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Meet Kelly Lyans Richardson and Dana Marie Lazzareschi of Funky Divas & Dudes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Lyans Richardson and Dana Marie Lazzareschi.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
The idea originated from my (Kelly’s) aunt, who works at a preschool in Glendale. She said there was a dance teacher that came into her school once a week, to teach Hip-Hop to the kids, the parents paid the teacher directly, like her own little business. My aunt wasn’t too fond of this dance teacher, but thought it was a great idea. She thought I could make good extra money doing this, since I’d been a dance teacher for years. Dana Marie and I met working for a local Deejay company dancing at Bar/Bat Mitvah’s. At the time I was waiting tables and Dana working at a television station, and were both perusing acting/dance. In 2002, we decided to start this company together to free up our time for acting and dance auditions. We started scouting local schools, and discovered that there was a real market for this. We started with a couple schools, which turned into about 20-25 schools and 15-20 dance instructors. It turned into a full blown business, and we decided we didn’t want to pursue auditions anymore. We could make a career out of our passion.

What started as a once a week after school enrichment dance program has exploded and we are now in schools all over Los Angeles County. After about a year of teaching dance at schools, parents started asking for dance birthday parties. When school was out for a break, we developed a performing arts camp. Before you knew it, we were hiring dance teachers because more schools were contacting us to teach enrichment dance classes and Dana and I were booked.

I was classically trained in dance, and graduated from Chapman University, in Orange County with a BFA in Theatre & Dance. Dana Marie was a nationally competing Cheerleader and graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a BFA in Acting and a BA in Film Studies. After college, we both moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and dance. Kelly considered UCSB for college, and Dana considered Chapman. So we figured we were destined to meet at some point!

Has it been a smooth road?
Thankfully it’s been pretty smooth! But like any business, we’d had plenty of challenges! Some challenges have been…starting a business from scratch (before everything was done online), hiring and properly training dance teachers to replicate yourself, streamlining and simplifying our business model so we don’t have so much busy work, and learning how to “not” work 24/7 when you own a business!

I, also, just became a mom this past year, so juggling a more than a full-time job and having a baby has been a challenge!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Funky Divas & Dudes story. Tell us more about the business.
We have 3 parts to our business- Afterschool Enrichment dance classes, Children’s Party Entertainment and Performing Arts and Dance Camps.

For Afterschool Enrichment, we hire and train teachers to teach our dance curriculum at schools throughout Los Angeles County. We teach dance routines to the kids and put on a performance in Rockstar costumes on the last day of class. Our most popular class is Jazz/Hip-Hop, but we also offer Music Video Dance, Breakdance, Cheerleading, Ballet, Tap and Fairytale Theater. We have an amazing staff of teachers who are professional dancers that have been seen in TV, Music Videos, LA Laker Girls, So You Think You Can Dance?, America’s Best Dance Crew to name a few.

For Party Entertainment, we offer dance birthday parties with various themes including Popstar parties, Princess parties, Breakdance parties, Fashion Show, Pajama party, etc. We offer Add-ons including DeeJay services, Photo Booth, Funky Lounge Decor, Rockstar Accessories, and more! We start the party with Glitter Cheek Art and Hair Color while the guests are arriving to Popstar them out! Then we play a dance game to get them warmed up. We teach a personalized dance routine (birthday child’s song of choice) and then the kids perform for the parents! The rest of the party is filled with rockin’ fun dance games and awesome giveaways for the kids to keep! Giveaways include glitter microphones, disco ball necklaces, maracas and tinsel pom wands.

We offer a Performing Arts Rockstar Camps during Summer, Spring & Winter breaks in Santa Monica for ages 4-10 years old. Campers engage in unique specialized activities each hour that encourage self-confidence, social skills physical health and using their imagination. Activities include Dance Classes, Music Videos, Fairytale Theatre, TV Commercials, Treasure Hunts, Face Painting, Arts & Crafts, Beach Days, Theme Days and More! Each camp day has a different theme, where campers & counselors come dressed up to match the theme. During the Summer, we also offer Dance and Performing Arts camps at various other locations throughout Los Angeles.

More fun details- Funky Divas & Dudes dance crew is compiled from professional dancers and Breakdancers. We are hired by Nickelodeon each year and have been performing at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards Pre Party for the past 6 years! Funky Divas & Dudes have also traveled to San Francisco, Aspen, Cincinnati, New York and Belgium for dance classes, parties and camps!

Dana Marie and I do it all! Although we hire and train instructors, we still both teach dance classes and run birthday parties! Kelly is the DeeJay for our parties (when a DeeJay is booked) and Dana is known to be seen around town as Princess Anna from Frozen. We also do all the administrative work, advertising, registration, pack for parties, pack costumes for shows, choreography, cutting/editing music, etc. Thankfully we also have help from our awesome Office Manager, Candace!

We are known for our hip, fun, energy that attracts the kids to us!

We’re most proud that we created this amazing business that has enhanced the lives of so many children. We’ve had so many parents thank us for being such a positive role model and inspiration for their kids. We’ve even had kids come back years and tell us how much they loved us as a kid. A child who was once shy, now has more confidence in every aspect of their life because of their dance classes and performances with the Funky Divas.

What sets us apart is that our goal is to teach dance in a “fun” way to all levels. And to give kids the opportunity to perform in fun costumes (that we provide), which helps build self-esteem. It’s not about dance competitions and pressure with us. Kids already have enough pressure on homework these days.

Children at schools across Los Angeles love and rave about the Funky Divas & Dudes. We’ve heard that kids from different schools will share their FD & D dance routines together on the soccer field, in Girl Scouts, on play dates, and in their school talent shows. They are all so proud to be an FD&D at their school, we see girls across town wearing their Funky Diva tank tops. They all want to have an FD &D birthday party, and come to our summer camp.

Parents tell us that their kids play “Funky Divas” during their playdates with friends (taking turns being the teacher and students) and dress like Funky Divas for Halloween.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
In the next 5-10 years, we will just continue to grow with the latest trends in music and style. Maybe we expand Funky Divas & Dudes to other cities!

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