A conversation with Erin Pompa Pride

Podcast

October 29, 2021

 

Erin shares her journey from experienced dancer, to dance teacher, to a business coach. She talks about how professional dancers and artists struggle with fears and other challenges that keep them from growing and shares a few tips on how they can finally take action and develop themselves as individuals and their businesses.

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A conversation with Erin Pompa Pride

Who is Erin Pompa Pride?

Erin is the CEO of Dance Boss LLC. She is also the host of the Dance Boss podcast. She is also a former choreographer, leader, and crew director. Erin helps dance specialists create 5k consistent months with a signature long-term virtual group training program. She has been featured in dance magazines like Dance Business Weekly and Dance Media. She is a Jersey girl all the way. Graduated from Montclair State University with a BFA in dance and received her Master’s in Dance Education from New York University. Erin is on a mission to help dance professionals build wealth financially, spiritually, and emotionally.

 

Why I started dancing

I grew up in the inner city of Paterson, New Jersey. So it’s like the hood. My mom was an English teacher at a K through 12, 8th-grade program and my dad worked in education and registrar. So they valued education and they valued us being safe and well rounded. So they put me in dance at an early age. Not because they thought that I was going to pursue it, but because that’s what you put little girls in. I think my other sister was in it too and it wasn’t for her. But the reason that I bring up the fact that I grew up in an inner-city is because when it was time to go to high school, there was the Performing Arts High School, which didn’t have gang violence, which was safer, which was the better high school. So the choice was to get Erin into that Performing Arts High School. We have to send her to Eastern Christian, which was a private school.

So from the age of 3, I think, I danced and I danced all the way up to get into the high school and that is where I ended up. Dance really created opportunities for me. It’s not necessarily that I thought that I loved dance at high school. I knew that I really enjoyed it and when it was time to go to college, I just liked the idea of being an artist. I was a little offbeat. I was a little different in high school. I liked the idea of being an artist and just pursuing something creatively. So when my dad asked what I wanted to go to college for, I said I wasn’t going to college unless I was going for dance. So I went to Marymount Manhattan, for my first year in New York City. Because my dad was a registrar at a college in New York, there was a list of schools that I could go to for free, if I got accepted and that was one of them. It’s a really prestigious school. But the problem is that I think they accepted me at a time where they had to meet the black quota. Remember, I’m 40 years old so when I went to college, it was the end of 1998.

I wasn’t technically proficient enough to go to that school. I can look back now and see that. So when I went to the school, I was eaten up. I was destructive, like partying doing things, I didn’t even want to go to class because I felt like I sucked, I thought I was the worst. So I left that school, failed out they invited me back but my dad refused and put me in a school in New Jersey, Montclair State. So, I auditioned to go there before, because I had a teacher; Nancy Lushington at Marymount. She was the Modern teacher at Marymount, the ballet teacher at Montclair. She told me that she thought Montclair would be a better fit for me since it’s a smaller school. So I auditioned and when I went, I was one of the better ones because even though that year at Marymount was very intimidating and upsetting, I did grow exponentially This was because I was around people that were at a higher level, so I was enhancing my technique. So I went to Montclair State, and I fell in love. That was my home. It was a small learning environment and I loved it. I wasn’t so far from home and that is just kind of it.

Then I graduated from Montclair, and then I auditioned a little bit and I asked myself what I was going to do. I auditioned for Broadway, but I couldn’t sing. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, because I live in New Jersey. All the people go to New York for the auditions. My parents told me that I had to get a job and I never in a million years thought I would be a dance teacher ever. I didn’t like the pedagogy classes in college. I just wanted to be performing. So I took the job and I fell in love with those students. For the first time in my life. I’m not a parent, so I don’t know what that love is. But loving them is the closest I’ve ever felt to being a parent and just seeing them.

So the program that I taught at was the program I graduated from. Their technique wasn’t that good. So when I came in, I revamped it to match my college program and I’m really proud most of my kids if they wanted to go to college for dance went. Some have gone on Broadway, my kids have done amazing and a lot of them come to me with no previous dance training. It’s not only me, it’s like the teachers that I bring in to support my mission. So then, while I was teaching there, I got the performing bug and I don’t know if you know who Pilobolus is, but they were my favorite company and I auditioned for them when I was in my mid to late 30s and I got cut. Then I sent them an email and they gave me a full scholarship to train with them and they invited me to perform with their creative services. I did that for a while. Then I was 30 something and I hated touring. So I stopped and I also gained weight and that was another story.

