At 20 years old, Jenna Shields became a small business owner.
It started with her own childhood. As she and her siblings took dance classes while growing up, the Stage Door Dance Studio in Mesquite, Texas became an integral part of Shields’s life. “I literally grew up in the studio,” said Shields, who took 18 years of classes at Stage Door.
After taking so many classes, Shields began helping her teacher, Miss Yvonne Lovell, who had founded the studio. When Miss Yvonne became ill, her daughter Mindy took over most of her classes, but Shields also dedicated most of her free time to helping the studio until Miss Yvonne recovered. “I filled in wherever I was needed and really began my teaching journey through these rough months,” said Shields.
Tragedy struck in 2011, when Mindy died unexpectedly of the flu. Shields offered to take on as many of Miss Yvonne’s classes as she needed so that she could properly grieve. Along the way, she learned more about teaching various styles of dance and maintaining a busy class schedule. In 2013, Miss Yvonne asked Shields if she would be willing to take over the studio.
Though Shields was only 20 years old, she immediately accepted an opportunity to run the studio that had played such an important role in her life. She now owns Stage Door Dance Studio, which offers 31 classes every week. Each class has 7-10 students, so the studio has hundreds of consistent customers.
One of the hardest challenges, said Shields, is making sure that the transition is easy for families who took classes from Miss Yvonne for many years. “Change is hard for everyone involved, so trying to adjust to my new position while trying to communicate everything to several families was definitely challenging,” she said. “Many studio parents stepped up to volunteer and helped me with anything I needed.”
Thanks to the leadership and determination of Shields (now 22), Stage Door has continued growing – with new customers coming in all the time and existing customers signing up for more classes. Just last year, Stage Door was awarded “The Best Dance Studio of Mesquite” by The Mesquite News.
Shields consistently talks about how important it is for entrepreneurs to surround themselves with a good team. “We have an incredibly talented staff that just amazes me every week with their choreography and creativity,” she said. “Make sure to surround yourself with people that support and believe in what you are doing and give them the thanks and appreciation they deserve for standing by you.”