Category: Starting a Business

Skill, Passion, and Destiny

by Jason Herbert, CTFD dancer-client and Newhouse Grant Recipient

Jason Herbert

A decade ago, I embarked on a career in dance that I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.  Traveling the country and the world, I performed for thousands of people and worked with artists that inspired me.  It was during my time with The Philadelphia Dance Company aka Philadanco! that I was introduced to Career Transition For Dancers.  CTFD explained all of the possibilities for dancers transitioning into careers and how to utilize all of the skills that dancers possess.   Because they offer entrepreneurial and educational grants to artists who have worked in the field for a number of years, I recently applied for the Newhouse grant (and was awarded!) to jump start my career in video production.

I started a company with two friends that develops, produces, and manages artists in music, theater, and film.  I dove straight in as a Project Manager and an Artistic Consultant.  Some of my duties include recording, photo shoots, video shoots, social media, and video production.  In my travels as an artist, I noticed I had an eye for video editing upon returning from a tour of Europe.  My business partner encouraged me to pursue it on a higher level.  We both enrolled in an advanced course in digital editing at the New York Film Academy where I progressed quickly but didn’t have the equipment at home to practice or perfect my craft.  One thing I learned from dance is that your tools to success is just as important as your drive and determination.  A high-powered computer and up-to-date editing software is essential to starting a career in video production, two things I didn’t possess nor could afford.

From the stage to the screen, I will transfer all my knowledge and passion as a performer into my videos with skill and education behind me.  I am at a place to carve a new destiny with my experience in dance as my foundation.


Cable Man

Nathan Vander Stoep, Caroline H. Newhouse Business Grant Recipient


I first met CTFD in a centerfold of Dance Magazine while flipping to an article written about the principals in my company, Colorado Ballet. I was young and it didn’t feel relevant at the time, but the grant money caught my attention for the future. A few years later as I was becoming less enchanted with my career, and was beginning to think about moving on, I remembered the advertisement. I made my first call to the counselors in 2006, and as we began delving into options, it actually renewed my passion for dance while simultaneously highlighting the importance of thinking about life after dance. I ended up performing another three years while expanding my extracurricular activities.

ImageI had played trombone from an early age and started taking amateur gigs. As I improved, I began getting professional gigs. However, I needed to know the music perfectly without rehearsals, so a good stereo system became imperative. As I put together the system, I realized the incredible difference that the wiring could make in the clarity and detail of what I could hear in the recordings. I did some research online and started building my own cables based on some ideas I formed from the information I had found. The results were fascinating, which became a topic in my next conversation with CTFD. The counselor mentioned that it could become a business, which hadn’t entered my mind at all. It was at this point when my relationship with CTFD became much more serious and instrumental in my future.

In general, I had never thought much of counseling; even in preliminary conversations with CTFD, I felt like the conversation wandered around a bit. That all changed now that I was interested in a specific topic. As a dancer, I knew nothing about business and suddenly I had a lot to learn. CTFD recommended finding a mentor through various channels, and this is probably the single most valuable prodding that I received. My counselor sent me a few websites to view, four of which were for local businesses and I could visit in-person. I had developed networking skills in the ballet world, so it was easy for me to start making connections with other business owners. I landed a mentorship in the HiFi Stereo industry while building my own business of designing cable products for home stereos, and over three years I learned the essential business practices particular to the industry. This was an absolutely invaluable experience and would not have happened without the guidance of the CTFD counselors.

During the counseling sessions, a frequent topic of discussion was how best to use the grant money. Education seemed like an enticing idea, especially since electricity was not something that I had ever studied beyond the university of Google. As my counselor and I discussed options, I also discussed it with my mentor, who ultimately made a suggestion with a result that still ceases to amaze me.

When I designed my products, I had focused on the quality of the product sonically as well as for durability. The results were a product that changed the sound of any system dramatically, and never failed, but they did not possess the jewelry-like cosmetics of my competitors. The cost of designing and manufacturing the parts needed were expensive and I didn’t see the point in extraneous parts that didn’t contribute to the sound. It was then that both my mentor and counselor pointed out my flawed logic.

My speaker cable sales were virtually dead; I had only sold three pairs over the previous year. I decided to design aluminum sleeves to cover the transition area on the cables. I used CTFD’s grant money, which covered enough parts for 30 cables, to get the parts into production.

