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Atlas Dance Collective

Name: Whitney Collins

Location: Brigham City, UT 

Type of Business:
Project-based Dance Company, Performing Art, Choreography, and Collaboration.

What does your business do?
Atlas Dance Collective is a project-based dance company geared towards providing performance and choreographic opportunities for emerging artists. Atlas was recently discovered and represented by (and now an artist/alumni for) RAW: Natural Born Artists, which is a touring organization providing exposure to rising artists to national/international markets. Since our founding in March 2018, we have provided 22 choreographed dances a venue to perform through our own organized concerts/festivals. We host an annual festival called FUSE: A Festival of Dance, Poetry, and Prose, which is designed to push artists out of their comfort zones, promote collaboration between multiple art forms, and build an appreciation for networking outside of individual artists field-of-interest. Atlas offers open dance classes and workshops.

When and why did you start the biz?
In January 2018 my best friend and colleague, Matika called me to catch up. We got talking and dreaming about how to help dancers like ourselves navigate the pre to professional stages of their careers. As a result, she suggested I use her dance studio to develop a professional dance company at no expense. I had no plans before this call to establish my own dance company—at least not at this early stage in my dance career—but I couldn’t pass up a free opportunity to create something that could become big. Matika’s dance studio is located in a small room above a fitness gym in Lehi, UT. As of March 23, 2019 her studio has become a dance hub where magic and miracles have unfolded. From Matika’s belief in me, I was able to start molding the vision for Atlas Dance Collective. The mission for Atlas is to create a company culture that offers artists a space to magine, dream, create, perform, choreograph, teach, attend festivals, gain exposure, and experience as an artist through mentorship and professional opportunities. Atlas dancers can also experience the role of artistic director of a company. As the founder of Atlas Dance Collective, I enjoy working with diverse groups of dancers who are at different places in their dance careers. Every developmental stage a dancer might be in is valuable in a company setting. Since 2018, Atlas has developed a space of camaraderie and is already making an impact/reaching out to the dance community around us.

How Many People are in your Company?
16 (including alumni to-date)

Where's your office?
We have enjoyed Matika’s studio, The Verve Contemporary Dance Center—which is located on the second floor of Rage Fitness Center—as our home to rehearse in. We are forever grateful for the free space Matika has donated to Atlas over the first two years of our company. However, our lease agreement with Matika is closing this fall, she needs the space to expand, and we are looking for a new home. My office as the owner is very mobile. The office goes wherever there is wifi, or wherever I have meetings with business advisors and company members.

What's the toughest part of running your biz?
The biggest challenges for me as a female business owner have been juggling my responsibilities, being taken seriously, and funding. I feel I have to work extra hard to convince investors that I am not just a dancer girl, but that I have something valuable to contribute to our society and the conversation of women in business. Currently, Atlas is funded from a family member and outside jobs that take me away from my Atlas directorship responsibilities. Revenues from our FUSE festival and other performance opportunities have not yet broken even. Due to this, I cannot pay my dancers or guest artists what I would like to for their hard work and dedication to Atlas Dance Collective. Most dancers are performing pro bono at this time. My dream is to be able to focus on Atlas exclusively without the distractions of other jobs to make ends meet. I would like to partner with other dance collectives or artists to improve our educational outreach and provide networking that will be beneficial to our dance members in their future careers in dance and the arts. I would also like to expand and offer entrepreneurial opportunities for my dancers who would like to open a franchise of Atlas in other states or communities.

What's the most fun part?
The most enjoyable part of founding Atlas Dance Collective is my belief that I have been able to contribute to the individual company members as their leader; offering them my mentorship and providing them with opportunities. I have also enjoyed the ability to choreograph and dance alongside the company members to help share our personal stories. One example includes a piece I choreographed honoring the relationship I shared with a beloved aunt who passed away from cancer. Choreographing this piece has not only allowed me to use my medium of dance as a healing tool but has also connected with others on a very personal level. Also, I have loved collaborating with my company members to formulate our festival, FUSE: A Festival of Dance, Poetry, and Prose. FUSE had its debut this past June and as a director, it was very rejuvenating to collaborate with writers, musicians, and other dance leaders taught and learned through hands-on classes and engaging discussions on how other artists talents can help develop and improve art projects and productions. Watching our collective come together on what makes us passionate in life and express that through dance, spoken word, music, and writing has been one of the things that keep me going. Since 2018, We have had pieces that have ranged from family-member tributes, raising awareness on human trafficking, rape, to dealing with body image and anorexia. Sometimes it gets heavy, but we find the time to have fun as well.

Anything you would have done differently?
If I were to do anything differently, I would have done more outreach to other local businesses to get financial support in start-up costs so that I could: 1.) know which local businesses would support Atlas’ mission and want to build a relationship 2.) have a better guess on our first year’s fiscal budget.

