Sorority experience pays off for young entrepreneur

Posted2/5/2018 5:00 AM

Advertising works, at least enough to prompt me to call Lauren Skiniotes and ask if her Facebook ad featuring a line of young feet in tap shoes and offering a free lesson to "see how much fun your child can have in dance classes" at Skiniotes' Momentum Dance Studio has been successful.

The short answer to my question is "Yes," although the ad is only part of a series of promotions Skiniotes has undertaken to build awareness for Homer Glen-based Momentum Dance.

What's more interesting is Skiniotes' business experience progression, which it seems fair to say began when she purchased what then was her home studio, The Dance Studio Ltd.

This isn't the near-classic tale of a middle-aged individual heading back to college, picking up some classes and following a long-delayed dream by purchasing a dance studio. Skiniotes still was in college when The Dance Studio owner Marianne Kyler "approached me about taking over the studio," Skiniotes says.

"She grew up dancing, had been in the business for 27 years -- and wanted someone she trusted to take over the studio," Skiniotes says. "For me, it was a question of taking on the studio now or building a business later from the ground up."

The decision was easy. There's no question about Skiniotes' dance skills: She has been dancing since she was three; graduated from Valparaiso University with a degree in studio art and a minor in dance; was part of the university's Crusaderettes dance team, where she "gained (dance and choreography) skills and made connections across the country;" and has taught dance styles that include hip-hop and contemporary.

However, there is a big difference between dancing, teaching dance and running a business.

"I agree 100 percent," Skiniotes says. "The biggest thing that prepared me, in college, was my sorority (Kappa Kappa Gamma at Valpo).

The connection between chapter and campuswide sorority participation, and managing a business makes some sense. "I had to learn leadership skills, plan events and recruit," Skiniotes says.

Skiniotes began the transition to Momentum (new name, hiring teachers, auditioning kids for the Momentum performance company) in April 2016; graduated from Valpo in May and formally opened for business in June, after The Dance Studio's final recital.

Not unlike sorority (and fraternity) rush, building Momentum "is all about name recognition," Skiniotes says. Consequently, Momentum dancers have performed during intermissions at Chicago Wolves hockey games, dancing at their seats rather than on the ice; participated in the local Independence Day parade; performed at business expos; staged the generally expected dance studio recital for friends and family -- plus a holiday season Hansel & Gretel performance; and performed at two competitions a year.

Momentum, which Skiniotes renamed for competitive purposes, also hosts a special class for local Girl Scouts, who score a dance badge for participating.

Mom and Tots classes begin for children as young as 18 months. There are later pre-professional tracks that focus on jazz/contemporary or ballet.

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