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Starting a business in your backyard.

When Stacy Tuschl started teaching dance classes in her parents’ backyard at age 18, she wasn’t planning on starting a business. Within three years, she had 100 students, and the Academy of Performing Arts was born. It’s now grown to hundreds of students, two locations, an entire team, a consulting business, and a 2019 Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year award. 

Sometimes it's nice to grow a little slow, because you get to grow into it.

Stacy TuschlCEO and Owner, The Academy of Performing Arts


Katie Hankinson (00:00):

Hi, I’m Katie Hankinson and I’m Mickey cloud. Welcome to building while flying a Sasha Group Podcast, where we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies.

Mickey Cloud (00:21):

Stacy, Tuschl welcome to building while flying. Thanks for being our guest today.

Stacy Tuschl (00:25):

I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me. Awesome.

Mickey Cloud (00:28):

Well, so at the age of 18, Stacy founded the academy of performing arts, a children’s dance music performance studio that started in her parents’ backyard, uh, and has grown to be a multimillion dollar revenue business across two locations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She’s also a best-selling author and founder of the foot traffic formula, helping small businesses around the world. Get more customers in the door. In 2019, Stacy was named the Wisconsin small business person of the year by the us small business administration. So while Stacy, I am super pumped to have you on. Um, and so maybe let’s start by just telling us that, uh, that, uh, founder story of starting the, the academy of performing arts in your parents’ backyard.

Stacy Tuschl (01:08):

So definitely unexpected. I didn’t go into it thinking, oh, I’m going to be a business owner. I, at the time in high school was a dancer. I really like to dance, but I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional dancer. So while I was going to college getting a degree, I thought, oh, this will be fun. What if I just try to start up a middle school dance team? Uh, you know, so I put up flyers in the community that summer, we had 17 kids practicing in my parents’ backyard. Within three years, we had a hundred kids still getting dropped off at my parents’ backyard. Like it, it kept going. And thankfully I grew up in a small business. So my grandparents started an excavating company. They dig basements for homes here in Wisconsin, and my parents worked in it. My grandparents worked in it it’s over 50 years old now.

Stacy Tuschl (01:57):

And at the time my, my parents and grandparents were looking at me going, we know nothing about dance, but it kind of looks like this could maybe be something. So, um, thankfully I, you know, I don’t know that I would have ever thought of it on my own. So, because I grew up in that environment and I know that’s fair to not everybody grows up with entrepreneurial parents and grandparents and all of that. They really transfer that confidence in me of, I think you could do this, like get, try it and see. So having their support was massive. And I, you know, finally incorporated opened up a, a real, you know, business in, um, 2005. So all of a sudden, you know, when I was treating it like a business versus just a hobby, what, what do you know? It starts to really grow? So I thought it was impressive. Like from 17 to a hundred, we started going from a hundred to 300 and 300 to 500. And, you know, we are pretty steady at around a thousand students that come to us every single week. And you know, now we own two locations. I own both the commercial buildings. You know, the backyard story was already 19 years ago, this summer. So, so crazy.

Mickey Cloud (03:02):

Um, well, just let’s touch on that last point. You mentioned. So you launch the company and get some success pretty quickly. Uh, even once you start opening and start treatment, quote, unquote, like a business, uh, so you find yourself kind of in a position that most would think is like, this is amazing. This is great. Yeah. But there’s probably unintended unintended consequences and just challenges that come with that. So what were some of those challenges you have the hyper early growth and how did you kind of manage through it?

Stacy Tuschl (03:25):

Yeah, well, the pressure changed right before it was free and it was fun and it was all, let’s do this. Now, people are paying, I’ve got a rental space I’m tacking on. I’ve started bringing on other people to help me teach because obviously I’m not going to be able to teach hundreds of students, you know, all at one time. So all of a sudden, you know, there were just different pressures of, and not only expenses that I never had to think about before the backyard was free in the winter, we w a church donated their basement to us. So there was just, it was very serious. And all of a sudden this got really real. And I know people looked at us and thought how exciting, how amazing, but, you know, it’s sometimes it’s nice to grow a little slow because you get to grow into it.

