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Red-Hot in Small Business: Behind the scenes at Canada’s largest Salsa dance school

By Alexandra DeLory |

Sharon Galor has a fantastic job. She gets to do what she loves every day, burning up the dance floor as she introduces students to the world of Salsa dancing at her school, Toronto Dance Salsa.

At the same time, Galor is somewhat of a whiz in business. A former director of human resources with a background in adult education, she has built her seven-year old studio into Canada’s largest, and most successful, Salsa school.

We recently caught up with Galor to uncover her story.

Ditching the desk for the dance floor

Galor says she first fell in love with salsa dance as an adult and soon transitioned into teaching classes and by 2005 established her own school.

Her mantra: to teach this spicy pastime to people of all ages and levels with a straightforward and easy-to-follow pedagogical approach.

The studio has many talented salsa dancers, but has a special interest in teaching discouraged beginners with self-proclaimed “twoleft feet”. Galor describes the atmosphere at Toronto Dance Salsa as having,“as much of a family atmosphere as a business can have.”

She attributes the studio’s success to her “focus on passion rather than success.”

Her passion for dance is what led her to pursue this inspired career after all; without passion there would be no Toronto Dance Salsa. Her passion is also what drove her desire to create and develop an engaging, interactive and easy-to-follow syllabus, a syllabus that could quickly take anystudent from amateur to salsa dancer in a few semesters.

Who is dancing?

Toronto Dance Salsa’s student base consists of mostly 25 –45 year olds, both male and female. The oldest students, she told CanadaOne, have been well into their 70’s.

Students come to Toronto Dance Salsa for a number of reasons: social opportunities, fitness and exercise are central but number one is to have fun and of course to meet that special someone - the perfect “salsa” partner.

As an entrepreneur, Galor never found it hard to attract a client base, which is often the main challenge for many small business owners.The appeal of salsa dancing and television shows popularizing the art brought the students in droves.

It also helps that her website comes up at the top of Google searches for things like “salsa dancing”, appearing in the second spot after a Wikipedia listing when we did a search for that term.

In addition to salsa classes, the studio provides the option of exploring other dance genres including Bollywood, hip-hop and Zumba.

Searching for the perfect partner

The hardest part of starting-up, says Galor, was finding a studio location that was central, close to the subway line, had parking and was accessible to everyone who wanted to take lessons.

Just as the right partner makes all the difference in dance,leasing an inspiring space is an essential part of attracting clients.

The effort Galor put into finding her studio has paid off.

Located on top of the North York Civic Centre Subway at YoungStreet and Empress Walk in Toronto, Ontario, the studio boasts 1600 square feet of space, is very large and airy and has lots of amenities close by. To top it all off parking for students is free for two hours in the underground parking lot.

Torontonians will also find Toronto Dance Salsa in two other floating locations in the heart of downtown Toronto. They offer classes at TheKing West Club at University and King Street and the Venice Fitness Club, located in the King West district between Peter Street and Spadina Avenue.

Discovering new opportunities as the economy shifts

Currently, as a result of the uncertain economic times in which we live, some of Galor’s salsa students are feeling the pinch, which inturn has impacted Toronto Dance Salsa.

“Classes have slowed a lot, we have seen a drop in semester enrolment, people who don’t have a job, have lost a job or are in between jobs; find it hard to commit to our nine week programs,” says Galor.

So like any savvy business, when the economy pivots, the owner adjusts.

“We have moved into more flexible 4 week, 6 week and 7 week programs for those who can't fully commit to a 9 week program,” says Galor.

She also notes that while classes may be a bit slower, the school’s weekly socials are now becoming more popular.

“We hold outings for our Toronto Dance Salsa students as well as their friends and family every other week and two weekly Socials. These events are a good time for our students to practice and have fun,” Galor said about the popular events.

Connect with Toronto Salsa Dance

Interested in learning from Galor and her talented staff? You can check them online at their website, on Facebook and on Twitter.   

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