Rebecca Kidner, founder of Tiny Toes Ballet, recently won Business Woman of the Year at the Hills International Women’s Day Awards. I met up with Rebecca to find out more about how Tiny Toes Ballet came to be, and her journey in starting and growing this successful business.
We met for a chat at a local café, and from the moment she arrived, it was clear that there was something quite special about this business owner. Rebecca is poised and graceful as you might expect, but also quick with a smile, relaxed, enthusiastic, and totally unassuming. She is (efficiently) armed with some typed notes in answer to the questions I’d emailed her. But instead of reading it, we digress, often, and have a delightful conversation about the Tiny Toes story along the way.
Before establishing Tiny Toes Ballet, Rebecca was head of the junior school classical ballet department at The McDonald College. She loved her job, and had returned to work after her son was born. But when her daughter came along a little later, Rebecca decided it was time to make a change.
Working six days a week, and being away from home from 8am to 8pm each day, “wasn’t the experience I wanted for myself or my family” Rebecca told me. She wanted to spend more time with them, and to expose her children to the wonderful world of ballet.
Rebecca looked for local ballet classes that were as inspiring and interesting for small children (2.5 – 7 years) as the ones she’d developed at the College, and found none. The idea for Tiny Toes Ballet began to take shape. Rebecca set out to create a ballet learning experience both children and parents would love, and at the same time provide opportunities for teachers who, like herself, wanted a family friendly work schedule.
Tiny Toes began with a ‘Dance with Mummy’ program in February 2010. In the first week, there were 20 enrolments. By the end of the first year, there were 150. Now, there are 950.
Over 100 new clients a year! What’s the secret?
Rebecca certainly did a lot of things right. Knowing little about running a business and wanting to get it right, Rebecca sought out plenty of advice early on, and on everything from marketing to management. She seems to have approached every aspect of the business with the same enthusiasm she has for ballet!
Yet as we talk, I begin to realise that it’s not Rebecca’s obvious drive to succeed, the good advice she obtained, or even her determination to do things the best way that hold the secret to her success.
It’s her focus on “the experience”.
You’ve probably heard marketing folks talk about creating delightful experiences for your customers. But as I speak with Rebecca, it becomes clear that her approach to this is all encompassing. The word ‘experience’ pops up on everything we discuss, from creating brand awareness to recruitment and using cloud based platforms.
It’s a better experience for…. I wanted to create an experience of…. I thought that would improve the experience…
Everyone’s experience is clearly in Rebecca’s focus – her own, as well of that of the ballet students, their parents, and her Tiny Toes Ballet teachers and admin team.
The desire to improve her own experience as a parent, and her family’s experience of life, gave birth to the business. Her focus on creating the best possible experience for customers led to storytelling style ballet classes that enthral and entertain, making learning to dance a joy. And to end of year performances that dazzle and delight, without costing parents the earth for costumes.
Every system and process in the business seems to have been established with a firm focus on creating a consistently good experience for all involved.
For the Tiny Toes team, the experience is one of flexible hours to accommodate family needs, the best possible training and tools, and a relaxed and enjoyable work environment.
On her own success
But what does Rebecca see as the key to her success? I’m not surprised that she credits her Tiny Toes team when asked.
“I have an amazing team of women who are passionate about what they do, whether it’s as a teacher and role model for our ballerinas and ballet danseurs, or in the office supporting the mothers and teachers.”
And when asked what inspires her:
“The people I’m surrounded with every day! The teachers who are the creatives and magic makers in the classroom. The office staff, and how excited they get looking for ways to do things better or differently. I try to have a ‘striving for greatness’ approach to life, while looking after others. This is a constant work in progress.”
Actually Rebecca, I think you’ve nailed the striving for greatness approach!
On networking and learning
“I’ve learnt so much from the team I meet with, and gained so much valuable support, and diamonds and gems of information to use. I’ve enjoyed being a co-leader and participating in the Chamber leadership training with John Drury. The more people I connect with the more I learn.”
Asked for her best tips for those starting out in business, Rebecca suggests:
- Plan what you want your business to look like at the end, and then work towards that every day.
- Read! I found The E-Myth particularly helpful.
- Meet with people you can learn from. Make notes and test their ideas. Have fun experimenting with life!
- Set work and life boundaries, and don’t break them!
They’re all great tips, but I left our meeting with a different insight: focus intently on creating good experiences for everyone who deals with your business, and for yourself, and the path to success will become easier to tread.
Thanks Rebecca – meeting you was an enjoyable experience!
About the author: Leonie Seysan is the director of Article Writers Australia , a Sydney based content marketing agency, and the Chamber's 2017 content partner.