Case

Liz Ann Corah & Studio-310
"Leap and the Net will appear"

The wood floors creaked and the studio was still warm. It was late, maybe 10pm or so. Classes had ended hours ago, but there was still work to be done. Too much work to be completed in a single evening by one person. After teaching eight classes with 103.1 fever, and surviving the first day of business, it was time for Liz to go home and get some much deserved rest. But who could rest on a day like this? The day one of your dream comes true?

Slowly she walked to the end of the studio. Gym bag, coffee cup, folders and more in hand, she turned out the lights. She turned around to see the dark, quiet studio that hours ago, was filled with dozens of people at a time full of energy and excitement. The room now dark and quiet was still buzzing with energy. You could feel it vibrating in the walls. There was a sense of excitement in the air. Never had she imagined that so many people would share her vision and join her at her new studio. She paused and thought for a moment about all of the amazing faces that had passed through her doors that day.

Liz walked to the center of the dance floor to take a look around to make sure everything was as it should be. Too busy with classes, customers, phone calls, Verizon, ballet bar and equipment delivery, and a broken toilet, there was no room to express emotion or to let any of it sink in, or out. She stared around the room at the paintings she had hung on the wall, at the walls she had painted herself, at the sheer elegance of her dream having come to reality. And then she saw herself in the mirror, Business owner, dance/fitness studio owner, teacher, motivator, single mother of two, no family, no one to share any of this with but
herself.
Herself...who had saved for an entire for startup costs, and who had successfully paid herself back that very day. She...who had achieved a dream that others had told her she would never do. Her body felt weak, she dropped her belongings to the floor, covered her face and bawled her eyes out. Her knees buckled beneath her, she fell to the floor. Heartfelt sobs ringing through the studio, tears flowing down her face, she cried. Crying, laughing, happiness, sadness, exhaustion, and excitement, it was all there. What other way was there to feel when you took a leap of faith, and the net appeared?

Background

Liz Corah has been dancing all her life. Dancing anywhere and everywhere there was space or an audience. Music or no, she was a day dreamer and could escape from the world in an instant. Raised by a single mother whose goals were not to care for her only offspring. Corah essentially raised herself, and her mother.

In her teen years, without money for dance tuition, Corah made a deal with a local studio owner. She would clean the studio for  tuition. Every night the studio was to be swept, stocked, and ready for the start of business day. Dancers were to be checked in, messages taken, and basic day to day running of the studio were a few of her responsibilities. In exchange, she had unlimited access to the studio’s classes.

Often, ballet classes were very full. Corah’s instructor, because she was the “scholarship kid”, was sent to the center of the floor to learn and practice all of her barre work. She was given a stool to use just in case she was to lose her balance. In the end, she was the strongest dancer in the entire studio. In addition to school work, dance, participating in the school’s theatre department, she also had a part time job making smoothies at a local Jamba Juice.

The really remarkable part of this is that there was no parent guidance. Corah’s mother suffered from certain disabilities that kept her bed bound. There was no one to ever push her to achieve her goals, or support her achievements.

At 16, Corah purchased a small car for $2500, that she paid for by working at Jamba Juice. On the weekends, she would drive to L.A to take classes at Millenium and the Edge.

At 17 (and uncertified, you had to be 18), Corah integrated cardio hip hop into many San Diego 24hour fitness locations. Her paycheck said she was the janitor, and she made $8 per class.

Shortly after her wedding on November 9th 2002, Corah’s new husband was sent to Iraq. She would have her first baby alone in a San Diego Naval Hospital. Upon her husband’s arrival home, they were transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital, right outside of Washington D.C.

Corah was soon hired local health clubs to introduce her Cardio Hip hop and cardio dance programs. During this time, she became pregnant with her second child, completed an Associate in Science in one year flat, divorced her abusive husband and began to lay the foundation for the rest of her life. Feeling a sense of strength for having survived so far, she often found herself thinking “the sky is the limit.” Why not follow all of my dreams? What do I have to lose?

Professional Challenge

Soon, all of Corah’s classes at the local clubs were by reservation only. Members set their watches to make reservations the evening before her classes. A great accomplishment this was, but there was nowhere to move forward from here, Corah had hit a wall. There was little or no room for creativity and self expression, and Corah felt limited in what she could offer. She'd always had a dream to own her own dance/fitness studio. This felt like the right time to begin working towards that dream.

In attempt to reach out to the community and gain exposure, Corah signed on as an independent contractor with the Montgomery county recreation department where she integrated Hip Hop, and other dance programs into their county-wide programming. She soon began teaching at Local elementary schools after school programs, community centers, and private homes.

In 2007, Studio-310 was incorporated. With a back pack full of music and a stereo in hand, she began to rent space all over Montgomery county and advertise her programs. Advertising, and “selling herself” was not her strength. Word of mouth, flyering neighborhoods email lists, and attending local community events was her best form of advertising.

 

Personal Challenge

In November 2007, she signed a lease for a commercial store front property in a busy shopping center. Previously a Ladies workout express, the walls were purple, the carpet a pepto bismol pink. With the help of a friend, the carpet was pulled, hard wood floor layed down, and walls painted. In three short weeks, the studio was open for business.

In the midst of it all, Corah was also the single mother of two small daughters. There were many hours that had to be spent putting the studio together, lots of daycare, and a few babysitters. The idea of making her own hours to spend more time with her children pushed her to work harder. Being a single mom meant being a double parent and she wanted to make sure she was in a position to gracefully and happily rise to the occasion. There was a tremendous amount of guilt that came into play when away from her daughters for so many hours at a time. Running a business with her own set hours would help to alleviate this guilt.

In addition to family balance, Corah was fulfilling her dream, creating a space where she could be creative, innovative, and grow. Dancing, teaching, and motivating are a large part that makes Corah who she is. This is what she identifies with; this is what makes her happy.

Though speed bumps were hit along the journey, as they are when starting a business, there has been much success in the past three years. Recently, Corah was named one of the “Women business leaders in Maryland” by the Gazette and featured in Crave D.C’s “top 100 women you need to know in the D.C/Metro area”. Local media has picked up on her efforts as well. CH9 news has listed Studio-310 as a featured business on their website, and Fox5 news has had Corah on air three times. In January, 2011 Corah will be a fitness presenter at the NBC4 Health and Fitness Expo at the D.C convention center. And to compliment all of this, Corah is raising a happy, healthy family in a new home in the neighborhood she has wanted to raise her children.