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Hidden Gems: Meet Jessica Haley-Clark

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Haley-Clark.

Hi Jessica, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I have always had a passion for teaching and dance which is why I majored in both (Elementary Education and Dance Studies) as an undergrad student at Humboldt State University. For my capstone project in my dance major, I interviewed different dance studio owners and instructors in the community and created a business plan in 2011; not knowing that in 2015 I would fulfill that plan by starting the Haley Clark Dance Company. After graduating, I knew I wanted to go back to my hometown of San Pedro, CA to open up a dance studio that would serve both children and adults in the community.

I started out small, renting studio space from a local dance studio in the city. I then leased a building of my own which I converted to a one-room dance studio. Unfortunately, I had to downsize due to low finances and once again rented studio space from a wellness center. In December 2019, I signed a lease for another building of my own and converted it to a three-room dance studio with a reception, office, and kitchenette; this is where my business currently resides. Now let me tell you, none of this would have been possible without the help of God, my mom and family, friends, church, and community. Through my dance company, I have taught hundreds of children and adults not only how to dance but the importance of fitness, health, and their overall well-being.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Running a business is never smooth. It will have its ups, downs, potholes, detours, and curves. I started my business young at the age of 24; knowing nothing about business and only knowing that I had a passion for dance and knew how to teach it. I came from a low-income family so the only funding I had to start my business was occasional donations, loans, and my paycheck from being a special education teacher.

Some of my obstacles include being scammed early on in the business and losing a few thousand, low enrollment early on in the business despite efforts to promote and advertise, ongoing bills and not enough money, and of course right when things were finally picking up for me Covid shut me down. Rent and other bills were still due and I lost the majority of my clientele at the time due to not being able to hold in-person classes. Despite the struggles, I never gave up because I knew that my community needed what I offered which was my heart, passion, and a place to dance.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know??
My dance company is a place that promotes growth, teamwork, self-esteem, healthy living, and the technique of dance. We encourage dancers of all ages to immerse themselves with the joy dancing can provide. With us, we encourage you to push your limits and to always be your best.

We currently offer dance programs and classes in various styles including ballet, jazz, hip-hop, acrobatics, tap, and adult pole dancing. One of our dance programs called Spirit Crew caters specifically to children diagnosed with autism and other related disabilities. Students in this program are free to move in their own way while learning the technique of dance.

Another program we offer is our School of Performing Arts which is an after-school program for elementary and middle school students that focuses on singing, dancing, and acting; while providing homework help. As a school teacher first and a business owner second, I take pride in making sure that my dancers’ education is a priority. Offering academic support and quality dance training from credentialed and trained professionals is what we specialize in which sets us apart from the rest.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
My work ethic is by far the most important aspect of my success. I’m a firm believer that hard work pays off and it is my goal to make a difference in the lives of children and adults through my performing arts organization. So in order to make this happen, I work hard on most days. Early mornings, late nights, teaching, researching, and learning. And yes, business owners have to research and we have to learn more every day which requires hard work, commitment, and dedication so that we can maintain success.

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