That seed money completely changed the landscape of my business. Speaker cable sales increased immediately. As soon as the first sample cable was shown in the Japanese market, I had orders for 5 speaker cables within a week. At the end of a year’s time, I had sold over $26K in speaker cables alone, which allowed cosmetic development of the whole cable line. The company now has a distinctive look, and is growing rapidly.

With both the counseling and grants offered, CTFD has helped shape my life and formed a business that supports me in a way that I never imagined, and I am very thankful!

Visit my website (

From the barre to the Barre bar

Julia EricksonMy name is Julia Erickson, a Principal dancer with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) and the co-founder and President of Barre, the real food bar developed by dancers, for everyone.  My partner and CEO of Barre, Aaron Ingley, retired from PBT in 2008 after a nine-year career.  We would like to thank Career Transition For Dancers for providing incredible support to the professional dance world through its counseling and grant programs.  Thanks to a business grant I received from CTFD in 2011, Aaron and I were able to upgrade our Barre website to a new professional look and function.  Aaron also received a CTFD grant in 2008 to study business at the University of Pittsburgh and graduated with honors in 2011.  We are now running a successful nutrition bar company with the business expertise Aaron gained while in Business School at Pitt.

CTFD is important because it recognizes the Aaron Ingleyefforts and sacrifice of career dancers like us.  As dancers we dedicate so much of our lives to our art form and it is incredible that there is an organization to help provide the support and confidence we need to pursue our future passions.  It’s truly a delight to be involved with the dance world on multiple levels simultaneously, as both artists and dance-related small business owners.  We hope to pay it forward by raising awareness of healthy eating in the dance world and beyond.  We feel passionate about giving back to the dance community; as part of our mission a portion of all Barre’s proceeds benefit arts education organizations.

Thanks CTFD for helping us make our dreams come true!

A Transition Success Story

By Maryam Day, Dancer-Client

Most people who dance know the first time they were inspired to dance.  It’s the moment that changes their lives forever.  That moment for me was in the spring of 1979 at a New York City performance of the Joffrey Ballet.  I was four years old, and I was moved to want to do everything I saw on stage that day.  I danced in the aisles of the theater as if I were in Swan Lake.   I was in awe of the lines, the shapes, and the movement accompanied by music I had never heard before; all of it changed me at that moment, and I knew at that moment that I wanted to become a dancer.

My formal training began at the Dance Theatre of Harlem and for years I lived,Maryam Day breathed, and dreamed of one day becoming a prima ballerina.  But when I found the Graham technique I found freedom.  The Modern dance vocabulary fit my body, made empirical sense to me, and truly made me recognize the artistry in myself.  I was home.

The euphoria of dance can also bring about the pain of reality – literally.  The first year of my undergraduate study at Temple University was an exciting time for me.  We danced with our minds, bodies, and voices in unison, and weeks of rehearsals led to one memorable night on stage.  Unfortunately, I did not pay enough attention to the part in the curriculum about warming up your body to avoid tearing a hamstring while onstage.  The CRUNCH sound coming from my leg was louder than the live rock music that was scored for our section.  I limped off the stage, laid on the floor between the dance shoes and leg warmers, and cried.  For two months I could not walk; and that’s the moment I realized I can’t dance forever.  I knew I would heal and that I would get my leg moving again, but at some point I would also take my last bow as a professional dancer.  And that’s when the fear set in.

Maryam DayAfter years of performing all around the world, I knew the moment had come for me to do something different.  New budding passions of mine were acting, writing my own work, and producing.  In 2005 I formed my first company, Epiphany 3 Films, and CTFD was right there to support my dreams.  As a transitioning dancer I knew I needed help and support to give me the courage and the tenacity to succeed.  CTFD set me on a course with not only the courage, but also a “How To” life map of what to do with my business.  They helped me formulate a business plan, mission statement, operating budgets, and long-term goals.  The awarded seed money and counseling were priceless – truly gifts that kept on giving.

Since reaching my stride I have had the fortune to return the favor.  In 2011, Social Savv(v)y Media opened for business: my boutique social media agency designed to help artists, non-profits, and filmmakers leverage their businesses and brands in the interactive space.  CTFD was one of my first clients!  Social Savv(v)y Media and CTFD worked together over 9 months to bridge the social media gap between programs, content, and CTFD’s audience.

I am proud to say I am a Career Transition for Dancer Success Story!