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.

NAWBO Iowa Business Institute Q&A - Carolyn Jenison and Alicia Shaul

NAWBO Iowa officially launched its Business Institute on July 14, 2020, with nine participants. The first cohort will meet monthly through January 2021, with the end goal to create a Growth Action Plan. Every month, we will highlight two members of the NAWBO Iowa Business Institute in a Q&A format. For more information about the Business Institute, click here.

Carolyn Jenison

Carolyn is the CEO at Speak PR, an independent public relations firm. Jenison also serves on the boards of a number of nonprofits in the community, is a member of Nexus Women's Business Alliance, and has served as a mentor in the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation's Community Connect program and the New Leadership Council.

What is your background?

I am an Iowa girl. I was born in Ames and moved to a small town in north Iowa when I was 7. I briefly attended Iowa State University before beginning my career at 18 years old. At that time, I managed the sales and marketing efforts of a software development firm. As I grew up — and with — that firm, I had the opportunity to travel all over the world. This was an amazing experience that just further solidified my love for Iowa.

After 15 years with the firm, I sold my stock and spent the next two years fixing up old houses. I also volunteered for and served on boards of several local nonprofits. After a two-year career respite, I began my nonprofit career, serving as executive director for local health, social justice, and arts and culture organizations for nearly 15 years.

Now I use my experience messaging, raising awareness, and raising funds to help businesses and nonprofits build, grow and manage their strategic brands.

What is your business?

I am CEO at Speak PR, a public relations/marketing and branding firm in downtown Des Moines that helps organizations find their voice, tell their story and share it with their broader audience. We work with nonprofits and businesses here in Iowa and across the country. Speak PR helps our clients audit their current brand assets, create a strategic plan for their brand, and execute their vision.

What do you hope to gain from the NAWBO Iowa Business Institute?

It is my intention to finish this course with a clearer goal and expectation for this next phase of my career. I am excited to share time with other like-minded business owners who are looking to share their knowledge. I want to challenge myself to reach for more. I know that the NAWBO Iowa Business Institute will provide the leadership and environment that will help me do just that.

 

Alicia Shaul, CPA, MBA

Alicia is president and owner of Shaul & Associates, PLC, a full-service accounting firm. She’s worked with a wide range of businesses and nonprofit organizations. Alicia is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants.

What is your background?

I obtained my bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Drake University, and I’ve worked in public accounting since 1998 and owned my own practice since 2004. 

What is your business?

My firm, Shaul & Associates, PLC, specializes in working with businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to provide strategic planning, accounting, payroll, tax, and outsourced controller services. We are dedicated to providing clients with professional, personalized services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Our vision is “creating lifetime partnerships to help companies thrive.” Our mission is to educate and assist our customers by providing strategic advisory, accounting, payroll, and tax services for businesses, non-profits, and individuals.

Through the years I have added employees and currently my company has five full-time employees (including myself) and one part-time employee.

What do you hope to gain from the NAWBO Iowa Business Institute?

I would like to develop a strategic marketing plan that delivers results and return on investment. Our current marketing efforts result in clicks and views, but I feel they are essentially throwing money out the window. I want to learn how to market my firm so we find the best clients for our services and can grow our business.

 

NAWBO Iowa thrives on its corporate sponsors in support of the organization and its programs/events. The NAWBO Business Institute would like to thank the following in-kind sponsors.

  • Chocolate Storybook
  • Miller, Zimmerman & Evans
  • 1809 Designs
  • OnPoint Strategies
  • Kenworthy Law