Workshop Dance Studio side-steps pandemic with digital workaround
When Nancy Morgan, a Kemptville entrepreneur and owner of The Workshop Dance Studio, first started talking to her clients about Patreon and Discord, it felt like a foreign language both to her and her clients.
“The majority of my business is aimed at the 50 and up crowd (that are in) early retirement or that have the financial means to take on a hobby because their kids are grown,” she explains. “The caveat to that they’re not super tech-savvy.”
But it wasn’t long before she figured out a way to describe both platforms in everyday terms that her clients would understand.
“Patreon is like the cable company,” she says. It’s a platform that allows creators like Morgan to offer tiered subscriptions to their content. “Like Bell… you pay money to Bell and it lets you watch TV depending on the package that you've paid for.”
Discord, explains Morgan, is where the channels live. Clients log onto her server and can use the real-time chat and video platform to connect, ask questions and take classes. “If you want to take a tap class, you need to go to Tuesday at 6:30 and put yourself into the channel and then the live tap class will fill up.”
It’s a workaround given that Morgan wouldn’t be able to host classes on Facebook Live or Youtube because of copyright laws for the music she uses in her dance classes. But she’s quick to pass off credit to her sons for helping her make it work. “Don't be thinking I'm the genius,” she says. “My 25- and 26-year-olds basically said, ‘mom, this is what you're going to do,’ and walked me through it.”
Patreon and Discord are part of a wider transformation for the Kemptville entrepreneur, a journey she’s been on over the past couple of years and one that’s accelerated in light of the pandemic. It started with overhauling her website in the months leading up to the first shutdown.
“I was in desperate need of overhauling my website and being able to take control of it because my web designer had fallen sick,” she says. “I didn't want to just transfer it over to another web designer, I really wanted to learn.”
Around that time, Kemptville was piloting Digital Main Street, a program combining grants and one-to-one support from the Province of Ontario alongside partners like Google to help main street businesses strengthen their online capabilities and plan for the digital future. She worked her way through the program’s educational videos and received a $2,500 digital transformation grant, which she used to get her website rebuilt. But once that was done, she found herself “handed the keys” to something she didn’t really know how to run.
“They sort of left me hanging and it's been a little bit of a learning curve to understand it,” she says. This past year, a second run of the Digital Main Street program through the area allowed her to access another digital transformation grant to build on what she’d learned. She says it feels different this time around – more critical, like there’s an extra weight created by the pandemic.
“I think there was less pressure for me to see the end goal (last time) because it was just sort of, oh, okay, I want to get this website, I want to take control of it, but there wasn't any real pressure from my clients because everything was great in the studio,” she says. But the pandemic changed that and forced her to refocus her attention on the live video component so she could continue to make revenue and keep the business going. The aim now is to bring that all together and bridge the gap between the studio’s online classes and its online presence.
“There's a serious pressure… everything has to be online, absolutely everything, and your online presence needs to be perfect,” she says. “I'm nowhere near that (but) I do see that this is going to be amazing.”
Written by Andrew Seale
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Microsoft, Facebook, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Yellow Pages and Lightspeed.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.