Rebecca Owen of Koloa Dance House
Updated: Jun 7, 2021
When I think of Becca two words come to mind; In Motion. She is always moving, whether in a studio teaching, in a dance she is performing or in the business she is building. This dynamic woman steps into new territory, acknowledges the reality of fears and doubts that exist, yet chooses to move forward , knowing that its the only way to learn, grow and accomplish the bigger goals in life. Her optimism and persistence are inspiring and her story is one that will remind you that clarity and consistency will pay off in the long the run.
How did you first get involved with dance and how has it shaped your life?
My older brothers and cousins all performed in theater productions on Maui, where we grew up. I was actually a competitive gymnast, clocking in 10-15 hours in the gym each week, but I dabbled in dance classes at the theater. My gym had a dance teacher come in and help us with our floor & beam routines. The dance teacher was so nice, and I realized that I loved to perform, so eventually I shifted over completely to dance. That dance teacher, Kathleen Schulz, is still one of my mentors - I call her for advice all the time! I worked under her at Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) as the Assistant Dance Director from 2005-2016.
There’s a work ethic in theater and dance that makes you think about the “production” as a whole, and how your role as an individual contributes to the success of that production. You develop a community-centered mindset, along with “the show must go on” no matter what’s happening behind the scenes. I feel like that has shaped the way I approach life and business.
Did you always know you wanted to run a dance studio?
As a kid, I didn’t plan on running a dance studio. I wanted to dance backup for Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson or Britney Spears. Concerts, music videos, touring the world… that was my dream! I actually danced throughout Europe with a Christian ministry team every summer from age 9 to 19. When I finally went to college near Los Angeles (Chapman University, BA ’04), I found my niche in dance opportunities on campus and in Orange County, CA. I ended up minoring in Dance Performance and majoring in Organizational Leadership which were SO PERFECT for what I do today.
What was a turning point or breakthrough in your entrepreneurial journey?
My parents were always self-employed, so I grew up watching them navigate running their businesses. They usually did things solo though, so the fact that I have employees is mind-boggling to me! My husband also has an entrepreneurial mindset, and he’s always pushed me to go bigger & bigger with my dreams, sometimes more than I think is possible! We look at situations very differently, which has been such a blessing, and has made me navigate with much more of an open mind than I would have if I didn’t have his support.
When I started my Ivy & Co. blog/retail business in 2012, it was really just a hobby to keep me sane from all the work I was doing in dance, and I honestly felt like I was playing around, “pretending” to start a business. Looking back, Ivy & Co. served as a great way for me to work out all the kinks of starting/running a business with very little pressure from anyone else. Meanwhile, my “real” job as the Assistant Dance Director at MAPA was giving me the hands on experience I would later use to run Koloa Dance House. (Ivy & Co. had a brick and mortar shop on Kaua’i for 5 years, but went back to its online roots in May 2020 - www.theivyandco.com - that’s a whole other story, ha!).
Recently you transitioned into taking over the KUGA dance program, finding a new location, expanding into an additional space AND hosting a dance performance during COVID. What gives you courage to take these big steps?
Courage? It’s funny to me when people say that because I don’t see myself as courageous! Lila Metzger had been asking me to take over KUGA for a while. I kept saying no, because I was busy with other things, and I knew deep down how much work it would entail, how much she did behind the scenes that no one saw, and how courageous she was to keep this dance outreach program going for well over a decade! I had worked in non-profits since I was 14, and wasn’t totally up for the challenge of taking over a non-profit organization. After KUGA’s Kalaheo studio lease ended in March 2019, Lila handed over the student rosters over to me. I reworked some things, kept the teaching staff in tact, and within a few months started the for-profit business Koloa Dance House.
Honestly, God opened so many of the doors necessary to accomplish this: finding the right studio space(s), and most recently launching a performance in April 2021, when essentially all theaters were closed. God also created me as type 3 on the Enneagram, if you know what that is- “The Achiever,” ha! That means I’m naturally very goal-oriented, to the point where I don’t worry about all the steps it will take to get to the goal, I just somehow have confidence that the goal will be accomplished. At the same time I really just want people to do great things! So I put one foot in front of the other, assemble the right team, and great things happen by God’s total grace. Someone recently told me I have grit. I see it as God’s supernatural strength!
What is your hope/vision for Koloa Dance House?
I want our students to have a great experience with dance! Dance lessons are life lessons, so whether our students go on to have a career in dance, or just learn some of the really important skills that the performing arts instills in people, I want them to be better people all around because they’ve passed through our doors. The same goes for our adult students - come in, have fun, learn something that impacts you in a positive way.
What makes you feel most alive?
Performing & the ocean. Not usually at the same time, but maybe one day! There is a natural high that comes from being on stage. The combination of endorphins plus serotonin, artistry plus physical exertion. All that good stuff that keeps us physically & mentally healthy! But after all the excitement, you sometimes need to come off that high, which is what the ocean does for me. It resets me, calms me. I grew up here in Hawaii, so it’s always been a part of my life. I don’t think I could ever live somewhere landlocked! And in everything, I have to keep God at the center otherwise I’m tossed to & fro like a boat in a storm!
What encouragement would you offer others on their journey of entrepreneurship or innovation?
The random job you had in high school, the camp you attended in middle school, the neighbor you had as a kid— I believe God has been preparing you for your true calling for most of your life through all these unique situations. He’s created you with a specific skill set that can’t be duplicated, but can always be enhanced!
And don’t be afraid to work hard.
Really really hard.