Melinda Wittstock: My guest today is Natalie Perkins. Natalie is the CEO of Bella Ballerina, and her company empowers women and moms to take control of their ambitions and create companies that fulfill their desire for a flexible lifestyle and entrepreneurial ambitions. Bella Ballerina offers franchise and license opportunities, as well as retail sales through its family of products and services. Welcome to Wings, Natalie.
Natalie Perkins: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.
Melinda Wittstock: I am always excited to learn about the big “why” of entrepreneurial ambitions. Tell me, what was your “why” in getting Bella Ballerina going?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. Well, I was in a job that I really not enjoying doing to be honest. I was a middle-to-upper level manager. I was working at pediatric dental practice where I had about 40 employees underneath me. I liked me day-to-day work, but I was kind of getting to a point where I was topping out on my income and I knew I wasn’t in control of that — somebody else was deciding what I was worth. I was starting to … I had just had my daughter, so I was starting to kind of have those moments where I would need to take a day off of work because she was sick, or I couldn’t take as many vacation days around the holidays because I was limited there and I was just feeling like, “You know what? Now is the time where I really need to step out on my own and do this business.”
Melinda Wittstock: That’s fantastic. What was your process in finding the idea that inspired you to really go forward?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. Well, I had many business ideas throughout the years. In fact, my husband was like, “Oh, my gosh. Just pick one,” right? I had so many and I was just too chicken to take any of those chances. But, at the time, I had my daughter — she was two and a half — and I was actually looking to start an entirely different business, but the startup capital was like $600,000, and nobody was giving me $600,000. I went to 15 banks looking for financing. So, at the time I was just like, “Let’s just put it on the back burner,” and we put my daughter into dance at the same timeframe, and I was there and I’m watching this class and I’m thinking, “This isn’t really what I’m looking for. Its sort of more like a play group disguised as a dance class,” and when I went to look for other options everything else was like the opposite end of the spectrum.
There just wasn’t anything I was really looking for and like a program like I grew up in. So, it kind of dawned on me that, “You know what? This is really maybe what I should take advantage of. It’s something I’m super-familiar with. It’s a really fun industry. It would be really low startup capital and really low technology-wise.” I had a lot of technology I was troubleshooting every day in my current job then, and the most technology in this was like an iPod and a laptop computer and a coffee maker.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. It’s interesting what you say about, first of all, just meeting the flexibility. Moms tend to start businesses, and a lot of guys don’t really understand that. They think that that’s it, like, how could you possibly manage that? It would be easier to have a job. But often, I found this has been true in my career as well, it was that flexibility of being able to, I don’t know, get that work-life balance, or actually more of what I call “work-life integration”.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: The interesting timing of this, though, is that so many women do go into business around the time that they have young children. A lot of people would look at that and say, “How is that possible because a business is so demanding and kids are so demanding?” I mean, how did you balance both of those things?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. I think it’s funny that you called it work-life integration before. That’s such a better word. I always tell people when they ask me that question about work-life balance, I’m like, its bull. There’s no such thing.
Melinda Wittstock: There’s no balance.
Natalie Perkins: There is no balance.
Melinda Wittstock: It was like hacking it.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. The balance is getting used to an imbalance where sometimes work comes first, and my husband and daughter know don’t call me unless the house is on fire or you’re on the way to the hospital or something. It’s just that is what’s most important at that point in time, and then there’s times where family comes first and I’m on vacation and I tell my employees, “Don’t call me unless the building’s on fire.” So, it’s getting used to the imbalance; it’s getting used to the fact that sometimes you are going to be with your family and you do have to take phone calls and you do have to do emails, and your family has to also kind of get into that imbalance as well and be okay with it.
