Fifteen-year-old Amiya Alexander, a 2010 Black Enterprise Teenpreneur nominee, is striving to help her community thrive and to eradicate the costly disease of childhood obesity through her mobile dance academy. Amiya’s Mobile Dance Academy for Detroit students ages 2 to 12 brings dance lessons in ballet, tap, jazz, salsa, and hip-hop. Alexander also teaches classes on healthy eating and wellness.
Alexander started the company in 2008 after she realized that her friends and classmates often couldn’t afford to pay for expensive dance lessons at $25 per class. Their community lacked sufficient practice space and their parents often lacked the time to travel to studios.
That’s when the then-9-year-old dancer decided to start her own studio. Alexander, who has been dancing since she was 2 years old, got the idea for her own dance academy. She discussed it with her mother, Taberah Alexander, who immediately agreed to help with her effort. Taberah, with the help of family donations, made a total investment of about $20,000 to get the mobile dance studio up and running. That money helped them purchase a 52-passenger school bus. After removing the seats, they installed ballet bars and wood flooring.
Today, classes are held inside the big bright pink bus which drives around town to offer affordable and accessible dance lessons for underserved Detroit communities and families. Formal dance instruction can cost anywhere from $30 to $60 per class. With the help of donations, Alexander is able to offer her students a discounted rate of $11.50 per class.
Alexander’s efforts also help keep those in her community from chipping away at their wealth, with childhood obesity responsible for about $14 billion in direct medical costs. Obese children often remain overweight well into adulthood.
Amiya’s Mobile Dance Academy is a for-profit, but Alexander’s company receives monetary donations as well as dance equipment such as pointe shoes and leotards. Television personality Dr. Phil also has a section on his foundation website where donations can be made. Alexander has also created a scholarship fund to help students who cannot afford to pay for the classes.
The decision to create a studio on wheels was a response to high gas prices and parents’ busy work schedules. In addition, Alexander says since many of the families may not have cars, she chose to come to them. This way, classes would always be accessible to the students and convenient for the parents.
Giving back is her life’s philosophy. “It is important to share your talent with others, don’t just focus on yourself,” says Alexander, who’s future plans include continuing to dance and becoming a physician. One of her goals is to save some of the profits from her business so that she can attend Harvard Medical School to become an OB-GYN.
Even though she is philanthropic, she had made the business end is taken care of. Alexander has a financial team in place to handle the money matters. She knows not to take the rules and regulations for granted, especially given that she is still a minor. An entrepreneurial lesson she has learned is that you take time to complete the proper paperwork or put the right team in place to get it done right.
Businesses on wheels like Amiya’s Mobile Dance Academy are trendy these days. More and more entrepreneurs are running their businesses from the drivers’ seats of trucks, buses, vans and even bicycle type pushcarts. The road to success can be a bumpy ride with high gas prices, government regulations, and inclement weather.
While the business model for mobile vendors varies, many of their challenges are the same. Here are few tips to help you better navigate your mobile business.