On the up · 23 December 2015

Step It Up Dance: Urban dance gets children active

Step It Up Dance is getting kids active
Step It Up Dance is getting kids active

Edinburgh-based Step It Up Dance has taken an innovative approach to sport and exercise for kids, with its offering now available across many parts of Scotland.

The business, which has been through the Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator programme to help it tackle the early issues that come with growth, is resonating well with both nursery clients and organised classes and parties. We found out more by speaking with the founder.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

I’m Niki Hutchison and I created Step It Up Dance, an award-winning urban dance company teaching tots to teens. I have a professional background in social research and marketing and previously worked on a Scottish government project investigating how to reduce anti-social behaviour amongst children. This inspired me to start the business and get kids active.

(2) How long have you been around for?

Step It Up Dance launched in Edinburgh in January 2012 and we now also operate in Glasgow, East Lothian and Fife, with Stirling and Dundee first on the list for 2016.

(3) How do you make money?

We run classes and parties for kids in the areas mentioned above. We also work with Active Schools, delivering classes in schools. We run Curriculum Dance workshops bringing to life classroom topics and a very important part of our business is delivering our under 5’s hip-hop curricula within nurseries.

(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?

We have turned the traditional dance school model on its’ head, making dance cool and accessible to both boys and girls. In fact 70 per cent of our customers are boys which is something that we’re really proud of. Our unique under 5’s hip-hop curricula also sets us apart. We worked hard, for almost a year, to create these structured classes which are completely aligned to the pre-birth to three foundation stage and curriculum for excellence for children aged 18 months to three years and three to five years-old.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Drive, determination and the financial support and encouragement of my husband and close family.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

Definitely creating our under 5’s hip-hop curricula. This was a very collaborative process involving three key members of the team. We kept focused and adopted an “anything goes” attitude, which has resulted in some really valuable learning tools for children and some key business growth for us. The fantastic feedback from nursery managers and our very important audience, the children themselves, means that the whole process has been enjoyable and very worthwhile.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

I recently had a major HR issue which was a real test for me personally, as well as for the business. I learnt a lot from this and it has led me to tighten up and formalise our procedures and documentation which can only be a good thing.

(8) In five years’ time, I will be…

Operating within nurseries across the UK, and coming up with more plans for expansion.

(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?

Stay focused and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done. Only you know whether you have the drive, ambition and common sense to make a success of your business. Challenge yourself to prove the naysayers wrong!

(10) Who are your business heroes and why?

I really like Deborah Meaden as she’s straight-talking and I bet she’s great company on a night out! Really I admire anyone making a success of their own business. It’s a hugely challenging, but hugely rewarding thing to do and I respect that energy and perseverance.

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Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.