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Misty Lown, Misty's Dance Unlimited

Misty Lown is in the business of saying “yes.”

The nationally recognized dance teacher and studio owner has accepted 29 other studios from all over the nation into her new licensing program, “More Than Just Great Dance.”

The idea is to equip dance studio owners with a valuable business resource as well as provide them with a type of accreditation, Lown said. Parents can feel confident sending their children to a studio that bears the MTJGD stamp of approval.

“When my daughter started at age 4, we asked around and everyone said Misty’s Dance Unlimited is where you want to go,” said Amy Stoeckly, a parent from Holmen. She appreciates the positive, nurturing environment and the commitment to fun, age-appropriate costumes and routines.

MTJGD studios employ the highest standards in written dance curriculum, teacher training, effective management practices and community involvement. Members benefit from shared resources, preferred vendor discounts and continuing teacher education.

And the interest is growing. To date, Lown has received 180 inquiries from dance studios in 20 states, as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Australia and Switzerland.

“It was a huge relief to find an organization that spoke directly to my needs and gave me a model that I could put into place immediately,” said Melanie Gibbs, who owns Boca Dance Studio in Boca Raton, Fla. “MTJGD will become the ‘Good Housekeeping’ seal for dance studios and will lend credibility and prestige to my already established business.”

The licensing program launched in July, but the philosophy has been in place almost as long as her dance studio has been open.

“I developed the idea and the tagline “More Than Just Great Dance” 12 years ago, because I wanted (MDU) to be about more than the lessons,” she said.

After students graduate, they look back and remember all they learned — friendship, teamwork, perseverance, self confidence.

But it wasn’t until 2010 that it occurred to Lown that this might be an idea that she could market. The success of her studio put her on the map — she was already writing for Dance Studio Magazine and speaking at national dance conventions. Other dance teachers and studio owners saw her as a resource, because Lown had successfully accomplished something with which many others have struggled.

“Most dance studio owners are not entrepreneurs first,” Lown said. “They’re teachers and dancers, and they love kids.”

Lown sees her licensing program as a tool to bridge that gap between dance teacher and business owner. She doesn’t see other studios as competition, but instead as potential partners in maximizing the positive impact of dance.

Lown believes in paying it forward.

Maybe that’s because her career was launched when someone said “yes” to her, a 20-something aspiring dancer with big dreams and shallow pockets. She opened her first studio in 1998, when her longtime friend Deak Swanson built and leased a building for her — on nothing more than a handshake.

He did it on nothing more than a handshake, Lown said, because he believed she had what it took to be successful. Now, she wants to do the same for others.

“Maybe, of all the things we sell, that’s what (our licensees) are most hungry for,” Lown said. “Hearing the word ‘yes.’”

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