Heidi Fox is the owner of Suffolk-based Fox Academy of Dance, which offers classes for children aged three and up. Here, she explains how the academy’s new base, complete with newly fitted out studios, is a step in the right direction
Moving her dance academy into a new home with newly fitted out studios has been a dream come true for Heidi Fox. The Owner and Principal of Fox Academy of Dance, based in Needham Market, has 19 years of teaching experience under her belt, and she started her own dance academy for children aged three and older in 2017. Having her own studio is a major milestone for ‘Team Fox’, as she calls her dance group, and this was realised recently with a £6,900 grant through New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Small Grant Scheme. ‘The grant has been a lifeline,’ says Heidi.
Graduating with a First-Class Honours degree in dance at the University of East London and professionally trained in dance and performing arts, Heidi had many reasons to celebrate the academy’s fifth anniversary at the end of last year. Her dedication and the team’s talent helped the business expand to the point where it had outgrown its base.
‘We had to hire more space at the school where we were as we had grown so much but it was tricky to find a new hire venue,’ says Heidi. She explored various options, including commercial spaces. Seizing the moment, Heidi and husband Josh had some savings and they decided to lease an office building on Lion Barn Industrial Estate in Needham Market.
Having permanent access to their own studios has allowed the business to diversify and offer a wider range of class styles to dancers of all ages and abilities. The extra space has also facilitated one-to-one classes, small group coaching and a costume hire facility serving the wider community.
Striving to create a positive and nurturing environment and upholding excellence as per the academy’s motto, Heidi knew there was a lot of work to do and there were a few non-negotiables for the fit-out, such as a special dance floor and safety mirrors. Heidi explains how she tackled the next step: ‘We did a Google search for grants locally and the LEP came up. James Moore, a Growth Hub advisor, was a godsend.’
The couple started the lease process earlier this year and the negotiations took longer than expected. By the end of the term in July, they gave the green light to a construction company to take down the walls to open up spaces. ‘We announced the move at the summer show and considerably upgraded our DIY skills in the summer,’ says Heidi. The refurbishment involved creating three dance spaces with sprung dance flooring, full-length mirrors, speakers and acrobatic mats. They also furnished and decorated communal areas, and bought office equipment, security cameras, floodlights, signage and launch merchandise.
Commenting on how it felt to take on such a big project, Heidi admits she was terrified but excited: ‘I’ve not been able to process it yet. It’s a lovely and special feeling to walk into your own dance accommodation where it is also warm and clean. I’m most pleased about the changing room and lounge. The children adore it! They turn up earlier and earlier each week to meet up with friends.
‘It also has a study space, and we have theatre-style dressing room mirrors. Studio 1, our main studio, has the professional sprung floor and mirrors, and we love it!’
Originally, Heidi was hoping to see a projected increase in turnover by 90% within 12 months which is now expected to be achievable in 18 months. ‘If we hadn’t received the grant, we would have had to make difficult decisions and cut costs in the building. We have three studios, and one is lightly used, about 20%. Though if we couldn’t use it, it would have had a knock-on effect on classes.’
She highlights that the grant has been a big help and relief. New plans are in the pipeline with more classes and performances for children. ‘Dance is positive for their well-being, fitness, focus and fulfilling in every sense. I would also like more teachers! But they are hard to get.
‘I would absolutely recommend applying for a grant. It needs more awareness. We’re very thankful and people are proud of ‘Team Fox’.’
Images supplied by Fox Academy of Dance