Stacy Tuschl (04:10):

There was no growing into anything. It was figure it out and figure it out yesterday. And I will not forget when I realized I was hiring so quickly, but I had no hiring skills. I hadn’t even been interviewing for my own jobs to even see what that looks like. So I started not making great hiring choices. I hated firing. So I started leading people that shouldn’t be left in the business. They were there. And I also started to realize, I don’t have time to train. So now I don’t even know what I’m putting in the classroom behind closed doors. And as I started to maybe get some complaints or some concerns from parents saying, Hey, I don’t know this. Isn’t like what you used to teach or how you used to do it. I realized, wow, I’ve got to really slow down here and hire the right people and then really give them time and energy and train them.

Mickey Cloud (04:58):

Yup. So how did you w what was, what was the implication of that slowdown? What, and then how did you, you mentioned like, this is the first time you’d ever kind of, you know, done any hiring, done, any training, things like that. Like what, what were some unlocks for you at that, at that time? Yeah.

Stacy Tuschl (05:14):

So first I think the implications of the slowdown, when I realized I really do have to kind of slow down, I’m driven, I’m hungry. I want those bigger numbers that hurts the ego a little bit to actually slow down the marketing, slow down the, the growth coming into the business. But I realized if we didn’t, our reputation would start to slow our numbers down even more so than I would have to do. So it was no matter what we would have been slowed down, which way did I want to do this? So I had to take the smarter choice of saying, let me help. Let me slow them down. Let me get in there. And I actually started to look for mentors who could hire, who could train my dance teachers, who could they, what conference could they go to? Um, what could I be doing with them?

Stacy Tuschl (06:01):

How could I be giving them more of my time in the classroom, on leadership versus just the dancing part of it? So that was a big thing for us was really making sure we were taking the right steps because I wanted to be here. Long-term I didn’t want to be quick success quick. Let’s make some money. I knew I wanted to, I mean, we’re here 19 years later, like, obviously we could see the vision and I just wanted to do things right. So hurts the ego, but then, oh man, if you could have seen what happened after people started noticing immediately, right. And we were, we were able to show off, oh, the teachers are going, you know, heading to Chicago to go to this, to learn from. And it started to become our marketing. It started to become while look what they’re doing. And then people started to say, wow, we can really tell, you know, so-and-so did this today and how incredible. So it just sped us up so much more than we ever would have been on that trajectory.

Mickey Cloud (06:54):

Yeah. So you put those measures in place to kind of grow in a more sustainable way. Um, and to help you kind of take off, but then, you know, the 2008 recession as well. So how did, how did that impact the business? And then maybe as you start to think back to that era, what were the similarities and differences between the 2008 recession? And then what we went through this past year, what we’re still going through right now for the pandemic.

Stacy Tuschl (07:17):

Yeah. So the 2008 recession for us, um, it’s unique looking back at it in the moment when, when all these things were happening and people were losing their jobs and, you know, businesses were closing, our business was still getting bigger. We were, we were still blowing up. And in fact, we built our first custom million dollar dance studio in 2008. Wow. Which was, um, yeah. Interesting. Let’s just say the roofers went out of business in middle of the installation. Okay. Nobody wanted to come in halfway through somebody else’s job and finish the roof. I mean, there, there were some growing pains that way, but we were still growing and I think I got a little overconfident, uh, wow. We can get through anything. Right. Like if we can get through the 2008 recession, but what happened was recessions for us in the children’s industry, looks a little different.

Stacy Tuschl (08:12):

I now realize that in the children’s industry, mom and dad hold out as long as they can before cutting, you know, extracurricular activities. So we didn’t feel it in 2008, but we definitely started feeling more like 2010, 2011. It was like, yeah, it was really interesting. So when I, when it kind of felt like things were getting better and back to normal, we started to hear more and more, unfortunately like we can’t, we’re so lean. We couldn’t even cut out anything else. Like this is where we’re at. So we made it through, we still grew. But now looking back, I’m a much older than I was in 2008. I realized we probably just, would’ve had way bigger growth in 2008, 2009, et cetera. And I’m sure the recession absolutely hurt us a little bit, but in my mind, I thought, well, we were growing, so it’s not hurting us. You can still be growing, but still feeling the impact of what’s going on in the economy.