But I think that … Going back to what you said about women starting businesses when they have kids and how that appears to be so difficult, what’s interesting about it is that I sometimes feel like a lot of women do that because they feel like they’re in a position where there isn’t any other alternative. So there is probably not a lot of businesses out there that allow women the flexibility that they need in order to feel comfortable in their life, and so being an entrepreneur is the solution to that.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. It’s interesting how many women, perhaps, become almost accidental entrepreneurs because of the lack of flexibility in the corporate world. It’s an interesting point, you really are left with no choice but to figure out how to find a way or make one that’s going to work for your life, for the money you need to earn to be able to be with your kids when you need to be with your kids, and make all of those things work. Do you think women are wired a little bit differently than men? I mean, there’s a lot of research that we’re more like web thinkers, so we can balance a lot of different things at the same time in a way that men might be a little bit more linear or a little bit more focused on just like one thing at a time.
Natalie Perkins: Oh, yeah. It’s so funny that you mention it. There is a comedy skit, and I wish I knew off the top of my head who the comedian was. It’s hysterical. He’s talking about how women and men think differently and how men have a box for everything. They have a box for work; they have a box for their wife; they have a box for their kids; they have a box for their sports; they have a box for their mother-in-law — that’s the box in the basement. They have a box for … And for women, it’s like everything is connected.
They just … And I just had this conversation with my husband the other night ’cause he posed the question, “If you had $10,000 cash what would you do with it?” And I was like, “What do you mean what would I do?” I said, “Well, wait. Do you have $10,000 cash, too, or do I just have $10,000? Because I can’t justify spending $10,000 on something that I want or on myself unless I know you have an equal opportunity to do so, and I would probably do this with it except for this and that and the other thing,” and it was like-
Melinda Wittstock: So, you went deep on that, right?
Natalie Perkins: He was looking at me like, “What is wrong with you? Just if you had $10,000 what would you do with it?” It’s just … You’re right. It is all connected, and so I think that in terms of making the leap to entrepreneurship it’s not just about saying, “I want to earn more money, or I want more time with my kids,” it’s everything together, and yet we’re so used to everything being connected in this way that when you actually have to live a life where you’re doing all of it at the same time … men, I think, sometimes look at that situation and they’re like, “I don’t even understand how this is happening. I don’t understand how all of this is getting done at the same time,” and women are like, “Yep. That’s just how it works, you know?”
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That’s it. I think when women also come up … certainly in the technology space, come up with these really interesting way of disrupting the whole industries by applying technology in a different way, and the business models have a number of different connected dots. Then when they go to raise funding, the venture capitalist looks at them and says something like, “Can you be more focused?” And the woman [inaudible 00:37:06, “I am being focused.”
Natalie Perkins: Yeah, that’s definitely an issue. Actually, all of our corporate-owned stores are very close to you, but I live in California. I live just in the tech capital of the world in Silicon Valley, and there are stories out here all the time about how less than 2% of VC money goes to women entrepreneurs, and yet a lot this VC money is coming from men, so I think that there is a disconnect between probably the really valuable and amazing business opportunities that these women are producing and presenting, but the way that they’re received and the people who have control over that funding are often times people who are thinking a different way — primarily men. I think there’s a lot of products and companies that could get out there into the world and are just never seen because it’s like, “Oh, well, that won’t work.” Well, that might not work for you, you know? And I know a lot of women who have proposed companies to venture capitalists or even angel investors … They’re proposing them to men primarily, and then their response is, “Well, let me run this past my wife.” It’s like no. No.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. That does happen. I think, actually, one of my more notorious stories of trying to raise venture capital … I was told by … He shall remain nameless, but that his wife would be unhappy if he funded a female-run company. I thought he was joking to begin with.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. I don’t know how I would even take that.
