A former cruise ship performer who followed her dreams and opened her own dance school has almost quadrupled the number of students attending her classes in less than a year.
Gemma Penfold set up LCI Dance Center in September last year with an initial 19 children but now teaches 64 kids with over 20 adults also coming along.
After 11 years working as a dancer for Carnival Cruises, Gemma and her husband settled in Helensburgh with Gemma initially working for a travel agents before launching her business.
Gemma, who has danced since the age of 2, sought support from Business Gateway Argyll and Bute and is now planning on adding new classes for both children and adults in addition to the current ballet, jazz and tap.
She said: “I knew this area had a lot of fabulous dance schools for children so I sat down with my husband, a fellow dancer, and we planned out what my ideal school would look like and how it would differ from what was already available. The dance world can be quite harsh and I wanted my school to be fun, creative and light – so I decided to make it performance based rather than go down the competitive and exam route. We still follow syllabus and our students do an internal assessment each year but I want our children to learn dance in an environment that encourages you to be free and enjoy it regardless of ability.
“I am so incredibly lucky that the Citizens Advice mentioned Business Gateway to me. I’m a dancer and no way a business women yet, so I had a lot of questions about what needed to be done and my adviser Jen Smith was an absolute star. She informed me of the free workshops Business Gateway run and I attended the website design seminar and I’m in the process of applying for potential grants. I am so impressed that we have such a great resource available on our doorstep.”
Gemma aims to expand LCI Dance Center which stands for Love, Create, Inspire, and bring in new teachers to offer a wider range of genres including singing and acting. With a long term goal to own her own studio, Gemma is keen to share her passion and create a community that loves dance.
She added: “Last year whilst working for the travel agents, I lost my brother to Progressive MS which was devastating for our family. I realised that I had to follow my heart and do what I love as life is too short. My brother always enjoyed coming to my shows and encouraged my dancing and I knew he would want me to carry on with my passion. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of everyone around me, from parents, the students and my family – they have all contributed to making LCI a joy to run.”
Jen Smith of Business Gateway Argyll and Bute said: “Gemma uses her experience of performing to focus on helping the children to become creative and confident. We have assisted Gemma in a number of areas including helping her get to grips with what is needed to successfully set up a business to signposting her to potential funding opportunities that will help her grow.”
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