Mickey Cloud (09:05):

Let’s talk about that last statement of you could be growing, but you’re feeling the impact and what’s going on in economy and apply that towards what we experienced starting in 2020 with the pandemic. So what were, what were some things that happened for you guys, um, as you, as you manage the business, um, in the past 18 months?

Stacy Tuschl (09:23):

Yeah, it’s interesting too, because I was preparing for another recession. You know, I, I listened to all these people know like a recession is coming or a recession is coming. So I was preparing, we were recession proof. We were ready to go. And then I’m like, whoa, I didn’t realize pandemic proof was a thing. And we were not pandemic proof. And then what was interesting too, was I kept thinking, well, the delay, you know, there was a delay for us. So when we get hit, we still have time to really get smart. Well, now pandemic, it’s actually the worst thing for the children’s industry, because now the thing that saved me in a recession of like, you’re thinking about your children first now they’re like, these are my children. I don’t want them in this building, get them out. So they pulled out as fast as you possibly could because now that same thing that saved me hurt me.

Stacy Tuschl (10:08):

Right. Right. So I will say that that was something obviously we had never gone through before now. I mean, I didn’t even know the doors could close that. Somebody could say no more serving them. Right. Uh, we had to make some major pivots. We really did retain people for quite a while. I think even a month in, after our doors were closed and we were virtually streaming everything, we had 90% of our students still paying us. I think a lot of us were holding onto the hope of one more week, two more weeks when it started to feel a little bit more permanent, we did drop 25% in revenue, which for a million dollar plus business, that’s pretty and for a brick and mortar that doesn’t have a crazy profit margin. That’s a pretty scary number to drop.

Mickey Cloud (10:52):

And so you start seeing that number drop you’ve, you’ve gone virtual. So you’ve been able to, uh, but, but did was, you know, I know it’s a bit of it’s, it’s a seasonal business. How did going virtual kind of help tee up like getting, getting through?

Stacy Tuschl (11:07):

Yeah. So going virtual, I think it helps show people we’re proactive. We’re going to figure this out, like stick with us. Right. I think one thing we kept hearing was I jumped on a, instead of just sending out emails, like crazy that time I did a Sunday video newsletter to our entire studio. And people love that. I had never done that before every and people were getting so many emails, schools were shutting down, right. All this stuff was happening. So I started doing these video newsletters and it was just like that personal touch and people could see, and then, you know, I would remind them or maybe my, one of my kids would come in. I would let them. Right. I wanted them to see I’m a small business owner. I’m, I’m just like you, I have a family too. Right. And I mean, in one of the moments I was thanking them for their support because we had still retained so many of our people and I almost teared up a little bit.

Stacy Tuschl (11:57):

I’m not a crier. They’ve never seen me cry. And I like tear up a tiny bit. And just thinking now, and people said like, we can feel how much you’re trying and how much you’re trying for these kids. And we’re so grateful for you. So, um, I think going virtual and really just being that we were very open about our plans and our strategy. A lot of people hold back their cards and they don’t tell you something until it’s a done deal. We would say here’s plan a. And if that doesn’t work, here’s plan B and then here’s plan C and people, people would email and say, you’re the only people or only business telling us anything. We don’t know what they’re thinking. Are they going to be open? Are they going to require masks? Like thank you for just like giving us the, the brainstorm behind the scenes. Right. And it was just like this really amazing connection we made with our clients that we had never, I feel like connected on that level before.

Mickey Cloud (12:49):

Yeah. I imagine you got a lot of people. You also used, you know, the, if they had to shut down their doors and things like that as a kind of a time to reset and refresh. So what were some of the things that you guys kind of took a look at or put, put a, uh, black light up to, uh, that the pandemic provided?

Stacy Tuschl (13:06):

Yeah. So I mean, you know, at the time we had been in business 17 years, so there were lots of bad habits. There were things we didn’t even know we were doing or investing in, or, I mean, we just went through our credit cards, our bank accounts, because we knew, we knew this retention, 90% retention, wasn’t going to last. So we kept saying, we’ve got to drop our expenses because who knows how many people are still going to be with us in three months or four months, we can’t be the million dollar business we’ve been being. We have to go back, you know, five years ago, six years ago. So we started going through the credit cards and bank statements. And it was the biggest eye-opener of nobody even knows what this software does or if we’re even using it. Why do we have the same account?

