We had the good fortune of connecting with Erin Angelo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Erin, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I’ve always been a leader and gravitated towards taking leadership roles. I spent my 20’s in occupations where I worked for someone else and constantly thought to myself “I could run this business better.” In the span of 10 years I had shifted my career from elementary school teacher to non profit director to professional ballroom dancer. I found success in each of these jobs and kept thinking to myself “If you can find success in every role you take from teacher to dancer, why not try business owner?” And that was that.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My business is a non profit that blends the arts and philanthropy together. I used all the skills I had at my disposal: 1) My background in teaching students with special needs 2) My leadership role as a director of a non profit and 3) My experience as a professional ballroom dancer to create my non profit: Rx Ballroom Dance.
Rx Ballroom Dance’s mission is to use ballroom dance to preserve and enhance the quality of life in people who are confronting neurological conditions. We are different than any dance program out there today because: 1). Our classes are free to anyone who has been diagnosed with a neurological condition as well as their caregivers. 2). Our classes are a continuous series that build on one another to increase our mission and not just a special event 3). There currently are no BALLROOM dance programs nationwide that are specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Dementia etc., despite the fact that research shows it is considered THE most effective tool in fighting neurological disease.
Gaining the support of both medical professionals and dancers was easy. My board of directors has 5 doctors alone, from neurologists to psychiatrists who all understand the benefit of ballroom dance yet could not harness it as a resource during their time in practice. But creating a program for participants struggling with neurological disease was challenging in recruitment and execution. Where do you recruit local participants from and why would they want to try ballroom dance? If you struggle with tremors, speaking or memory recall, why would you want to be in a social class forum? Building trust within the support communities was key to recruitment.
Additionally securing funding is a challenge as a new non profit. Well established, large non profits tend to snatch up foundation money. Proving yourself to be an effective non profit when you are just getting started is a challenge and requires the same kind of trust from the funding organizations. After just two years we were able to secure grants from the Parkinson’s Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Foundation and various other philanthropic foundations that believed in our cause. Additionally we’ve started a research study with UCI looking at the effectiveness of our community program. I’ve learned that in a non profit, having measures for success as well as proof is incredibly effective in promoting your cause.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The beaches! Currently I’m located in Orange County so my favorite is Monarch Beach in Dana Point. We would stop by the Beach Hut Deli, grab some hard apple ciders and some great sandwiches and have ourselves a picnic in the salt and sun. My husband and I love to take our three rescue pups and our new baby boy on walks along Salt Creek. It’s gorgeous.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My primary support system has always been my parents. They have always believed I could do whatever I put my mind to and never once stopped me from pursuing what I wanted. Even when after a Masters Degree and a lucrative education career, I decided to leave it all and follow my passion of becoming a professional ballroom dancer. They stood by my side and cheered me on through all of my moves (from San Diego to LA to SF and OC) and were my biggest fans. I owe so much of what I’ve felt confident in pursuing to their support.