JUST a year ago entrepreneurs Lianne Weston-Mommsen and Cheryl Dodd opened a dance school in Whiteley with only three pupils.
Lianne, 36, of Stubington, and Cheryl, 32, from Gosport, spotted a gap in the market while searching for a ballet class for their own children.
They each have a boy and girl, who were born around the same time – the boys were aged two and a half and the girls were just nine months old at the time.
Now, 12 months on, the Starz Academy is a dance school with a difference and has expanded to 300 pupils, teaching in 12 different locations in Hampshire.
It is thought to be the only organisation of its kind this side of London to teach ballet to youngsters aged from six months to six years.
Lianne, a professionally qualified dance teacher, said: ‘Cheryl and I can’t quite believe how the baby ballet classes have taken off – we had to find our feet, so to speak, as we didn’t have a The Apprentice-style business plan to begin with.
‘Every day brings new challenges and opportunities, as in any company large or small. What is driving the expansion is the demand from mums and a few dads.’
Now the entrepreneurial pair are fielding calls from dance teachers across the country wanting to run Starz classes, so Lianne and Cheryl are thinking about franchising their business.
Lianne added: ‘It may be case of exploring a franchise operation down the line, but only if the quality can be retained – the emphasis must always be on the youngsters otherwise you’ve lost what made the business stand out in the first place.
‘What many people don’t realise is that ballet is the foundation to all forms of dance. Who knows, we may even have a few home-grown Margot Fonteyns and Billy Elliots starting out their performance careers through us.’
They are also launching a range of dancewear, available online, thanks to Cheryl’s experience as a former commercial manager with high street retail giants M&S and Debenhams.