Stacy Tuschl (13:51):

We thought we canceled it three years ago. I mean, literally things like that, where would never have been a red flag to our CPA. It wasn’t even a red flag to the person. Like, look even me looking through it because maybe I’m not, I don’t have my hands in everything anymore. We’ve got 50 employees. So I assume someone’s using that in marketing. Right. So I think the biggest thing was you can’t get too comfortable and those are, those are checks and balances that should be done. I mean, now when I look at that, that’s an annual meeting with the key power players on our team to say, who’s using this is anybody. And is it working? Is it working $79 a month? I mean, it kills me to think how much money did we waste over the years? Right. So our goal, you know, drop as much as we can. So we ended up losing about 25% gross revenue for quite a while and we were fine. We made it. And the fact that we could drop our expenses by 25% and not really feel it, no, one’s no one’s missing that software or missing that. I mean, you, we, we can’t even tell that we did it. So now that the thought is we’re actually, you know, we, we’re very big and tracking our numbers and we’re only about 20 students down from this moment, August of 2019. Okay. So we’re, we’re kind of getting back

Mickey Cloud (15:15):


Stacy Tuschl (15:16):

I know, I always say to people and, you know, it’s, it’s hard because to say this, because it was a really horrible, very trying time, lots of stress, but the pandemic was the best thing that ever happened in my business. Hands down. It will.

Mickey Cloud (15:32):

Yeah. Some of it’s also just, you, you had that perspective and you were sharing and you were like, I think a lot of it comes from that perspective. Another perspective I wanted to ask you about is, you know, you, you mentioned to me previously that, you know, you actually don’t work in the brick and mortar retail business anymore. And, and, and that, but one of the misconceptions of owning a brick and mortar recess that you’re going to be there all the time. Um, you’ve kind of proven that it doesn’t have to be the case. So was that always kind of your goal as you were building, it was that like, you, you didn’t want to have to work in the day-to-day business. And so how did you kind of set yourself up for that?

Stacy Tuschl (16:04):

So in my world, we are an evening and a weekend business, right? So we’re only open when kids are available and they’re available after school and on the weekends. And you know, at first I’m young, I’m 1820, you know, not a big deal. Right. I start to get a little older thinking, marriage, children, and I’m thinking, what am I going to see my family, if I’m working all night and all weekend. So I started to be very intentional, a few years in to say, I don’t have to get out of it right this second, but I am going to need a slowly figure this out before I have children. So I can actually see my kids. Right. So I think it really comes down to like, what is your intention? What do you want this to look like? And then how do you start to slowly build it? I didn’t just overnight leave the building. Right. I mean, it was years of going, okay, well, how do I get out of the classroom first? How do I train the, the office staff? And then eventually get out of the office staff, right? How do I, and it was a lot of getting started getting them well-oiled and putting systems in place and getting the right people in place. And then I kept popping out a one department and popping in another.

Mickey Cloud (17:14):

Yep. Um, well it sounds like those systems, um, kind of also laid the foundation for, um, the consulting firm foot traffic that, that you’ve launched as well. So could you talk, um, you know, that, that does this, I know is all about kind of helping people like yourself, small business owners kind of get more customers. What, what, what was the moment that kind of led to launching that business?

Stacy Tuschl (17:35):

So it’s funny because I built all these systems delegated and I really started to lose my identity of what do they need me for? Right. I remember walking into the building, the team was in a little meeting at the desk and it was like, I interrupted them. Like it wasn’t like, oh, great. She can come and hang out. And it was like, Hey, do you need something? We’re kind of in the middle of like, oh my goodness, what did I do? Like, what did I build? And it was sad in a way. So I actually opened my second location to give myself something to do. So that’s why I have two locations. And the problem it was because we had systems and it already didn’t need me within a year. This one didn’t need me either. So I’m like, wow, more locations does not solve my need to be fulfilled.

