By Matt Lindberg Columbus Telegram, Neb.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Mikaela Wills has made all the right moves when it comes to launching and expanding her dance company called "I Dance." So much so, that she is expanding to a new location this fall to accommodate all of the growth.
Columbus Telegram, Neb.
When Mikaela Wills first opened up iDance Project in July 2010 in downtown Columbus, she said she was told several times she would fail. It was like a gut-punch.
"I think any entrepreneur feels like anything is a good idea until you get thrown into the situation and realize how tough it really is," Wills recalled of when the studio first opened.
But she persevered. Almost nine years later, iDance has a few hundred students ranging in age from 18 months to adults, has won numerous coveted dance competition honors and built quite the reputation along the way.
As a result, Wills recently announced her decision to move the studio from its current location at 3409 21st St. to a bigger spot in the strip mall along West 23rd Street that already houses Sears Hometown Store, Goodwill and Super Buffet.
Her iDance Project is tentatively planning to open up shop in its future location on Nov. 2, and once it does, it will mark the second time in its history it has relocated to accommodate growth. The first move from downtown to 21st Street occurred about five years ago.
"The layout is going to be amazing and will be utilized to fill all of our needs," Wills said. "We've outgrown our current spot. We have a lot of wasted space in this location."
The new studio will give iDance about 500 additional square feet, boasting approximately 4,500 square feet in total. And iDance is planning to put that space to good use. The business' new home will feature three studios, one of which will be approximately 1,500 square feet (bigger than a standard stage) for dress rehearsals and more, Wills noted. There will also be room for merchandise, lockers and a seating area for kids to do their homework.
Things will be easier for parents, too, as the new location will offer ample parking.
"This is just going to be a better location," Wills said. "There will be better parking and overall, I think it's just going to be better for our studio."
Sandie Fischer, who handles entrepreneurship membership and events for the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, said iDance is a shining example when it comes to success stories and local businesses.
"It's absolutely wonderful. That's what we want to see -- is our businesses in Columbus continue to grow," she said. "In her case, she is an entrepreneur and over the years the success she has had growing her business in this wonderful city of Columbus."
In a way, the move and success of iDance are all still very surreal to Wills. She has been dancing practically her entire life, having studied an array of styles ranging from ballet, tap, jazz and clogging to pointe, contemporary/lyrical, pom, acrobatics and hip-hop. Her skills resulted in her having the chance to perform at Disney World, the Mall of America and during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on several occasions.
A Valley native, she graduated with a degree in health care administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. But while there, she was a member of the nationally-ranked UNO Maverick Dance Team and the semi-professional Omaha Beef Dance Team.
Some time had gone by after she had graduated college, but Wills said she knew she had a desire to open up some sort of dance studio. Although she had no connection to Columbus, she visited the town on several occasions and saw the potential for the community's growth. That's ultimately what drove her to settle here.
"I decided to take the chance," she said. "I took all my savings out and put everything I could into my downtown location."
Admittedly, it was tough at first. She said her doubters early on caused stress, but they also ended up motivating her.
"So I just have to thank those people because they added fuel to my fire. I just put every single ounce of energy I had into the studio and it has really succeeded," she said. "I really enjoy working with the kids and working with my staff."
Wills now has a whole team behind her, including her brother/Associate Director Nate Sramek, ballet instructor Katherine Eppink and Pre-K Associate Director Morgan Jackson. Also part of her faculty are fellow instructors Holden Wemhoff, Rebecca Johnson and Logan Korus. Her mother, Vicky Sramek, is the office manager and business administrator.
"It's always a rewarding job no matter what," Wills said of running the studio and coaching dance. "And I'm so grateful and so appreciative of everyone who has been part of the dance studio and believes in our success."
Lindsay resident Kim Sueper has an 8-year-old daughter, as well as a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old son, who participate in iDance. Her daughter is on an iDance competitive team, while she has one son who does tumbling and tap and another who does tap exclusively. She said iDance is a great place for her children.
"The whole atmosphere is very family-oriented," she said. "They include all the children and make them part of their dance family."
They've all been part of iDance for approximately five years and are looking forward to the move to the new location.
"I think it's fantastic that they're growing and we get to have more opportunity for growth," Sueper said. "And with a bigger and newer studio, we can welcome even more dancers from the community."
The studio has a competitive team, a part-time competitive squad and a huge rec program to cater to dancers of all ages and backgrounds. It has won numerous prestigious awards throughout the last decade, and while Wills appreciates the recognition, sharing her love for dance continues to truly be what it's all about.
"I feel like what does it for me is when a student finally gets a step because they work so hard. We don't allow them to say 'can't' in the classroom because they can eventually. It's mind over matter in every situation," she said, noting she's grateful for the love and support of her husband, Alan. "Or when they get off stage from their recital dance and they're all smiles, saying 'we did awesome,' it's just very rewarding to see them execute what we've been working on all year."
Those interested in getting involved with iDance can call 402-606-4695 or email [email protected]
Wills said she's appreciative of those who have supported her business throughout the years, but hopes iDance won't have to relocate again.
"I wanted a bigger dance studio so we had more space, but hopefully this will be the last move," she said, with a laugh.