First Black Owner of a Fred Astaire Dance Studio Franchise Says Be Ready When Opportunity Knocks
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

In 2014, Kenneth Jarvis became the first African American owner of a Fred Astaire Dance Studio franchise. Jarvis has been passionate about the arts since he was very young. He grew up studying French, violin, and ballet. While in college, he had the opportunity to be part of The Young Eight string octet, created by the violin virtuoso, Quinton Morris. The Young Eight tours arrange concerts in inner-city communities throughout the US.

Although Jarvis’s love for the arts was his main focus, he picked up the skills he needed to understand business and finances while still part of the art world. His first job in high school was in the administrative offices of the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra handling advertising and data entry; he eventually took a break from the arts and transitioned into banking.

Fred Astaire Dance Studio

Kenneth Jarvis in his Chicago West Loop Studio

Getting Back To What You Love

After traveling abroad and living in Paris, Jarvis returned to the US. Although he had performed all types of dance, ballroom dancing was the first one he learned. When he moved to Chicago, he looked into The Fred Astaire Dance Studio as somewhere where he could continue his hobby. It just so happened they were looking for instructors. Jarvis applied, and through the interview process, he became quite impressed with the mission of the franchise, teaching methods, values, innovation, reputation, and its overall success. He was hired and taught for six years. Success as an instructor led to a position as a director. Jarvis, enjoying the experience, considered purchasing a Fred Astaire Studio franchise of his own—that’s when opportunity stepped in. An owner in the area was considering selling his studio.

Fred Astaire Studio Success 

In his first year, Jarvis saw a 20% growth quarter over quarter. The growth metrics have changed since then, yet, between the eight locations in Chicago, his is a top-performing studio. His studio has also been recognized as one of 2018’s Top Studios for Financial Growth among Chicagoland Fred Astaire Dance Studios, one of 2016 and 2018’s Top Performing Studio in Competitive Dancesport at Indiana Challenge among Midwest Dance Studios, one of 2016, 2017, and 2018’s Top Performing Studios in Competitive Dancesport among Chicagoland Fred Astaire Dance Studios, and one of 2014’s Top Performing Studio in Competitive Dancesport among all Fred Astaire Dance Studios across the world. The studio has also been recognized for its staff, sales, and financial growth.

Fred Astaire Dance Studio

Jarvis teaching class at the Chicago West Loop Studio

Jarvis is proud of his accomplishments thus far but is always striving for more. His experience as a judge at dance competitions for elementary school students in underprivileged areas has inspired him to want to start a similar program.  Dance not only teaches teamwork, but “it can be physically, emotionally, and mentally healing”, he says.



Join the Conversation

Nancy E Williams

Nancy E Williams is a Certified Franchise Consultant specializing in helping women and minorities fulfill their dream of owning their own business by purchasing a franchise. She represents over 400 brands across the US. While her title is Consultant, she views herself as a client advocate and educator, because her first priority is to ensure that her clients understand everything about the process of buying a franchise, and partner with them throughout the process so they ask the right questions and feel confident about their life changing decision. Nancy graduated from UCLA with a degree in Sociology with a specialization in Urban Studies and Business. After owning an independent record label, partnering in a non-profit, and 14 years in Management at Sprint, she started NValuable Franchise Consulting. Coming full circle as an Entrepreneur, Nancy is passionate about educating others on the empowerment of business ownership and the tremendous impact it has on individuals, families and communities.