As part of a series celebrating young entrepreneurs at River Market, we would like to introduce Stefanie Swinnard of The Stage New West. The Stage New West offers early childhood music and dance education to young children. Stefanie opens up about how her desire to build a business founded on the principle of giving back to the community has brought her long-lasting success.
What is the key to your success?
Commitment to community involvement. We went out and participated in a lot of local community activities in the beginning. Street Festivals, Easter, Canada Day, Family Day—you name it, we showed up. We ran a fundraiser for the local schools and got the whole community involved, and created new ways for the fundraising money to stay within the community. People began to respond to our events. Parents started recognizing us. Of course, it helps to work with wonderful people; I could not have built our reputation without the work of our exceptional team.
What do you love most about running your business?
I love that it has become its own community for people to meet and build lasting relationships. I love the freedom I have to shape the company in a meaningful way for our students and my team. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is looking back at old photos from year 1 or 2 ago and seeing the baby photos of some of our students who are now in preschool classes or older-aged classes. I love that parents have met new friends here, and then seeing those family groups enjoying life in New West together is amazing.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned while running your business?
Patience is a virtue and one I’ve only truly started to develop in the last year or so of my business. Everything you want for your business can and will happen, but it can’t and won’t happen all at once. Flexibility and adaptability are important also, you never know what to expect sometimes in the world of self-employment. Running a business is so much more than just a passion for a particular craft. To expand my knowledge, I read a lot not just about performing arts and business management but also about ADHD, autism, and other factors that affect some of the kids we teach. The programs we offer at The Stage are not just about a child holding an instrument or putting a student in a costume and on a stage—the arts have so much to offer to a child, and can have such a positive and profound impact.
What advice would you give to young and aspiring entrepreneurs?
Recognise early on that you don’t have to know it all. Ask for help when you need it. Reaching out builds important relationships in your industry and it’s not a sign of weakness. Put systems in place early on in your business. If you find yourself thinking “But, my business is too small right now to need that…” consider thinking about your business in the future and begin working as if your business is already there. Establishing the systems not only organizes your business now but will also help you scale and maintain your growth with a better level of control. Fast growth is great, but not if the infrastructure isn’t in place to support it. Lastly, enjoy what you do but expect that on some days, it will feel like a job and that’s okay.
Music for Us is an interactive class in early childhood education and is offered every Thursday at 10:15 am and 11:30 am for children ages 0 -5 by The Stage New West.