Continued from previous post:
People started asking us if we were doing some new state of the art disco partner dance and if we were teachers. That was the seed of an idea to start teaching dance. This was the time of a wonderful bay area phenomenon called the free university. Anyone could teach any skill they cared to share and there was a big orientation day where you signed up for anything that interested you on a first come first served basis. I learned everything from bread baking to making rubber stamps out of erasers with an exacto blade.
Someone volunteered an empty room in a house and Lori and I taught our first dance lesson. Nobody got paid and it was all free. We were a hit! We had a full house and I don’t remember how long that first series of free lessons was, but we then set off to try our hand at the real thing.
We rented studio space, put up flyers, and learned that even though we had not a lot of skill at dance, we had even less at marketing. Of the 20 or so people who begged us to offer a class, and the strangers who presumably saw our flyers, we got 5 people and barely broke even.
I loved teaching but hated marketing, and Lori didn’t particularly like either one, so I started telling people who asked that I wasn’t offering classes but they were welcome to come to my house for a private lesson.
After a little of that, I took a marketing class to find out why with all of my talents I was so broke. “You’re doing way too many things,” said the teacher. “Pick no more than two and stop advertising everything else.”
I picked massage, because it was the most lucrative, and dance, because it was the most fun. I was also working with a feminist collective doing couples counseling and mediations, but we were so politically correct (did I mention this was the seventies?) that we felt the need to work primarily with people who couldn’t afford to pay us more than the bottom of our sliding scale which, as I recall, moved with passionate debate from $5 to $7 during our 7 year existence.
I was also teaching self-defense classes to people with physical disabilities. I had completely cornered the world’s least lucrative market. It was challenging and exciting and eminently rewarding, but it paid bupkis. I didn’t have to market it though. Word of mouth does the trick when you are the only one offering a popular service for which you charge very little.
To be continued…
by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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