Stacy Tuschl (18:18):

So after location, number two was already profitable and successful. I said, okay, what, what else can I build here? I’ve got to do something for me. So I actually started just to like go to conferences, read books, to get inspired of what could I do. And it led to what if I, you know, taught other people how I just did this. And that’s really truly how foot traffic started of my need to want to do something. I I’m excited that I built myself out of that business, but I love business. I love the strategy and the marketing and all of that. And now I get to do that every day.

Mickey Cloud (18:48):

That’s amazing. Uh, and be like, I’d love to talk about maybe that relationship, that reciprocal relationship between APA and foot traffic. So how did, how do you leverage one for the other? What’s kind of, you know, what’s kind of maybe the breakdown of time you’re spending between the two. Yeah.

Stacy Tuschl (19:01):

So I really didn’t think they would be connected at all whatsoever. I thought totally separate businesses. They can stay in their lane. No one needs to know about either. Right? Yeah. And that couldn’t be more wrong. Right. So in foot traffic, everybody wants to know what am I doing? My studios, how did during the pandemic people were literally hiring me because they want it to be a step behind the email I sent out, like, show me the Sunday email with the video. I’m going to create the same one and send it out to my people. So everybody wants to hear about the studio in foot traffic. And then I would say in the brick and mortar, what happened was I would, you know, be on camera, film something. And somebody like us bank saw me doing something and said, Hey, would you ever want to come on camera and do a feature for us?

Stacy Tuschl (19:45):

Like sure. But I got that gig because they saw me in foot traffic, but they didn’t want me as Stacy from foot traffic. They wanted me Stacy as a small business owner owning the dance skills. Right. Yeah. So they came out, did this amazing highlight video it’s on their social media that they use to promote. And from that video, they, I then got a nomination to be the small business person of the year for the state of Wisconsin. Yeah. So it’s funny how all of this has to do with the studio, but if they didn’t see me in foot traffic, I would never have probably even been thought of top of mind considered anything, you know? And then all of a sudden we get a feature in the paper locally that I’m the Wisconsin, small business person of the year. Somebody locally sees it hires me in foot traffic. Right. Like they just are connected so much more than I thought.

Mickey Cloud (20:31):

And it was the, it was the co I think it’s interesting that it was foot traffic that needed the content. You were putting yourself out on camera, you were putting out more content and to help build up foot traffic as the consulting arm. Um, but you know, and, and, but, and then that has having, you know, top of funnel on, on both sides. So could you talk about like what investments you’ve made into yourself into kind of building up your personal brand that, that helps both businesses?

Stacy Tuschl (20:56):

Yeah, absolutely. And I, and I, if you don’t have the two, like I do, if you could just be doing more video yourself, I think that was one of the reasons I was able to give these heartfelt, meaningful videos every Sunday, because I’ve been on camera for five or six years already. So, you know, this, one of the studio owners had to copy me, but she has not been on video ever. And let me just tell you, I saw the video and I was like, oh, you know, you got, you, you have to be putting time and energy into video. You really do so. So I’m a big believer in find people smarter than you already done what you’re looking to do. I knew I wanted a new business, but I didn’t know what it was. So I looked up, I went to a conference, I went to a two day event and I was sitting there going, I don’t know what I’m building, but I just want to get inspired.

Stacy Tuschl (21:41):

I want to see somebody here, somebody, you know, just take anything I can. And I walked out of there two days later, going, I’m starting consulting. I’m going to start a consulting business. Right? So sometimes you just need to make space on your calendar to invest in that consulting, to hire a coach, to read books, listen to great podcasts like this. You’ve got to give yourself time. And I do believe when you can invest money and not just time, it just speeds it up. Like if I told you how much I spent over the last 19 years, my mother would probably kill me, but I can tell you, my businesses are where they are today because of the people I’ve invested in. Yeah.

Mickey Cloud (22:20):

Yep. Um, awesome. Well, my last question here, we love this, you know, we called the podcast building while flying because it speaks to the nimbleness, the foresight and flexibility needed to operate and business, but also, you know, pilots are renowned for their in-flight checklist. That checklist, that training that says, Hey, here’s how you stay calm under pressure when an Indian goes out or something like that. So what’s, what’s your maybe internal checklist or process that helps you get through a, uh, uh, maybe, uh, uh, a higher stress moment.

