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Meet Emily Jabbawy of Little Beats at The Dance Academy in Newton

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Jabbawy.

Emily, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up dancing at my family’s dance studio in Newton, The Dance Academy of Siagel Productions. I always had a passion for dance and kids. I taught dance to little kids, babysat, started my own ‘backyard day camp’ in college, took early childhood education in high school, I love kids and how dance could make everyone rediscover their inner-child. When I thought about my career goals, I knew kids would be in my future but I wasn’t sure how. I graduated from the Boston University College of communication and worked for a hip, trendy consumer insights consulting firm called Communispace (now Cspace). At Communispace as an online community manager, I learned how to build relationships with my clients’ consumers (my clients were big brands like Heinz and Walmart) and those consumers were moms. I learned how to really get to know these moms and I would consult my clients on how to use their consumer’s feelings/opinions to drive high-impact business decisions. I had learned about kids my whole life, but now I was learning about parents and what their lives are like on a deeper level. I loved my corporate desk job, but I knew I was not going to spend my life at a computer.

And then my niece was born. She was my catalyst. Her name is Olivia and from the day she was born she had bright red hair and I was absolutely smitten with her. She reminded me of my true passion and best skillset: being silly. As an infant I marveled at how responsive she was to music and how bouncing and dancing made her giggle. I remembered my early childhood education classes from high school where I learned about how music enhances brain development. And social connection fosters confidence and lifelong learning skills. I did a little more research and learned more about the importance of movement in brain development and how beneficial dance and music are for the first 3 years of life. (In the first 3 years, a child’s brain completes 80% of its development for life!) Already having spent much time in my last job getting to know moms, I felt like I could definitely help this demographic solve a problem- how to get your child (and yourself) active, entertained, and educated! This is how the idea for Little Beats was born.

I approached my family with the idea of filling our dance studio with early childhood classes on weekday mornings when there wasn’t anything going on. He loved the idea and being an entrepreneur himself, told me to ‘go for it!” So I started Little Beats with the goal of bringing together babies, toddlers, and caregivers for a fun and educational music and movement experience. My hope was to empower caregivers to know how important their roles were as teachers for their children but also to provide a social setting where they can just have fun with friends!

Over the past 3 years, I learned how to really teach. I traveled as far as Canada for trainings, hired acclaimed early childhood experts to guide me, and now have created my own amazing staff. Little Beats has evolved from offering one class type to six. We offer music & movement class called Intellidance for babies and tykes, Rock-a-Baby music class, preschool yoga, and for toddlers, Tutu Tots and Hop and Bop. I opened 3 years ago with about 30 students and now we have over 100 who come to class on a weekly basis. Some families even come twice a week for both dance class and music. We now do birthday parties, dance camps, and we bring yoga and creative movement to local preschools.

There are a couple of reasons why what we are doing is working so well (beyond the simple fact that all babies love music and dance!). The first is because we are laser-focused on making sure our class curriculums are developmentally appropriate and FUN. I am always trying to learn new methods and fine-tune our product to keep the experience the best it can be. The second reason its working is because we build close relationship with our customers to really make them welcome.

This is something I never would have fully understood had I not spent 3 years at Communispace as a consumer insights consultant. My career has been a really nice example of how your experiences in childhood, college, and the work force can be weaved together to help you succeed in ways you never imagined. I have work that fulfills me personally and leverages my best skills sets and passion. I am very fortunate.

Don’t get me wrong, starting a business as a 24 year old was definitely nerve racking, but the minute I showed up to class and started teaching my little friends, I was immediately reminded that this opportunity is nothing short of a privilege. Also by my side is my husband who has a company of his own- Privy so we have coached each other through the thick and thin over the years.

Last August, I had a baby of my own. This brought my understanding of my clients to a whole new level. Bringing my own baby to class is quite a surreal experience and has helped me be a better teacher. In this new chapter of Little Beats with me being a mom, I hope to use what I have learned to help other moms in their journeys. I am currently piloting a baby-and-me support group for ages 0-3 months called Mindful Mommies to help women find joy among the chaos of their first few months getting to know their infants.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My biggest challenges were:
1. Breaking through the clutter. There’s a lot of competition in the baby space especially in newton. After Isis Parenting closed down 3.5 years ago, many new mom group facilitators spread out and started their own things at different places. I had to discover what I was going to do differently to make my program unique. That is a continued path of discovery. There’s also a delicate balance between providing a class experience that is beneficial for the little ones but also enjoyable for the adults. I want to do both without sacrificing the experience for either party.

2. Teaching was something that came naturally to me but I was out of practice and had never taught a class with adults in it. What I’ve learned is in a baby-and-me class, it’s really my job to facilitate the adults and it’s their job to engage their child. So there were definitely moments where I felt very out of my comfort zone, in fact many times where I probably looked like an absolute clown. But once the grown-ups see how committed and energetic I am, and how their kids respond, they would loosen up and jump in to the fun.

3. Hiring people and being a manager was also new to me. There were definitely some teachers who didn’t work out over the years, some hires that didn’t work out, some disappointments and awkward moments. But as I’ve grown more secure in my business, I’ve realized more clearly what I’m looking for in a teacher and that I CAN be very picky of who I allow to teach my classes. I’ve created a pretty rigorous training program, and I know that if I jive with a candidate on a personal level, that’s more important than what their credential are on paper.

4. I’m not a musician but I started a children’s rock band. When I discovered a music class started by Marc Tractenberg in Providence called Rock-a-Baby (http://www.rock-a-baby.net/cms/), I fell in love with the class and asked him if I could start Newton band to teach classes at Little Beats. He said yes and trained us, taught us his curriculum, and handed his Rock-a-Baby puppets over to us (Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm). I was SOO insecure in my singing abilities and memorizing all the lyrics was a huge endeavor. I spent months and months listening to so much music, (my poor husband), I spent sleepless nights worrying about my performance at a show or class the next day. I would arrive to class an hour early just so I had time set everything up and practice with the band before people arrived for class. But now I think back on the amount of pure content I learned to teach Rock-a-Baby and I am sure my brain MUST have grown since starting out. So, I’m pretty proud of that 🙂

Little Beats at The Dance Academy – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Little Beats (http://www.littlebeatstda.com/) is an early childhood music and dance program at The Dance Academy (www.thedanceacademynewton.com). We specialize in dance and music classes rooted in early childhood development. Our classes are unique because they are taught by young, high-energy people who love everyone- adults AND kids. We use the best quality curriculums for our classes to ensure that each child grows in all areas of their development from the social, multi-sensory experience. Children who have opportunities to move, play, and learn in a supportive, social setting are more likely to succeed later in life!

You can learn all about little beats on our website!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Any time a parent posts a photo or positive review about their experience at Little Beats, I know we’re on the right track. Hearing feedback from my customers means everything to me and when it’s public that makes me super proud!

Another proud moment is when I get to attend class with my baby just as a mom. My employees are teaching me and my baby! To see her clapping along and giggling is magical.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Little Beats at The Dance Academy
    94 Rowe Street
    Newton, MA
    02466
  • Website: www.littlebeatstda.com
  • Phone: 6176145438
  • Email: dani@siagel.com
  • Instagram: @littlebeatstda
  • Facebook: @tdalittlebeats

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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