In the News

Chatting with Sabetha Mumm, Iowa’s Small Business Owner of the Year

NAWBO Iowa member Sabetha Mumm was recently honored as Iowa’s Small Business Owner of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Association. Sabetha owns Dance Vision, a full-service dance studio that provides opportunities through dance.  

Sabetha took some time to tell us about herself, her business and the honor.

Note: This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.  

On her path to Dance Vision

When I was a little girl, I watched a show called “Solid Gold.” I watched those dancers with their tight permed hair, blue eyeshadow, French cut metallic leotards and high heels. I dreamed of being on that set, dancing to the top-10 musical hits each week. When I closed my eyes at night, I saw myself dancing next to icons like Helene Phillips.

To my parents’ joy — and sometimes dismay — I danced everywhere: around the house, down the isles at the grocery store, in class. When asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I said, “A dancer.”

At some point, though, people asked if I wanted to be a secretary, nurse or something else more “acceptable” or “professional.” When I graduated high school, it was expected I attend college. So I went to the University of Iowa and began taking pre-law classes.

But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I went to Halsey Hall to take ballet classes. It did not take long for me to decide I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a dancer. I dropped the pre-law major and enrolled in every dance class available.

I loved those years in college. I felt so alive and so fulfilled. However, even after graduating as a dance major with honors, I quickly realized there were no resources or support systems for Iowans with professional dancer aspirations. This was before YouTube, the internet, social media and even cell phones.

That’s why I did not pursue my dream of becoming a professional dancer at that point. I moved to Des Moines and became a secretary. I reconnected with my now-husband and started my family. I wouldn’t give up any of this time for the world, not even to become a professional dancer.

But something funny happened at the time my son Drew was born. I was excited to raise my son, tell him to chase his dreams and that he could do anything he wanted to. Then it hit me: There I was, not doing what I loved for a living, and I was going to tell my son to do what I didn’t have the courage to do.   

What a hypocrite! I went to my husband (who has the patience of Job), and I told him I was opening a dance studio.

That was 17 years ago. It wasn’t professionally dancing, but I actually get more enjoyment out of helping others become professionals than I believe I ever would have if I became one myself.

On creating Dance Vision

I started Dance Vision so that any dancer who wants to become a professional, like I did, would have a place to train, network and transition into a career.

We started in a 24-by-100-foot bay in a strip mall. There were only 50 students, and I was the only teacher. After four expansions, we were completely out of space. I decided it was time to stop renting and start owning. With the help of a local bank partner and the SBA, I built and now own our current facility, a state-of-the-art, 12,600 square-foot space.   

Today, we have more than 500 clients and 22 full-time and part-time employees. More than 20 students have graduated and danced professionally in some capacity. I always tell people: If an Iowa school graduated 20 students into the NFL, ESPN would be flocking to see what the secret is!

Our goal is to provide opportunities for every dream through dance. Dance Vision offers classes in almost all styles, for ages 1 through adult. We offer classes for everyone. We also offer a student assistant program that is training the next generation of teachers.

We have a program for special needs students, called the Dream Team program. The Dance Vision Dream Team is helping kids with mobility difficulties and learning challenges to move and live on the dance floor. No child pays for their classes on the Dream Team. Each year, the Dance Vision Dream Team performs at the recital in the main show to a song choice chosen by the group. We have also partnered with several other community organizations including Bubble Ball, Dorothy’s House, House of DSM, Rebel City and others to provide performances in the community.

Our next steps are to continue to innovate and find creative ways to survive as a small business through COVID-19. Then we can continue to find ways to grow and serve more clients in the community.

On winning the SBA Small Business Owner of the Year Award

I was nominated by Jim Langin, who was the president at the bank who funded my building loan and is now running the Corporation for Economic Development in Des Moines. I was surprised to hear I won because I didn’t even know I had been nominated for the award.

The honor is validation that creatives can also run excellent businesses. There is a perception that if you are an artist you probably aren’t good with numbers or running a business. I love shattering stereotypes!

I have an amazing team of employees here! This award wasn’t just won by me. There are hundreds of amazing daily interactions taking place between my staff and clients that make our studio truly special.

I love this studio. It isn’t just my job — it is my second home. It feels great for all of us to be recognized for the work we do here at the studio, out in the community and as a fiscally responsible business.

Her advice for small business owners, particularly women

First and foremost, read! I honestly believe readers are leaders. I have learned so much about running a business, working with children, marketing, good mindsets, time management, negotiating, advertising, managing a team, setting goals, overcoming obstacles and so much more by reading as much as I can.

Second, understand there is no disadvantage to being a woman in the business world. That is all perception. There is no reason a woman cannot take advantage of every opportunity and reach any goal, professionally or otherwise. It is all in your mindset.

Finally, find great partners. My banker, my accountant, my attorney, my mentors, and my business partners are some especially important allies of mine. They are the people I go to when I have questions and ideas to bounce off. Your network will determine your net worth.

NAWBO Iowa congratulates Sabetha on her honor! The amazing work she has done to build Dance Vision into what it is today is truly an inspiration for us all.