Stacy Tuschl (22:46):

Yeah. Oh my goodness. First I think it’s remembering, like, what’s the end goal? What are we trying to achieve in the short term? You can make really bad decisions like when your head is down and you’re just looking at the next one or two steps, pretty soon you can say, ah, we shouldn’t have done that. Right. So I think, you know, when the pandemic hit, when, when big moments like that hit, it was like, what is the big picture? What do we have to do here? Right. And really looking at the long-term goal and then say, what’s the best short term goal to get us to our long-term goal. Right. So I think that’s probably my biggest thing is just like slowing down and taking a look at what is happening and what our options are. I also think it’s surrounding yourself with people to have those conversations that get it that are in this world.

Stacy Tuschl (23:32):

If you’ve had that conversation with a spouse, who’s a nine to fiver, you’re freaking them out. They’re probably going to give you bad advice. Not because they are trying to, but because this isn’t their world and we’re taking way bigger risks. So whether that’s, you know, finding, you know, people in the business world to have those relationships and to bounce ideas off, you’ll just make better decisions. So trust me, when I was consulting friends and people that were working in the business with me, what do you think some of those ideas didn’t come from me. They came from amazing team members on my team saying, what if we tried that? What if we tried this?

Mickey Cloud (24:08):

Awesome. Awesome. Uh, well, Stacy, it has been such a pleasure this morning, talking with you. Thanks so much for your time. Thanks

Stacy Tuschl (24:14):

For having me. This is so fun.

Katie Hankinson (24:18):

Well, now that we finished that thoroughly interesting interview, we’re getting ready to land, but before we do Mickey and I caught up on some of the themes and topics that

Mickey Cloud (24:26):

That’s happened to us, yes, we liken this to the post game show where we break down the key lessons we all can benefit from, including us here at the Sasha group. Here is the Sasha sidebar.

Katie Hankinson (24:43):

Hey, Mickey, your conversation with Stacy was wonderful. What a fantastic woman. She’s amazing. You know, I think is so interesting about all of these conversations. There’s some real themes I think you and I just seeing what a time and time again, but one of the really interesting ones is, you know, has been through 2008 and now she’s been through the pandemic. And in some ways a dip like the previous one or challenge like that sets you up and gives you some confidence that you’ll weather the storm the second time. But this time even, she was like, you know, we, we weren’t prepared for this. It’s a different kind of fit, but it was just interesting, not only to hear how she pivoted, um, you know, jumping into virtual and, and kind of embracing that and really like digging in, but also some of the really simple, small housekeeping things, which she did. And like the fact that her takeaway was that actually, despite the caveat of the pandemic being terrible for lots of people, it’s actually been one of the best things that’s happened to her business. I think we’ve heard that

Mickey Cloud (25:49):

We’ve heard that we’ve heard that many, many times. Um, and, and yeah, just the opportunity to kind of like take, get off the wheel, right. To like, get, get out of the race and then step aside and like evaluate your business. And she called it like just the bad habits of being in business for 17 years. And if something like this forces you to all right, we’ve got to really evaluate our expenses. And then, oh my gosh, what were we paying? What re re was anyone actually using this subscription? We bought like, what’s going on and just like, shoot. And, you know, cause she just assumed, oh, you know, someone’s probably using it. Uh, and, and so there’s checks and balances needing to be done on a more regular basis if you don’t maybe come from kind of that CPA background or things like that. But just, she was like, God, I wouldn’t want to think about how much money did we waste all these years, but just, you know, like now, now it’s a practice that she’s going to be able to do. And, and it took kind of something that shook her out of the running of the day-to-day to be able to say

Katie Hankinson (26:48):

That way. Yeah. So, and I, I bet there were so many businesses, more businesses that have experienced that, like you don’t have a procurement department whose whole job it is to get the best deals and trim the fat it’s the team. And you lose sight sometimes of the important, not urgent when you’re running, like running the hamster wheel of the day to day. And the other thing, I mean, it was great to hear the kind of evolution of the second business, the foot traffic business. Um, I think when we talk about so many of the kind of marketing tactics that, you know, we often talk to our clients about big one being video and how she’s really embraced video and kind of strengthen that skill set on the one side and that really helped to feed success on, on the other side of the business.