What's next on the horizon for your biz?
Since forming Atlas Dance Collective, my vision for Atlas has only been getting bigger. I hope to structure the business platform to provide our Members and alumni the opportunity to become Atlas business partners/co-owners. They can then become directors of other Atlas Dance Collective Franchises. Atlas sets itself apart from other Utah project-based dance companies by not charging our members any monthly dues. Our company offers a variety of amenities to our dancers and alumni such as performance and choreographic opportunities—at a little-to-no expense to our dancers. We also provide an equal-opportunity-based environment for the success of our dancers; If they wish to build Atlas beyond being a company member, they can do so by becoming a director/co-owner of a franchise. My vision is to make Atlas Dance Collective a similar business platform that music producers use when producing other musicians. Instead of being a music producer, Atlas will become the producer of emerging dance artists who have equal opportunity granted to them to become a director(s) of Atlas Dance Collective. Traditionally, dance companies are set up hierarchically: The director, the company dancers, the dance students in training. Although Atlas has this similar structure, what makes us different is the bridging of those roles we have developed through our equal opportunity system. Not very many dance companies function this way.

What advice do you have for others?
Don’t be afraid to be different from your competitors! It shouldn’t always be about how you can get the most money out of your customers, company members, and dance students. It should be about the process; the amount of personal growth everyone earns from the experience you are providing as a dance business. Once you put your mind towards helping others and have recorded proof of the impact your business has had on individuals, the money should naturally flow into your dance business as a result. Take your eyes off yourself and become a mentor; not a boss.

How do you use Idea Cafe to help your biz?
This bio has become a worksheet for helping me organize the ideas and language I will need to apply for small business grants. I also looked into the section Current Grants Du Jour and am looking at the SBA grant opportunity that was shown there. The section on Government grants was very helpful and I am working at how I can FUSE my ideas with Uncle Sam’s needs. I would be open to any suggestions this way. I am also taking classes through Utah Valley University Small Business Development Center and am finding a lot of the advice and links in Idea Cafe’s Starting a Business and Running a Business were supportive of what I am learning and answering my questions that have arisen. One thing I am working on right now is developing our FUSE festival into an umbrella nonprofit underneath Atlas as an LLC. I hope to be able to come back to Idea Cafe after my profile is approved and learn about and apply for nonprofit grants at that time. I do wish there were more in your grant area that shows a focus on small businesses that are involved in the arts like mine are but do not necessarily qualify for government grants. I hope to enjoy a long relationship with Idea Cafe and I thank you for your consideration.

School (where, still in school, degree)?
Graduated in 2018 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in Modern Dance and a Minor in Earth Science from Utah Valley University.

Prior jobs or business?
Dancing for Salt Contemporary Dance, teaching at Velocity Dance Academy, Board Member for Aspire Performance Academy, Dancer for BRINE, American Dance Festival staff, Lagoon Entertainment, and dancer for Penguin Lady Dance Collective. Outside of dance I am working as a CNA at an assisted living center.

Favorite Food?
Mexican food, cereal, chocolate, and ice cream.

What are your pets' names?
Shasta, Snickers, FooFoo (I call her Floofies...she’s my brother's cat)... I once had a cat named Igor and as he grew up, his name really fit his overall demeanor. I had a dog named Prancer who used to sing along to me playing my violin. I was fortunate to have many other pets as I grew up, but this list is already getting pretty long. If my boyfriend counts as a pet, he has a pet name of “Atlas Dad”

Do any of these pets help with your biz?
“Atlas Dad” definitely does ;) He brings food to our company meetings and talks me off the ledge when necessary. He is the best! If this counts for anything, One of my company members is actually a dog groomer and she is planning to choreograph a dance based on the personalities of dog breeds :) Pets are definitely an inspiration that helps Atlas as a business.

Is there any one person or event in your life that led you to go into business for yourself?
This is tough to answer because I had a lot of influencers in my life. I believe my grandpa instilled in me and entrepreneurial determination. e did this by being a dreamer and a business owner himself. I grew up watching him run his business renting storage bays. I remember him giving me his hand-me-down business phones to play with when I was little. Another influencer was my aunt —who I mentioned above in a previous answer. She really emphasized the importance of saving money and using it sparingly. I remember her motivating me to save pocket change t for a trip to Disneyland. There were times when I wanted to spend some of that money for something I saw at the store, but my aunt would remind me that spending the money would take me away from my goal of a trip to Disneyland. This helped train my brain to learn the importance of saving my money. When I got into grade school, a church friend, and I developed a small business in bookmark making :) Wewould also do lemonade stands outside of my grandparents house. These were the first baby steps I had in building my motivation in entrepreneurship. As stated above, my colleague friend, Matika is the main person who led me to develop Atlas Dance Collective through helping me realize my dreams and put them into reality.

Anyone you publicly want to thank?
Special thanks go out to the people who inspire me and motivate me to keep going: My mom, dad, grandparents, my aunts; Carrie, Brenda, Betsy, Korene, Arlene, Crystal, Jenn, my uncles; Joseph, Jason, Blake, David 1, David 2, my brothers; Christopher, Riley, Howard, my dance mentors and business coaches, the company members of Atlas Dance Collective, the young dance students I teach, Matika for all she has done to help make Atlas a reality, Atlas’ Intern Lorrie, and those who have helped me earn the experiences that got me to where I am today. THANK YOU! My Grandmother, Julia, who believes in my dream enough to be my main financial backer and number one fan.

Contact Info:
Whitney Collins
276 N 500 W
Brigham City, UT 843902



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