We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Gibson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Vanessa, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
The thought process behind starting my own business involved a miracle, a strong passion and a lot of determination.. My story as to how I started was nothing but a gift from God. My start wasn’t your typical story of how most people start a brand new business.
I started as a teacher for the studio, but I was so driven to help the owner restructure her classes and the business, that I just started taking over. There were some things that needed to be updated and changed. Therefore, the business wasn’t working to its full potential. but it has a lot of promise. After 4 years of teaching and making myself the assistant, the owner of the studio at that time decided that she wanted to retire and so she decided to let me start taking over. to become the new owner – The Miracle. By the summer of 2005, I was starting the 1st summer program, looking for a new building and becoming the new owner of Eagles Landing Dance Center. It was very hard and a lot of moving parts, but I was determined to make it work – The Determination. From there, I had to quickly pull together a great staff of teachers, a great accountant, a lot of research of what was needed in the area, figuring out what would make us different than the other studios in the county and just a lot of passion for the kids and the art form – The Passion. From there, I never looked back.
My first year was hard, but I made sure to put my customer service skills into high gear. Developing loyal customers, providing great classes and hiring teachers that were willing to work overtime, had everyone spreading the word out about ELDC.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have been a part of the dance art form since I was 5 years old, so basically my entire life. This was when I began my first dance class. However, every since I can remember, I wanted to dance. I use to look at any and every show that involved dance. I worked extremely hard throughout the years to get where I am now.
My first introduction to the professional world was dancing for the Atlanta Braves. It was the 1st time that a professional baseball team tried to have a dance team. It was a GREAT first start!!! Then, right when I was a month away from graduating from college, I approached Mr. Shelly Garrett of “Beauty Shop” and asked if I could audition as a dancer. The next thing I knew I was giving my information for a plane ticket to Dallas to audition for the play. In one day, I auditioned, got the job, got fitted for the costume and placed in the show for that evening.
Once the play ended in LA, I decided to take my chance and see if I could make it in California, it had been my dream. Within 3 months, I auditioned and got my 1st dance agent and booked my 1st movie with Debbie Allen. After that, I was auditioning for everything (music videos, award shows, tv shows, etc..). Of course, it wasn’t easy and I didn’t book everything, but it was the BEST EXPERIENCE that I could have never dreamed of happening.
The one thing that I know that allowed me to persevere was my faith in God. Every time, I would be told NO, I always knew that it meant that that job wasn’t for me and that something better was coming my way. I have always believed that what is for you, is FOR YOU. I never gave up and I trained like crazy to keep my craft in order. The path of being a professional dancer isn’t easy, but if it truly a passion and you work extremely hard, the benefits and rewards far outweigh the rejections and mistakes.
The experiences are what forms us and it allows you to be able to sow into others. I know that my being in the midst of this crazy dance business for over 30 years, has now allowed me to educate my dancers and parents about the dance industry and prepare them for college and possible professional dance careers.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If a friend was visiting the area and wanted to see the city, I would be downtown. The first day we would go to the Ga Aquarium in the morning, then have lunch at any of the restaurants in the area. Afterwards, we would go to the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The next day we would visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Park, followed by going to the World of Coca-Cola. The following day we would hit the Beltline by bike or walking to see Atlanta from a different perspective. From that point on, each day we would visit Centennial Park, Stone Mountain Park, Zoo Atlanta and of course we would visit multiple well known restaurants.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First, I want to Shout Out Ms. Vicki Tillman, because she gave me my foundation and fueled my drive for dance. Ms. Vicki loved being a dance teacher and so she made sure to teach us everything possible so that we would be prepared for anything. Everything that she taught me, I eventually had to use at various times in my life. She also encouraged me and made me realize that I wanted to dance for life. I also want to say thanks to Mary Jacobs of Jacobs School of Dance. If it wasn’t for her providing a place where little kids could live out their dreams of being a dancer, I don’t know how different our lives would have been.
I also want to thank my mom for always being my biggest fan and making sure that I never missed a beat when it came to dance.
Professionally, I want to say thanks to Shelly Garrett, who is now deceased, but he gave me my first professional job, touring the United States with the stage play, Beauty Shop. This led me to California, which allowed me to pursue all of my dreams. I also have to say thanks to Donielle Artese, a great friend, because she put me in the right place at the right time, which allowed me to get my dream job after only being in LA for 3 months. This is how I started working with Debbie Allen and so, I must give a huge Shout Out to Debbie because she kept me working the entire time that I lived in LA and has since allowed me to be her Atlanta representative for her summer intensive for 5 years and her go to person for finding dancers in Atlanta for all of the jobs that she brings to our state.
There have been many others that have supported me, motivated me and helped me as I moved through this dance journey. For all of those people, Thank you, Thank you and Thank you!!!