Mickey Cloud (27:37):

Yeah. I think that was, that was so awesome to hear her break down. Like, you know, she would have never gotten into video content in the retail business, in the, in the studio business, but she needed it for her consulting foot traffic for the consulting side. But there were benefits from that with like dependent cabins and all of a sudden she’s creating a video newsletter on Sunday nights to talk about like, what’s going on and plan a plan B plan C that transparency that kind of made her really vulnerable and transparent and open to the studio audience. Like that’s the ability to quickly spin that up, came from the consulting side of like years of creating video content. And then, you know, she also had mentioned that the, you know, the small business person of the year award that she won, came from someone finding her from that foot traffic consulting video. But when they awarded her, they wanted to award kind of the studio side of her. And so it just, you know, I think she, she talked about how they didn’t fit. She didn’t think at all, they were going to be connected businesses, but time and time again, she’s seeing that they are,

Katie Hankinson (28:36):

She struck me as someone who really exemplifies the growth mindset, you know, like she’s really constantly learning herself. She’s touching different parts of the business and like dialing in and out. And she’s also spending time really getting ahead of like where she wants to do.

Mickey Cloud (28:52):

I mean, I think that was evident from her first kind of, oh gosh, I’m running a business that’s on week nights and weekends. Like, how am I ever, like, how am I ever going to be able to have a life outside of that? If I don’t start building my, like building my replacements in the systems of getting out of the business. So yeah, I think she’s always kind of had that growth mindset,

Katie Hankinson (29:14):

Very intentional loved it. So what’s our question. I feel like going back to that micro efficiency, she talked about, um, let’s ask, let’s ask what, what small things have you spotted during these, the opportunity for the great reset during the pandemic, this helps you drive better efficiencies in your business. Thanks for joining us for building while flying today. I hope you learned much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.

Mickey Cloud (29:48):

If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in to the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us, plus we’d love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on building offline, across brands, businesses, marketing, and more original music

Katie Hankinson (30:03):

Music By Fulton street music group.

Welcome to Building While Flying!

This weekly podcast is brought to you by Sasha Group. We’re the consultancy meets agency arm of the VaynerX family of companies. We help ambitious companies build strong brands that flex with the times through strategy, branding media and marketing.

In ever-changing times, businesses and brands have to shift and adapt. And across all sectors, there is an air of experimentation. Business owners are trying new things out in the wild;  building the plane while flying.

Our pilots, Katie Hankinson and Mickey Cloud, will be talking to a diverse range of business leaders and founders. They’ll explore how these guests tackle various challenges while staying resilient and committed to growth. Through these real-life examples of strategies put into practice, we hope to inspire you to experiment and develop your own strategies as we all navigate these uncertain times together.

When Stacy Tuschl started teaching dance classes in her parents’ backyard at age 18, she wasn’t planning on starting a business.

Within three years, she had 100 students, and the Academy of Performing Arts was born. It’s now grown to hundreds of students, two locations, an entire team, a consulting business, and a 2019 Wisconsin Small Business Person of the Year award. 

Stacy’s small business journey is anything but ordinary. In her conversation with Mickey, Stacy tells how her businesses got started and shares some challenges of experiencing early hyper-growth and forcing herself to slow down. After successfully navigating the 2008 recession, she thought she could handle anything. The 2020 pandemic brought more challenges than she imagined—like losing 25% of her business’s income—but in the end, she said the pandemic was “the best thing” that could have happened for her. 

Other in-flight topics:

  • Experiencing early growth (3:05 – 6:55)
  • Navigating the 2008 recession vs. the 2020 pandemic (7:05 – 9:00)
  • Pandemic pivots that worked (9:15 – 12:50)
  • Transitioning out of the brick-and-mortar business (15:45 – 17:10)
  • Building a consulting business (17:18 – 20:30) 
  • Stacey’s “in-flight checklist” (22:48 – 24:08)
  • …and more!

Links | Connect with Stacy

New York, NY
Chattanooga, TN
Los Angeles, CA