Then there came a time in my career when I was 10 years into teaching and I wondered what I was doing and who I was. So in the K through 12 settings, if you think about the glass ceiling or just evolving, wherever it is you go, you can be a principal, you can be an administrator. I went to college to be a principal; I dropped out because I didn’t want to do it. I just thought I’m an achiever, so I wanted something else. But I didn’t know what that something else was because I had nothing around me that I wanted to do. So I heard this podcast, The Dance Podcast with Lauren Ritchie and I thought it was so cool. You can just get a microphone and talk about your thoughts and ideas about dance? So I bought a $50 microphone off of Amazon and I started the podcast. From there, I started online services that help teachers run better classrooms because I was really good at it. I got my Master’s in Dance Education. I understand pedagogy really well. I can’t even believe I’m saying that because that was not the pathway that I thought. So I did that for a while and then the pandemic hit and I really was tired of talking about dance education. I talked about it because it was what I knew, and I was good at it. But I was tired. It was boring to me. I could just regurgitate. I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

So my business coach at the time asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to coach women on how to pursue their dream. She warned me that that was not a niche, you know all the lingo, and I said what I really wanted to do was help dancers create online businesses. That started with helping dancers transition their studio online in the pandemic and then slowly but surely, I kept getting crystal clear about who I wanted to serve. That’s how I ended up where I am today, coaching dance professionals on how to create 5k months in their business by owning their dance specialty and creating a virtual signature program for that. That was long, but that’s my story.

My collaboration with other dance teachers

Looking back now, it makes total sense. But then I was just a young 20 something year old dance teacher running a department and I was really honest. I can teach ballet, but if I want to get these students who have little to no technique to a place where they can audition for college in four years, I’m going to need to bring somebody who’s a specialist in that, and that’s not me. If I want these kids to understand and learn musical theater, I’m going to have to bring someone in, because that’s not me. So it was just this sense of realizing it wasn’t about me. If I made it about me, then they wouldn’t be able to achieve the things they wanted. Everything I did was from a sense of what do they need? It almost brings me to tears. Well, they need exposure, and they need to learn from different people and they need what I can’t teach them well. So that was just the basis and it was received well. My kids loved it. Every year we’d have the guests’ auditions, and they were excited to know which guests were coming. Then it started this whole thing where alumni would come back and do it. So it started this circular family energy and guest artists that weren’t alumni would stay with us for years and they did it for free. They did it for free! People gave to my kids because they loved them or I would barter and go teach at their school if they came to my school. Then eventually, I got connected with an organization who had grants. But at the beginning, it was just asking my friends, “Can you do this? I have no money, but I’ll come to teach for you.” and that was it.
Anybody who came through my department would ask, “How do you get your kids to work like that?” If I wasn’t the best ballet teacher, if I wasn’t the best musical or the best choreographer they had, it’s like I was their grounding. I was their home base. So they didn’t have to put me on a pedestal. It wasn’t about that. I know of course, there’s imposter syndrome that goes around, but I’ve always been the type of person who doesn’t really care as long as I’m there and what I have is worthy and what I have to offer is good enough.

 

Hiring a coach for myself

I remember early on, I got one and it was the wrong one. I think everybody maybe gets the wrong one. So there was a coach and looking back she really didn’t know how to coach she was probably starting out. So that was earlier on. That was probably maybe anywhere between 3 months to a year of having my business. But what I’d like to say is when I started hiring a coach seriously, it was probably in like year one and a half since I’m 3 years in. It was my friend who was my business coach and I kept getting advice from her. I asked her whether I could just pay her to be my coach. Because I wanted people to pay me yet I didn’t want to pay? What is that about? That’s not how it works.

That’s a big reason I do the work that I do. In the beginning, there was a lot of mindset and scarcity around pricing. I know everybody comes from different walks of life, but if you want something, there is a really big transformation that happens from you actually figuring out how to get the means to do it. I’m such a believer in that. I have had scholarship people in my programs before, and if I’m going to be really transparent with you, I don’t do that. I do it for only people that work for me now, but not outside of that right now. It’s because I find that the commitment level is different and that is because a part of the transformation happens in the transaction. There’s this connection you have to it because you are paying for it.