Melinda Wittstock: Right? Like what do you say? I mean … What?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. I honestly don’t know how I would respond to that. That would be my mouth open [crosstalk 00:38:48.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I know. There are a few of these, and it’s interesting that men and women sometimes … and there’s all sorts of different perceptions of we think that we’re being heard, but like you said about that comedian, we might be being heard in a different way that we don’t even understand, so to try and figure out how to understand what the man hears, whether you’re managing a bunch of engineers or you’re asking for money from male VCs or bankers or whatever, is how to kind of … not to necessarily change who we are, but how do we figure out what they’re actually hearing.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. Well, and I think it’s understanding how the message is received, how they communicate with other people, and not just them as quote-unquote men, but just in general as a person. We spend probably … 90% of our HR conversations are about feelings and how somebody might feel about their job or how motivated they are right now based on how they feel about what they’re doing, and I think for a male dominated industry those conversations don’t take place as often.
It’s not that people aren’t feeling a certain way, but it’s just not the focus, and so when you’re presenting information to anybody else — I don’t care if it’s a woman or a man or whoever — you have to know how they best receive it and tailor your message to that person, and whether that person wants to hear the short, quick version, which is like me … I just totally zone somebody out when they just go on and on and on and on. I can’t listen to it, so I can only imagine the opposite, too, how that would feel. So, I think it’s just about tailoring your message to their communication style, their point of view. Maybe that’s a masculine/feminine thing, but just keeping that in mind.
Melinda Wittstock: So, tell me where Bella Ballerina is in terms of its growth right now? You started in 2011, and you’re growing pretty fast. How many franchises are there at this stage?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. So, we did start in 2011 and opened three corporate stores in those three consecutive years, and then the year thereafter began franchising and putting everything together. We just started offering our franchises last year, and actually our first franchise sold was one of our corporate stores that we sold to an existing teacher, which was a huge compliment to us — that they would want to invest in our business. And then, from there on out … By the end of this year, we will have seven stores total open or in production, and then we’re really on pace by the end of next year to have 18 stores open or in production, so it’s growing really fast, which is exciting especially considering that we have not advertised at all. So, we’re really excited for this next year because that means a ton of growth when we do start telling the world that this is an awesome opportunity they can take advantage of.
Melinda Wittstock: And that’s awesome. And your daughter, meanwhile, is watching you grow a business, which is one of the best educations that a young girl could have watching her mom do this.
Natalie Perkins: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. It’s funny because I had a conversation with one of our franchisees because her son is experiencing the same thing, and she’s explaining all of these business terms and things that happen in business because he just sees it going on around him. I was telling her some stories about my daughter when we were opening and how she would ask questions like, “Well, why did that store go out of business?” And this was when she was two and a half, “Why did that store go out of business?” And then I’d be explaining how just very basic if you don’t make enough money to pay your rent and pay this and pay your employees, which is called overhead, you don’t have enough money to stay open, so you have to close down, or the different between retail and wholesale. So, at two and a half, she would walk into stores and very unassumingly ask an employee, “Who’s the boss here?”
She would understand very basic levels of organizational structure, and then after that she would be … as a student in our own dance studio, she’d be in a class and she’d go up to a newer teacher and say, “Are you part-time or full time?” I’d be like, “Oh jeez,” but now it’s like she really does understand those concepts even as a kid. It was funny, at her school, in her third grade classroom, they had an organization come in, which I was totally in love with this concept … They teach kids about business. They only come on for a full day, but it was just a really eye-opening experience, and she was all over it. She was like, “I knew exactly this and that,” and the guy was talking about … he was explaining to them when you own your own business, like a brick and mortar business, something about having a building or whatever and she said … she said something about, “Well, when you get dependent allowance for your space,” you know? And he was like, “Where did you come from? How do you even know those words?”
