We had the good fortune of connecting with Roula Roulette and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Roula, do you have a favorite quote or affirmation?
My favorite quote is actually a quote from Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
This has had a profound effect on how I approach everything related to our business, Metropolitan Studios / The Atlanta School of Burlesque. There came a time when I had to really sit down with myself and my partners and ask – WHY are we doing this? And do people know that?
Once we asked ourselves that question, we began to phrase all our marketing around it. Why is helping individuals reassess their relationship with their body important? Why is having a queer inclusive event space vital to our LGBTQIA+ community? Why is an affordable and accessible space key to the success of other small businesses?
As a result we have had the pleasure of working with some incredible groups who are also doing work that is focused on community support, and that is one of the most rewarding results we could have asked for.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
In August of 2016, three queer women from Atlanta, GA finally got the keys to a shared dream. After months of searching and then more months of renovations, we opened the doors of Metropolitan Studios, an inclusive and safe space for individuals with the primary focus of uplifting marginalized communities through the promotion of artistic self-expression and affordable access to a community space.
Celebrating diverse artists, makers, and entrepreneurs, Metropolitan Studios became so much more than just a studio – it became a vital artistic haven and organizing space.
Metropolitan Studios was born because our burlesque troupe needed a place to rehearse, but it has grown beyond the burlesque community – it has become something bigger and more connected. It is a space for local artists, producers, and activists to congregate, collaborate, and entertain. It is a place that has continued to evolve and respond to community needs. It is a place that has helped people and has healed people. We have worked with small business owners from so many different walks of life. For some we are a permanent home, while for others we serve as a temporary home as they realize larger dreams, but at the end of the day – we help where we can, when we can, as much as we can.
It has not been an easy journey. Statistically, 90% of small businesses fail within the first three years. There were many times during our first three years that we weren’t sure we were going to be able to make it. None of us had run a business before, and we were learning as we went, while also working full time, raising children, managing households, etc. We quickly discovered the power of our community to come together and provide us with the support we needed, whether that was financially, assisting with a new website build, providing labor to do studio upgrades, and more. We learned the value in asking for help to create something sustainable – and that served any who were interested in being a part of our mission.
We’ve learned valuable lessons over the years with the most important one being to invest in those that invest in you; your work, your art, and your business. To be a sustainable community space, you need community support and to find community support – you have to invest in people. And that is what we do. We provide internships and trade agreements with artists who financially cannot afford classes or space, so that our space is truly as financially accessible as we can make it. We provide discounted rates to arts organizations and non profits to make their events more affordable, allowing them to pay their artists more. We organize community support and awareness efforts and have even provided short term housing arrangements to travelling artists.
We want the world, and specifically Atlanta, to know that WE ARE HERE! Getting the word out about a small business is one of the hardest things to do in a city this size. We want folks to know that if you have a dream, a community event, any kind of celebration, or if you’re just looking for a place for folks to uplift you – WE ARE HERE. Come and join us, all are welcome.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If I had a friend coming into town – the first thing I would do would be to introduce them to our fringe arts scene. We’d attend a burlesque and variety show by The Candybox Revue at Metropolitan Studios or we might go take in a show from the YAMMS burlesque troupe. We’d spend some time at an art market run by Caity Marie of Cryptid Creatives. Then we’d do some exploring in Little 5 Points – specifically Psycho Sisters, they have the best stuff for the thrifters out there. If they’re looking for something a little more suitable for night on the town, we would swing by She Rare Boutique in EAV.
For tasty treats, we’d take them to some of our favorite places, Deliah’s Chicken Sausage stand in EAV and there are several incredible brewery’s around for the beer inclined!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are so many folks who deserve shoutouts and are keys to our success – for one, The Candybox Revue. Without this group of incredible sparkle humans, we would have never opened our doors. The students of the Atlanta School of Burlesque who believe in our mission and support us through word of mouth referrals, showing up to help keep our space beautiful, and being real life testaments to how we change lives. And finally to our patrons and community of Metropolitan Studios who saw what a valuable resource we are and have done all they could to keep us afloat during these trying times. Thank you all.
Jennifer Rakestraw – JARPhotography Ashley Clara – Art To Life