiring young dancers.
After just being open a few months, Elevate Dance Company has already gone to win various awards at dance competitions around Florida. They also completely wowed me with their rendition of the “Nutcracker” this holiday season. If this is how their first year takes off, I am so excited to see how the future unfolds for this new dance studio and their tiny dancers.