Family, connection, and community are all words that embody Opportunities Credit Union. They are also qualities in which Brea McBride, owner and artistic director of Infinity Dance Studio, swears by.
As a child beginning her dance career in Ohio, Brea recalls how her instructor, Yvonne Dekay, was like a mom to her, and the studio a safe haven.
According to Brea, “Yvonne and dancing served as an escape from a lot of emotional pain I was going through at home.”
Brea says Ms. Yvonne and the safe space she provided played a pivotal role in her decision to pursue dance as a career.
“I knew how to dance, I knew how to be a dancer, and how to take direction. I had no idea how to give it. Dance Connection in Milton gave me the opportunity to cut my teeth and learn the ropes. I was very much self-taught from that perspective.”
The more involved Brea became at Dance Connection, the more her childhood dreams of owning her own studio blossomed.
“I didn’t think it was really within reach before,” she says, recalling her seven-year residency in New York. “I never really thought I could open a studio in New York City. There was something about Vermont that felt more approachable.”
Brea had her goal in mind, but with no formal business education, she wasn’t sure where to begin. Her first step was to attend the Women’s Small Business Program where she spent three monthscreating a business plan to present to a financial institution. After her mentors encouraged her to approach a credit union, she went to the Winooski branch of Opportunities Credit Union to meet with Senior Business Development Manager, Greg Huysman.
The whole financial aspect of owning a business scared Brea., but Greg put her at ease, explained the process, and was very clear about her available options.
“Without Greg and Opportunities giving me a chance, I wouldn’t have been able to open the dance studio,” says Brea.
“I remember I wrote Greg a thank-you card after,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Is that even appropriate?’ I was just so overwhelmed with gratitude at the time that I had to say thank you. It felt like such a personal success to me, that I couldn’t help but funnel all of that positivity towards Greg.”
Four years after opening her business, Brea is proud to say that she will have her loan paid down within a year.
In 2014, Brea has brought on two additional instructors and admits she would like to have two classes running simultaneously at the studio in the future. However, with a 1,900 square foot space and 42 students, Brea says she isn’t particularly interested in expanding her business much further, so the studio to maintains its intimate atmosphere. Brea takes great pride in the close, personal connections she has built with her students.
Like her mentor, Miss Yvonne, Brea hopes her dance studio will be a safe haven for the students. “Miss Yvonne gave me such a gift through her love and affection, and the haven that she gave me in that studio, as well as her listening ear.” As for her own students, Brea considers them family, which is something she believes is unique to her studio.
“What I try to do, is embody what Ms. Yvonne did for me, which is to kind of create a place where they can leave their school problems, friend problems, and family problems behind. They can just be free for the time that they’re with me and I give them the avenue to do that: To create, be themselves, and feel safe doing so.”
With the help of Opportunities, Brea has been able to bring her childhood dreams to life, while “paying it forward” to the next generation, which is the inspiration behind her business’ name. She is content with her incredible progress.
“If I could teach dance for a living and break even, then that would be a success. I live by that. Anything that will come on top of that moving forward is just icing on the cake!”