DANCER’S DATELINE FEATURE: HOW DANCE IMPACTS THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MIND

Suki Kramer, Skincare Entrepreneur by Day… Professional Ballroom Dancer by Night

(re-reprinted from Dancer’s Dateline, October 2015)

My only dream when I was little was to be a dancer. Back then I had every younger dance student’s mentality, “dance is solely a young person’s game.” Then, I was also dumb enough to believe only ballet was “real dance.” How wrong I was on both counts(!) and how surprising for me now, as a 48-year old woman, finding myself not only in better shape but more confident than ever before! I also had no idea back then that my path would require this journey of almost 30 years, many odd jobs and eventually, finding my sense of purpose building my company, suki skincare.

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The kind of hyper-focused discipline it takes to create a business is exactly the kind it takes to dance competitively! Dance is a daily exercise working through and despite pain (no whining!), fear, frustration, and with goals that feel so far away but we keep trying with everything we’ve got, and little by little, we get a step farther each year. We persevere because of the passion we have for dance, not knowingeverything, ever. We, as the phrase goes, “just do it!” And, if there’s any preparation for a life as an entrepreneur/business owner, it’s a childhood taking dance lessons.

When I could finally take a bit of a breather from building my business, about 10-15 years in, I found the time and felt that pull and really wanted to explore ballroom…probably because I grew up listening to Glen Miller and watching Gene Kelly! As I now, 6 ½ years later, know my styles (International Ballroom and American Smooth) are as painful, technical, difficult, wonderful, empowering and incredibly beautiful as any other.

As I look back to myself a young insecure girl, I know I could never have experienced any of what dance had to offer then, because I was so debilitated with self-doubt. That’s not to say I haven’t been deeply afraid recently and continue to work through tons of insecurity, perfectionism and fear! But my dance teacher, Gunnar Sverisson, has filled me with his positivity daily and never allows me even a grunt of negativity. This has led to so many amazing changes for me on and off the floor.

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(painting by Leonid Atremov)

As I look back to myself a young insecure girl, I know I could never have experienced any of what dance had to offer then, because I was so debilitated with self-doubt. That’s not to say I haven’t been deeply afraid recently and continue to work through tons of insecurity, perfectionism and fear! But my dance teacher, Gunnar Sverisson, has filled me with his positivity daily and never allows me even a grunt of negativity. This has led to so many amazing changes for me on and off the floor.

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Being brave, trusting and proactive or competitive in dance expands into so many things: being fully engaged in the process of learning, which involves letting down our egos and facing our fears, opening our minds to new things, putting ourselves out there, even if it means we will potentially fall on our butts right in front of the audience or a judge. All of this courage reminds me of how I started my business when I had nothing and knew nothing about how to run a business, about design, marketing, I could go on and on! I had to learn it all (not to mention chemistry!), with no money to start a business, just my brains, determination and tenacity as my tools and exactly what I needed to motivate me to do what has been probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Without all the experiences I’ve had – the struggles, mistakes, the realizations, hardships, facing all sorts of people and the mistakes I’ve made – I’d have never grown into who I am today. And ironically, I’d never be able to be the dancer I am finally capable of becoming. Even recently, I had another growth spurt and finally turned into a real boss after almost 20 years! Dance plays a huge role in pushing me toward being a confident leader. While being an entrepreneur at first had a great deal to do with me facing some of the greater challenges of my dance journey, they’ll always go hand in hand.

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With the intense stress that comes with years of being a business owner, dance provides me the mental and emotional outlet and flat out fun nothing else does. When I’m at practice, I am happy and present. It is my respite – invaluable just in terms of stress relief alone! The lessons of dance and entrepreneurship go hand in hand and they naturally flow into all areas of my life. I am a different woman than I was 6 years or even 1 year ago…and I directly hold my experiences on that dance floor responsible for the confidence and strength I now enjoy.

And, I am so lucky I get to experience all this in my prime at 48! Right?

xo

—Suki

THE POWER OF PERSISTENCE

from time to time I’ll share “inspirational notes” that may seem trite in this age of irony, but they’ve obviously helped me out. I received this one from a gentleman I met on a flight, & I’m grateful to him for his time & wisdom…& for this great daily motivational tool he was so kind to send me, some of which I’ll pay forward to you!

I’ve always believed we can truly do anything we set our minds to—given the necessary time, hard, very hard work, sacrifice & totally idealistic goals.

persistence

it has, at times, been hard for me to maintain this sense of determination—especially when I’m surrounded by people who have come into my life now that my business is successful & think somehow it all appeared poof! as if by accident or magic…hiiii-larious…persistence people! (& intelligence, luck, help, intuition, tenacity, hmmm I could go on & on…) but in this case:

Persistence

the successful way forward is to persist. persist, and you

can turn around the most difficult situation.

persist, and you learn. persist, and you become more

skilled, better connected & vastly more effective.

persist, & you will master the difficult, complicated

tasks that now frustrate you. persist, and you gain not only

skill but also understanding.

persistence is not always easy, yet it is always available

to you. persistence is not always pleasant or comfortable,

yet it always makes you stronger.

persist, and you will find the way to get where you most

want to go. persist, and nothing is out of your reach.

~Ralph Marston

perseverence

I’ve been taking ballroom dance for about 7 years now, competing for about 6, & Marston’s poem reminds me of every day, week, month & year we must as my teacher would say. chip away when we feel we’ve plateaued. chip away when we are frustrated with our lack of progress, chip away when we are skating along & feel we’ve done nothing to get where we are. chip away when we are feeling good & just want to dance, not work! we continue to get better, in teeny tiny increments & sometimes if we are lucky, in a big growth spurt, & it only happens with hard work & for sure…persistence.

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I’d love to hear from you guys—what have you accomplished that called for more than “what is required” & how many of you have continued on & on, beyond what you felt you were capable of? beyond self-doubt, frustration, fear & when you persevered, what happened?

xo

—Suki