Melinda Wittstock: When did you decide that franchising … or was that always in the plan that you were going to do it as a franchise?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. From day one, it was definitely in the plan, and so we knew that when we designed the studios they had to be very easily duplicated and things of that nature. It’s funny because I always say I have sketches from what I sketched and I said, “This is what I want the reception area to look like. This is what I want the dance room to look like. This is what I want the parent seating area to look,” … and you can hold up the sketches and then it’s like, “Wow. That’s it.” But, yeah, we did it with the idea of franchising in mind, and after about three and a half years in we had three studios of our own, and so we started taking all of that content from our curriculum and our operations and everything and putting it on paper and really making sure that our franchisees in the future would have everything that they needed and were very well supported. So, it was always sort of in the plan from the beginning.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s fantastic.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. So, we just started offering franchises just over a year ago, and we actually sold one of our corporate-owned stores as our first franchise to an existing teacher, which was, to me, such a compliment to see somebody so already invested in our business want to own their own studio. And then, shortly after that, we had some more interest, and so by the end of this year we’ll have our two corporate-owned studios and four additional franchises open and a couple more kind of in the mix in production.
But, honestly, we have not advertised — not at all — and so, for us, in terms of growth, we are really excited for this next year because we are just starting to put out to the world to say, “Hey, this is an opportunity. This is the franchise that’s available to you,” and it takes a while to get all your ducks in a row with all of the legal stuff that goes along with franchising, but once you have it you can grow very quickly. So, we’re right now on pace to have about 18 stores open or in production by the end of next year, which is incredible growth for just your first two years of franchising.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it really is, and I can see how it would be appealing, too. So, my daughter, when she was about two and a half, suddenly got very interested in ballet, and we’re in the Washington, DC area, and she ended up in a very serious ballet track — going to a Washington ballet school. But I kind of appreciated what you were saying about that middle ground because that was so classical and so focused — like either you were going to be a dancer with your life. You get up to about 10 years old or 11 or 12 and suddenly it’s a full time commitment or not.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. Oh, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: And nothing really in between.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. Like I was saying, the class I had my daughter in was like a play group disguised as a dance class. When I went to look at alternatives, they were essentially the same thing that you’re talking about. It was like black leotard, pink tights, hair in a bun, Tuesday at 10 o’clock, and I’m thinking, “Have you met my toddler? That is not happening.” I wanted her to have a love of dance like I did, and I didn’t think that an hour ballet class every week was something that she was going to fall in love with. I thought she was going to get bored and give up, and I didn’t want that to happen. Some kids … they’re built for ballet. They love that.
They love the rigidity of it. They love the structure of it. But most kids can’t hang at two and a half or three years old with an hour of ballet, so we always try to walk the … We call it the “50/50 Rule” actually in our training. We call it the “50/50 rule”. We walk that line right between fun and creative play and dance education, so it’s a really good program for everybody and that way everybody’s getting something out of it no matter what you wanted as a parent or a student.
Melinda Wittstock: So, what is the most challenging thing about what you do?
Natalie Perkins: I think at this point in our company, the growth that we’re experiencing, the most challenging part is managing that growth with the infrastructure that’s needed in order to adequately support our franchisees. So, a big part of what I just feel like is right to do as a franchisor is to really, really support the people that are investing in our business because I read so many franchise disclosure documents and franchise agreements of other kinds of businesses before we wrote ours, and I was floored at how little support they gave. I thought, “Oh, my god. I would never sign up for this.” I would never want this little support in this business venture especially knowing that our business owners are often times going to be first-time business owners and maybe not even really that experienced in this particular industry. So, I think kind of managing that balance between growth and infrastructure and having enough support for them and enough people staffed to really be able to provide that to them and still grow as fast as we want to at the same time.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. So, one of the things that’s interesting on this podcast, where I talk to a lot of female founders about, is some of the things that we bring to the table as women in a kind of archetypal sense — like our kind of feminine superhero powers, right?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: And often these things can be tremendous assets, but sometimes they cannot be. We can kind of get in our own way like either over making perfect the enemy of the good or not delegating or … sometimes just not speaking up. When you think of your business career, particularly as a an entrepreneur getting this amazing kind of franchise business going and growing it so much … let’s start with the supershero powers. What do you think that you bring to it as a woman that a dude wouldn’t be able to match you at?
