Opinion: What I’ve Learned as a Small Business Owner

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Neisha Hernandez with some of her dance students.

By Neisha Hernandez

The best advice I have before opening a business is following something you are extremely passionate about. From a very young age, dance and music spoke to my heart and filled me with complete joy. Singing and dancing were reasons why I existed.

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After college, opening a school to share the arts and serve the community I grew up in was an obvious thing for me to do. That was 22 years ago and it has been an honor to live my passion and share it with the children.

As a female business owner, there have been many challenges I’ve had to face along the way. However, growing up in Chula Vista was one of the greatest blessings I could have ever asked for. I was repeatedly reminded by family, teachers and neighbors that women and men are equal and I could be anything I decided I wanted to be.

Our community is rich with diversity in every sense of the word — ethnic background, culture, race, religion, political opinions, what makes up a family unit and sexual preference. This example of the American melting pot provided me the privilege of growing up without feeling that being a woman was an advantage or disadvantage.

Opening two dance studios has taught me so many valuable lessons about business, people and the importance of preparation. You never know when life will throw a curve ball, but a few tips might help you to prepare. Here are five of mine:

  • Focus on education and self-development. Explore and fine-tune your unique strengths. Use these gifts and talents to help serve others. They can be customers, employees, family, community, etc. Define your “why” and keep it at the forefront of your mind so that all decisions can be filtered through your “why” lens. Connect with a mentor to help guide you. And carefully select the people you allow in your inner circle. They should be people you wish to become more like.
  • Be realistic. The freedom that comes from owning your own company, being an entrepreneur and making a difference is intoxicating. It’s important to consider that freedom is not instant and it comes with 100 percent responsibility. That means you hold all the company jobs in the beginning. From janitor, to accountant, to providing whatever widget or service you are selling. Later there are growing pains that come with staffing, facilities, creating business systems and more.
  • Education is key. Author Darren Hardy reminds that “our companies grow or do not grow — based on your own limitations.” Continue to invest in your own ongoing education so that you can grow as growth is demanded. Never stop learning.
  • Prepare for roadblocks. In my industry it’s considered normal that the day you retire is the day your income stops. Many artists do not have a financial plan for the future. I wanted more than what my industry had in store for me. With the help of my advisers, I decided to purchase the real estate that my business would occupy. My greatest sacrifice was to sell my home in order to provide the down payment for the purchase of the building. It was my dream home. I still feel a pang in my gut over sacrificing my home for my dream. But it was the best way to secure the investment in my future. And it certainly paid off.
  • Set a company mission, vision and values. This will help you stay on track along with keeping your business on track with your beliefs.

Neisha Hernandez owns Neisha’s Dance & Music Academy with locations in Liberty Station and Chula Vista.

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