When she was a child, Kaitlin Hanus said she dreamed of becoming a dance teacher and studio owner. In December 2013, Hanus, 20, took ownership of Dance Connections—the same studio where she began taking lessons at age 4.
As one of the youngest business owners in Magnolia, Hanus said she credits her maturity to the past two years she spent at Kilgore College performing on the award-winning, nationally recognized drill team known as the Rangerettes.
"I think [the Rangerettes] definitely prepared me for life and for owning a business, social skills and, of course, the dance aspect of it," Hanus said. "I think there's no way I could've been running a business at 20 years old without Rangerettes, even if I would've gone and got my bachelor's [degree]. It's amazing how much someone can grow in two years."
Former Dance Connections owner Gina Deming expanded the studio over the years from one small room to its current size of 6,200 square feet with several dance areas. The studio offers dance classes, such as hip-hop, jazz, lyrical, ballet and tap, for students ages 3–18 to prepare them to perform at a recital in May as well as five teams of up to 30 girls each who compete at local schools each spring.
A former Rangerette herself, Deming founded Dance Connections in 1999 at age 22 and welcomed Hanus into the first class she taught at the studio. After more than a decade as a student at Dance Connections, Hanus became an assistant instructor in high school and discussed with Deming her lifelong dream of becoming a dance teacher and studio owner in the future.
"[Deming] said, 'If you make Rangerettes and get your [associate degree] in two years, I'll be ready to sell [the business],' and I said, 'Deal,'" Hanus said. "I made Rangerettes, got my [associate degree] and we had our first meeting in April 2013. My parents, my brother and I came up here and walked the building."
Hanus began operating the studio with one instructor, a tumbling coach and two receptionists after graduating from Kilgore College in May. Over the past few months Hanus has taught herself the ins and outs of running a dance studio with the help of her parents, older brother Travis and business advice from Deming.
"I think the biggest thing is I wear 15 different hats a day," Hanus said. "I do bills, I have to do all of the dance aspect of it—maintenance, phone calls, emails—I mean the list goes on. It's a lot of pressure because ultimately if something were to happen [the responsibility] goes back on me."
Hanus said Dance Connections has always sought to be family-oriented and allows students enough free time to be involved in other activities, such as choir or piano lessons.
"I really don't think that there's any other studio [in the area] that has the least amount of time commitment but can still hold their own at competition," Hanus said. "[The studio is] fun for the girls. I think that if you teach winning is our goal but not a priority, you get more out of them. They cherish it more."
The studio has an enrollment of 215 and continued to accept new students through the end of October, Hanus said. One of Hanus' goals is to reach maximum enrollment at the studio with 500 students in the coming years.
"I just think the biggest goal is max [the studio] out," Hanus said. "I would love to build upstairs, but that's probably not going to happen. The more students the better—that's my biggest thing. [Enrolling] 500 [students] is a good goal that I would love to be at."
Dance class offerings
- Drill team
Monthly tuition for classes
- One-hour class: $55
- 45-minute class: $40
- 30-minute class: $30
- Additional fees apply for competition teams
*Number of classes vary each week based on age group
Dance Connections, 38619 FM 1774, Magnolia 281-356-1822, www.dcmagnolia.org, Hours: Mon.–Thu. 3:30–7:30 p.m., Fri. times vary, closed weekends