Natalie Perkins: Oh, that’s a really good question. Well, I think that, again, for most women and most moms the amount of detail and just the exorbitant list of things that they have to think about every day … it’s just incredible — managing a household, and what you are doing at work, and kids schedules, and this, and that, and groceries, and … The list is just insane, and I’m not saying that men don’t handle some of those things in their own households, I just don’t think that’s the norm, and so I think women and myself … I bring to the table the ability to just do so much more and have so much more going on at the same time and not be overwhelmed by it.
I see the same thing in … We have an all female staff and all female franchise owners as of right now, and I see that in them, too. They’re just like, “Yep. Let’s do it. Let’s take it on. Let’s do this. Let’s do that. Let’s do this,” and they do it with ease because they’re used to it. They’re just do used to handling so much and having so much in that to-do list and figuring out a way to make it work for them.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. That’s so interesting. I think that’s true, and I think there’s some other ways, though, where sometimes we get in our own way as well. What have you noticed about yourself that you think, “Hmmm, I could be … I don’t know a little bit more direct or more forceful,” … I mean, just for example. Is there anything like that that you think, “God, women could really learn something from men?”
Natalie Perkins: Yeah, I think one of the things that kind of falls in that category, and we have tried to promote within our company culture, is transparency. I think that whether you’re calling it being direct or you’re either calling it just being upfront, I think that there’s a lot to be said for that because sometimes when you’re working, especially when you’re working in an industry with all women, there’s this tendency to guard feelings and walk on eggshells so you’re not hurting somebody else with your words because you’re being direct. I think that … It’s not that you have to be hurtful. Nobody has to be hurtful when they speak. But when you’re being direct in a very respectful, factual manner, which I think a lot of times is the way that men communicate — in business especially — it tends to be more effective.
And so, when somebody comes on as an employee in our studio, we are very upfront about saying, “Listen, we are very open and honest with you about our expectations of what we expect from you as an employee, about how you’re doing, about improvement, constructive criticism. We want you, though, to be as transparent with us, and so if there’s something you are not liking about your position, we want you to tell us. If you don’t like what you’re doing and you think you’d want to leave us and find another job, tell us. Nobody’s going to be mad at you. So, I think it’s taking something that’s not necessarily natural to women … it’s almost like throws them off guard and it takes them a while to kind of wrap their head around it, like, “Well, wait. If I’m honest with you, you won’t retaliate at me?”
Melinda Wittstock: Well, we’re so eager to please. I think that’s part of it.
Natalie Perkins: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s sort of like … I feel like sometimes I’ve walked through life with like a drinks tray kind of balance — just making sure that everybody else is served first before me. On one level, that’s really great. We’re really very focused on relationship, but sometimes we can get lost in that as well, and so we got to advocate and speak up for ourselves on one hand, but then when we fail as we do as entrepreneurs, I mean, like every day especially if you have the type of business that you’re testing hypotheses all the time invariably you’re going to fail, so learning how not to take that personally or make it something about ourselves. Does that-
Natalie Perkins: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, we survey the heck out of our customers. We’re big on changing policies, changing procedures, adding programming, everything like that based on what our customers are looking for. So, we survey the heck out them, and it was really hard for me at first to read the negative comments. After about two or three rounds of doing that, I started feeling differently about it. I just forced myself to read them and I forced myself to look at them differently and say, “Hey, this person’s coming to me. They’re my customer. They’re actually continuing to come to me, but here’s a part of it that I know that they hate. If I was able to just change this for them, they’d probably love what they were getting instead of just like it, tell other people about it.
I’m sure there are other people feeling this way. We’d be able to better cater to our crowd,” and so now I actually don’t feel that way about negative comments that we see. I don’t get my feelings hurt. I actually welcome them because I feel like it’s the best opportunity to look at what’s wrong in your business that no one will necessarily tell you about and fix it. So, I always tell our customers, I’m like … If I have a one-on-one interaction with them, whether it’s email or phone, I always start it by saying, “Hey, listen, we’re a business who really, really, values what our customers are thinking and feeling. We want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly because I welcome that.” That’s the only way we’re going to improve.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that’s so smart because you’re really coming, also, personally from a position of strength and confidence in that, and it improves things for you, it improves things for them, so it’s like a nice evolved way of looking at it. Really just … All of this is true for female entrepreneurs, male entrepreneurs — you learn pretty quickly how to cure your own insecurities.
