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

BORED BY BOOK CLUBS? START A COMMUNITY GARDEN!

I drive by my “city” garden every day on my way to & from work. years ago, I would take daily walks or bike rides by & watch people working, each in their little patch of land but all connected. I’ve always wondered, how do these community gardens get started?

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turns out, the first community gardens started in Detroit in the 1890s to provide land, work & better nutrition to unemployed citizens & their families during a difficult economic time. in my community of Northampton, MA (check it out!), a group of people got together & divided up an overgrown kitchen garden on the grounds of an abandoned psychiatric hospital. talk about repurposed land!

communitygarden.org estimates there are more than 18,000 community gardens in the U.S. and Canada! In Northampton, any resident can claim their own 20 x 20 plot of land with access to water, tools & plenty of homemade organic fertilizer for just $22 a year. gardeners are encouraged to plant a mix of flowers & vegetables for maximum biodiversity, encouraging a variety of birds, bugs & of course that environmental superhero, the honeybee.

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I think it’s an awesome idea to have shared land available to people who might not have the space at home, or who want to socialize while they commune with the earth. dozens of studies (like the ones in this communitygardens.com overview) have shown that community gardens have individual & city-wide benefits: they reduce crime, encourage self-reliance, beautify neighborhoods, provide low-cost food for families, improve psychological health for everyone from busy office workers to kids with ADHD & offer opportunities for exercise in our ever “widening” 😉 culture.

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I think gardening is especially great for kids—these days, so many grow up never knowing the taste of a non-GMO carrot or a tomato straight from the garden, & their idea of vegetables is a heap of mushy squares on a cafeteria tray. but truly fresh produce is so much more!

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check out this HowStuffWorks tutorial for practical tips on how to get a community garden started in your own hometown, or the American Community Gardening Association for an in-depth 2-day workshop.

what a rewarding way to beautify your city or town & connect with like-minded neighbors you never knew you had. 🙂 so start or join one today & share your pics, videos & inspiring  stories!

xo

—Suki