LARAMIE DANCE CENTER
Microloan Allows Dance Studio to Realize Vision & Differentiation
In 2014, the Hime family in Laramie, Wyoming, had two kids in dance classes, and the activity was a very important part of their family’s life. But that year, Kati learned that the dance studio owner was going to close the business, and she asked who would keep it going. A surprise even to themselves, the answer would be her and her husband Levi.
“We didn’t want to see that dance studio go away,” says Kati. Hime says that there were two other dance studios in Laramie just opening, so they had to find a vision for their studio to be something different. “We wanted to keep it going for the community, and we thought about the vision we would have for it.”
Kati and her husband Levi would go on to purchase the business, Laramie Dance Center, and were excited about their idea to grow it into something even broader than dance, and differentiate it from other dance studios – a more diverse creative arts program, with lots of opportunity for artistic exploration.
But they needed financial backing for the purchase and building rental costs. The Himes, who also own Wyoming Lifestyle Magazine, had done an article on women in entrepreneurship, and Kati had remembered the interview with the Wyoming Women’s Business Center (WWBC), and the loan program they had available. So she reached out.
“We had gotten declined for a traditional loan with a bank,” says Kati, “so it was a real benefit for us that we could take it over to the WWBC.”
The Himes worked originally with Farrah Rhea at the WWBC, then Waldo Smith, Director of Microlending. They were approved into the WWBC MicroLoan Program. The Himes used the $40,000 loan for the business purchase and multiple rental spaces for the classes they continued to add. They used a sequence of building rentals over time for their variety of classes, with hopes of moving toward the purchase of a new building that would allow them one space.
They made quick work of paying off the WWBC loan.
“We just paid it off last month, and that was really exciting,” says Kati. “We were originally on the 8-year track, and we got it done in five and a half.”
Last year, the Himes were able to move forward with a building purchase in Downtown Laramie to accommodate all their activities. And after years of hoping it would all come together, she says that it was a real comfort to have the WWBC as a consistent, stable business supporter.
“It was really comforting to know the WWBC was a business resource that would be there for us,” says Kati. “Waldo was always patient with our questions and always willing to help. He was very flexible about working with changing plans over time, and he was always up front with us about the whole process.”
Now, in 2019, the Laramie Dance Center has grown into much more than just a dance studio, just as they intended, and all under one roof. They have added an infant/toddler/preschool music program, Taekwondo, theater, and cheer classes. They have created over a dozen part time and contract positions. And in 2020 they hope to expand even further with multiple language classes.
“I think the WWBC is worth looking into as a resource for anyone who is looking to buy or grow a business,” says Kati. “It was a good investment for us to jump into working with them.”