Natalie Perkins: Oh, yeah.
Melinda Wittstock: You have to… to succeed in business.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. If you’re an insecure person to begin with, entrepreneurship is either going to … it’s either going to push that to the side or it’s going to make you crumble. It’s one or the other.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I need therapy. I think that’s really true. So, how … I just want to go back to when you were a little kid, and you mentioned that you were dancing and all of that. Did you have a sense of what entrepreneurship was or business? Were you one of those kids with a lemonade stand and all of that? Were there [inaudible 00:20:02?
Natalie Perkins: Oh, yeah. No, definitely. It’s funny because I feel now, like in hindsight, my childhood was like a reflection of adulthood as well. My dad was always in business for himself. He was an entrepreneur. He owned a building contracting company, so very involved, hands-on. So, I saw the good parts of that and the flexibility of that. He actually took me to dance pretty much every week and was on vacation with us and that was never a strain for time off of work, but I also saw the drawbacks. I saw when we were on vacation, he had to step away from us and what we were doing to talk to the people who were on the job site and things like that. I saw the paperwork, and I saw … I was fine with that. I wanted every piece of that.
I was all about it from the time I was a kid, and I had … Speaking of lemonade stands, we had … oh, my god I got to ask my parents — we had every business scheme going as a kid. We got those big rolls of blank, white butcher paper and we made … my friend and I made like three and four page … I’m going to say books, but I’m going to use that word very loosely and in air quotes because they were three and four page scribbled … were a couple of sentences and a sketched picture, and we stapled them together and we set them up like a bookstore. We made my parents with actual money. Between that and babysitting, like, “Oh, we can babysit. We can invite all these kids.”
We had a fun fair type thing for our neighborhood kids were we set up all these games and we, again, made them pay with actual money. All of those things, it was like one thing after another as a kid. I was always after how to make something profitable. And then as an adult, I started working, but in my head I was like, “Oh, but I could do this, but I could do this, but I could do this,” so there was like business opportunity after business opportunity that I wanted to try; was sort of chicken to make that move even though I had a business plan, a logo, a sketched out website — everything in the works. I was just too chicken to make that leap, and it wasn’t until the motivation of my daughter and just feeling topped out in my current position was there, that was enough to finally make me make that move.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s interesting that women do tend to wait a little bit longer to do that. So, you were obviously an entrepreneur, right, as a little kid? But there’s something about us — we go and we make sure that we get credentials. We’re sort of like, “Am I ready to do this yet?” Whereas a lot of guys are just like, “Oh, yeah. Hey, I’m just going to start a business,” and I read some really interesting research not so long ago that it turns out that the risk profile of men in their 20s, early 20s, and women later in life, more into their late 30s and into their 40s, are the same, which is fascinating. So, it’s like the optimum time for a woman to launch a business where she feels the most confident and empowered and the most likely to be able to absorb risk in 30s and 40s, but, for men, it’s in their early 20s. So, someone’s got to tell the VCs [inaudible 00:23:06 that, right?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. No, I know. It’s crazy. I think part of that … I mean, if I had to guess — without really knowing actual facts associated with those statistics — I would say that part of that is because after you have kids and go back to work and whatever the income range of women at that point in their life sort of tapers off a little bit from where men are because … I know you’ve probably seen statistics where it’s like the lifetime earnings of women and their salaries and things are much lower because of the breaks that they take for maternity leave or maybe they stay home for a year or two.
