Use Your Skills


A memory from the past will sometimes spring up where you least expect it. I remember when I was in elementary school I would tag along with the relatives to Brookfield (for a dreaded shopping trip) and then to this amazing custard place in Hartland on the way back home. That custard was the main reason I went along.

To see if details surrounding the custard place were correct, I searched WDFI corporate records to know if the custard place was real. My memory was correct! The custard place was Nowak’s Custard, opening in 1985. If you’re a local, do you remember it? Anyway, located behind Nowak’s Custard another business opened… that I distinctly recall… because of various pastel “things” hanging in the windows. I don’t recall what the “things” were, but I remember the business had something to do with dancing.

Who would have thought that almost 30 years later I would meet the owner of the business who had those “things” in the window!  The owner’s name is Nina Gaydos-Fedak. She is the founder and director of To the Pointe Performing Arts, now known as TTP Academy.

Back in 1988 while working at GE, Nina had been looking for a second-shift job opportunity because her husband could then be with the children at night. The perfect job didn’t come about, so Nina analyzed her skill set. What was she good at? What could she offer? It was these questions that led to the opening of her dance studio.

When you look back, what were the hardest obstacles to overcome? The first 12 years were great! I was the first stand-alone dance studio in the area up until the early 2000s. Then competition studios started popping up (rather than academy studios). Kids started signing up for competition studios because they were “more exciting.” We (the other instructors and myself) chose not to focus on competition, except in certain settings. Rather, we stayed true to teaching dance as an art form. This hurt us for a while. But we are proud of what we do. We enjoy educating individuals and families.

What do you like least about owning your business?  The money thing. I had a passion, but I struggled with money. I volunteered my time and didn’t get paid. Money is needed to pay bills… which I eventually realized.

What do you like best about owning your business? I don’t have to listen to anybody. I’m able to do what I love. I have flexibility. I like seeing kids develop and helping instill discipline in their lives. Also, my memory patients are so cool! I love helping others build a knowledge base.

What accounting or tax issue caught you by surprise when you first started? I should have known how to budget and should have had help with finances.  I was focused on the creative part and should have had someone else monitoring and advising financials.

What is your least favorite thing about accounting or taxes? Numbers. Accounting is not intuitive. The whole debit and credit thing boggles my mind. That’s why I give everything to my accountant.

What accounting software do you use? I currently am using spreadsheet software. It works for me.

What is your most useful phone app? I love that my to-do list, calendar, and email sync between my iPhone, iPad, and iMac. I also like:

  • Google Drive for all my financials,
  • Social Media apps,
  • iTunes (with a Bluetooth speaker) to use during dance classes, and
  • Camera for choreography videos to be sent to kids to view on YouTube.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone just starting a business? Location is important; think long-term. Seek out professional help in your planning process. Professionals should include a banker, attorney, accountant, insurance agent, and someone in your industry. In addition, make sure you love what you do. If able, hire a manger to help and support you. Don’t go rogue; you need to have a sounding board to bounce off ideas.

Nina’s dance approach is not “tricks and glitz.” Rather, she desires to teach dance as an art, where technique is important. If you are interested in learning about Nina, her faculty team, their courses (for ages 2 to 100+), and TTP Academy & Mindful Movement Center, please visit her website and Facebook page.

It has been a privilege getting to know Nina at my Women Making an Impact (WMAI) networking group. If you ever meet Nina, I believe you will find she always has a spark of surprise and sunshine!