I’m not going to lie. I want to be transparent. So the first coach I got, I paid for myself. Then there was another coach that I loved that I worked with. I worked with her for one round and my husband, my then fiancé, gifted that to me. Then I worked with her again and I paid for that myself. Then I recently got a coach that I’ve been dreaming about. She’s very expensive and it’s very expensive. My husband and I are paying for that together and having conversations like, “Babe, I want this can you support me, we need to do it together.” So I don’t want people to think I just have money. No, sometimes I had to get support, sometimes I had to do it with my partner and sometimes I did it by myself. But the point is I’m going to have those conversations and I’m going to ask, us to talk about it because it’s important to me.

It’s so funny now, I like luxury. I keep giving myself more and more luxury. Whether it’s like the coffee I want, the bag I want; I love me a good bag, a name brand bag. So I’m starting to give myself permission to treat myself differently and as an artist, when I was an artist performing, I wasn’t like that. I was scared.

Why I think we’re scared as artists

I don’t think it’s about getting scared about giving ourselves permission. I think it’s scary that we won’t have the money in the long term because we don’t have the infrastructure. We weren’t taught how to manage our money. Also it’s like, how many projects that I get asked for to do for free? and I did them because I just wanted to be performing. So it’s like this hierarchy in “You’re going to do it for free because it’s exposure”, so I think there was some of that that had to shift for me too.
I was on a group call with the program I’m in and it was just really impactful for me. There was a woman on the call who said sometimes I just want to play in the shallow end because I’m scared to go in the deep end. Then my coach asked, “Well, if you play in the shallow end, how are you going to be an example for those that the deep end is possible?” So I love that because in the beginning of my journey; scared to talk about something, scared to charge, scared to share how much money I’m asked, fear around all of it. I can’t achieve so much because I’m an artist, I’m going back on the artist’s mindset, I’m doing them a disservice. But for me, in this season of life, it’s about being in the deep end, owning it, and showing other artists how to join me there.

 

The relationship between growth and environment

Please know I wasn’t the girl always in class. But I was always a worker bee when I was there. It was just about being around people who were working at another rigor and that held themselves to a higher expectation that naturally translated into me. I didn’t even know that that was happening until I, in fact, went to go audition for another college and I was one of the creams in the crafts. So that is evidence for me that when we’re looking at it in the coaching realm or the business realm; who you surround yourself with is crucial.
I’m in a group coaching program right now and I was almost in tears on the call because the people that I am in that group with, are people that I have watched on social media and have been in awe of. Just to be in their energy and understand, it’s not even about my coach giving me strategies or systems. Yes, I get that, but I get to listen to their thought processes. I get to see how they troubleshoot. I get to have a conversation with them. It naturally ups my playing level. It changes my perspective. It opens up my blind spots because I only know what I know. Like right now, I’m not the smartest person in the room and my ego is in check. But you always have to remember the greater good of that. It’s just going to make you better.
I love learning. I love being in containers where I can learn. But I also love implementing. So, there’s that twofold; just be cautious, you don’t want to be somebody who’s just there like absorbing and consuming. You need to take action, and that’s where a lot of people fall off. They don’t take the action they just consume and absorb.

 

Why I think people do not take action

I think it’s the circumstances are different but the feelings are the same. We can come up with a million excuses for a reason for us not taking action. I’m too busy, not the right time, medicine not right, relationship not right. But what it all comes down to is fear. Fear is the root. You’re afraid of maybe letting somebody down, letting yourself down, that it will fail, that it won’t be perfect. It’s when you’re choosing fear over faith. A lot of my business is built off of implementing and the reason that I take action is that I have faith that if it isn’t right the first time that I will be led to understand how to make it right the next time or the time after that. I don’t spend too much time in fear about what people think or how bad something is. I just try it and if it doesn’t work, I try it again. I think that’s what we have to do as humans. Release the perfectionism; and dancers, stop letting perfectionism lead. It’s not about that.
I take notes on things I really love. Let me read it to you because I feel like it goes in alignment with what I said. My pain is my portal to God and if you’re not a God person, that’s totally fine. How I translate that is, my pain and me messing up is my portal to my higher self. It’s my portal to the best self that I have. It’s my portal to my creativity. Everything that goes wrong, whether it’s a post, whether it’s a relationship, it’s my portal to be able to do it better. But a lot of people don’t go on the portal ride. They just stay because they don’t want to experience that. But then if you don’t give yourself an opportunity to experience it you’re never going to reach it.
I have goals. Like I have revenue goals that I want to hit every quarter, every month. I have fitness goals. But I try to stay away from the outcome because, at the root of myself, I feel like when I have my outcomes, everything that I’ve ever wanted to be achieved, that’s going to be my time here and I don’t want to leave. I want to keep going on this journey of reaching goals, analyzing it, adjusting it, and trying again.