I think that when you are in a situation where maybe you have a spouse who has that income, sometimes making that leap into entrepreneurship is a matter of the support around you, and I know I would never have been able to do that confidently without my husband, and him having his job and him supporting my desire to do this, so that made sense financially as well. I think it all sort of plays into it, but I think that you’re right. I think that women feel like they can’t just leap before they look all the time. I mean, that is definitely a part of my personality, but there’s a line there. You know, you can’t always … you can’t leap before you look and put your whole life in jeopardy because of it. So, I think there’s a lot of factors that play in there. Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s fantastic. So, how does a woman who’s thinking of becoming, say, one of our franchisees figure out whether it’s a good fit for her or not?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. Well, I think that for most of our franchisees, they need to know that they are passionate about this particular industry and … not necessarily dance, but … I mean, they don’t have to have prior dance experience if they just want to be a franchise owner. However, being in an industry where you’re working with kids and families, it’s a very emotional industry even when you’re doing something super fun like this, so being passionate about that kind of business model is really important. Also, knowing that you are somebody who wants flexibility in your schedule. You want control of your own income, but you also know that you really have to work to get those things.
You have to put in the time and you have to put in the effort. And no business — I don’t care what business you’re in — franchise or not, it doesn’t come easy. So, dedicating yourself for the next couple of years to really, really making it work and putting in the effort that’s needed there. But, yeah, I always encourage people to go to our website and read a little bit about what we’re about and what makes a good franchise owner for us, and see if that sounds like they’re reading about themselves, and if it is then that’s the opportunity where you want to say, “Let’s reach out and talk a little bit more,” and see if it really would be a good fit for them.
Melinda Wittstock: So, what keeps you going? I mean, you’ve talked about growing this to … and it’s growing really fast in the next year, so what’s the big “why” motivation? Where are you going to take the business next? What’s your big moonshot, say, in the next ten years?
Natalie Perkins: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, I … It’s funny because we’re so focused on our growth right now just in number of stores throughout the US that that’s sort of our laser focus. I think a big picture … Personally, for me I have sort of this passion for empowering women in terms of being our franchise owners — I also have a big passion for empowering little girls to grow up to be confident, smart, strong women who then would be our franchise owners and be those people very confidently.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, wonderful.
Natalie Perkins: So, for me, it’s about really looking at our programming and doing anything that we can in terms of even minuscule changes to make sure that we’re always focused on that. So, we have a couple of things in the works that I don’t want to give away quite yet.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, well, in teaching girls, though, about money, financial freedom, about technology, being able to have the confidence-
Natalie Perkins: Oh, yeah. Well, it’s funny because our classes are all set to storybook themes, and that’s great, and that’s fun, and it’s something that every girl loves reading about Cinderella and Snow White and all these princesses, and I think it’s a really fun way to relate dance to them, so I’ll give you this hint. In one of our big projects in the next two years, at least, is to kind of flip the script on that a little bit because although we are an unapologetically feminine business and you can see it when you walk through our doors, there’s something to be said for maybe looking at those princess stories a little differently.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah, and having just a little bit different storyline to promote to these girls and let them that they’re not always relying on a prince to save them and become what they want as an adult.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. No, that’s so important for all of us, really, to save ourselves I think. So, you know that my mission is so similar and really is to affirm and acclaim entrepioneering women and girls and help women like you really grow their businesses. So, I know you have a special offer for all our shero listeners, and so go ahead and tell us about it.
Natalie Perkins: Yeah, absolutely. If you visit us on our website at bellaballerina.com/wings, you will be able to find a quiz where it will kind of lead you through a series of questions to figure out if you really would be a good franchise owner, a successful franchise owner, if you have what it takes, if you have it kind of in you. And then, after that, it will lead you to our franchise website where you can get more information on everything that we offer.
Melinda Wittstock: That is fantastic, Natalie. So inspiring.
Natalie Perkins: Thank you.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, thank you very much for putting on your supershero wings and flying with me today.
Natalie Perkins: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.