Who my clients are and why

What I call it is a Program Promise and my Program Promise is always changing. It’s evolving as I test it. So in the past, I have definitely served dance studio owners or I have served dance professionals or I have changed it to dance specialists. I’m constantly trying to figure out and have a pulse on the language and the messaging and the positioning that my audience needs, so it’s always growing. But at this current moment and from my last launch, I even changed in-between launch. I went from dance specialists who want to go one on one, and I shifted it because it didn’t feel right. I changed it to dance professionals who want to really find their dance specialty. So you see how that shift changes my messaging and my marketing.
So basically, what I do is I teach them what I’ve done. I teach them how to create 5k consistent months. So we start at the beginning. A lot of people that I work with have an idea and they know they want to start a business, but they don’t know how to start a business. They have a lot of fear about niching down; they have a lot of fear about stepping into the online space. So we start with that and then we develop their program promise and we develop the transformation that they’re going to guarantee their clients based on personal experience that they have given themselves as a transformation or based on academic experience and transformation they have done for others. Because of the work you’re doing is not rooted in something that you’ve been able to do for yourself or another, then you really have no basis to promise anybody anything.

So we really get grounded in that. Then I get to bring my skills of curriculum writing and stuff into it, which is a joy in this way and I had no clue. We really start to map out their framework. Okay, we know who you serve and what you’re promising them, but what are the steps you’re going to take to get them there. Then I teach them all the stuff about education How to actually run a program for student achievement. How to deliver instruction, we do all of that. Then we also dive into marketing and selling it using Instagram and we use an organic-based sales strategy; which means that they make their money without paid advertisement. It’s all video and all. For me and for the clients that I coach, there is no need for paid traffic. There are people out there who coach paid traffic and that’s great but I don’t and I want to make sure that I’m getting clients who want that organic. For me and for the clients that I coach, there is no need for paid traffic. There are people out there who coach paid traffic and that’s great but I don’t and I want to make sure that I’m getting clients who want that.

 

My business advice for dance studio owners and arts organizations

This also ties to the online business owners. It’s not like you need to qualify to start your studio or your online dance business. So then it’s not about needing qualifications, it’s about what success means to you. It’s like, I want to be successful in my business, but I want to be successful in my time; I want my time, I want my life. I want to be successful in leading people to support me, because I don’t want to be there all the time. I want to be successful in understanding my finances and saving for my future and my future family. I want people to start thinking about, what does success mean to you. Just because you have the business and it’s making a certain amount of money, doesn’t mean that you’re successful. If you have a studio and it’s making a certain amount of money; yes it’s chaotic, you don’t know what your team is doing, your teachers are all over the place, parents are complaining, that’s not success.
So for me, it’s really important that I show dancers how to be business minded so that they can start to reach those goals of success. Everybody who comes to me would like to start an online business but wants to work on the programming, make the curriculum and make the boxes. Everybody wants to do that but you have to learn how to run a business because you want a certain kind of life, so how are we going to get it? So I think the same for studio owners. Sure, you can start your studio but if you don’t understand business or you don’t try to understand business then are you really going to reach the success that you want? What then does it mean for you?
I remember I had a dance studio, I was a partner with 2 people and I had my own and it wasn’t for me. Sometimes I look at an empty space and I wonder what if I started a dance studio, because spaces are so beautiful to me I would definitely hire somebody to oversee the curriculum and I would be the business person. I think there have to be some of those decisions made. I’m just saying I wouldn’t want to wear both hats. Those are two separate entities that need two really different muscles to be stimulated. So maybe if your studio owner is starting to think, whether you can let one of those go and train somebody else to support you so you can get really good at something else and not spread yourself so thin.

 

What I would tell my 16 year old self

I’d tell her that, “You’re not alone.” There’s people out there feeling what you’re feeling and going through what you’re going through. You don’t have to hide from your feelings.

 

Where you can find me

I just got married, my name is Erin Pompa, so I will be transitioning in a little bit. But for now, you can find me @erinpride on Instagram. You can also head over to The Dance Boss Podcast. New episodes come out every Thursday and that’s it. If you go onto my Instagram bio, you can sign up for the waitlist of DancePreneur Academy and that will let you into the Dance Boss LLC world. You’ll get my newsletter weekly with reminders of the podcast and who else is going on and you’ll also be invited to the Facebook community.

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