Meet Dale Pope Founder of REDed
Tell us a little about REDed and how you operate as a business?
REDed (Raw Energy Dance Education) provides curriculum aligned and extracurricular classes in schools across Sydney, alongside the online shop of dance resources for teachers. REDed has been running for 21 years in schools, beginning with one innovative and forward-thinking boys school seeking to provide a positive dance experience that would see the boys expand their knowledge both physically and emotionally. REDed’s mission statement of ‘we turn lights on in little people to inspire them to grow into awesome big people’ is at the heart of all of our dance programs. REDed is an inclusive and engaging program that teaches through movement that has meaning, expression, humour and energy. Driven by a goal of ensuring every child feels valued and successful in the dance space, REDed now includes mindfulness exercises, and individual and group led creative outcomes, in addition to core fundamental movement skills, musicality and coordination focus. REDed is a team of 18 instructors, assistants and administration who primarily deliver face to face in schools with an online platform.
What are some of the challenges REDed have faced due to the recent NSW lockdowns?
REDed is challenged when lockdowns occur in respect of having immediate restrictions in delivering face to face to students. Schools are then often required to restrict external providers onsite for longer than a lockdown which can result in contracts being postponed or, at worst, cancelled. 2020 was our greatest challenge while being our greatest learning tool. We pivoted immediately to Zoom for our 50+ weekly extracurricular classes. This provided employment certainty for the team and continuity for our school competition dancers. However, it was not a sustainable model for a variety of reasons, including Zooming from home spaces, team needing to have strong internet, lagging between movement and music, students needing appropriate space and available at the set time. In 2021, we have reviewed our model and updated significantly, with the focus being maximum engagement with minimal impact on the home unit and minimal facilitation in the school environment. We now have a strong library of pre-recorded curriculum compliant dance lessons, a team capable and confident in front of the camera at the drop of a hat, and the ability to resort to Zoom teaching with knowledge of how to maintain the focus of a five year old for at least 40 mins! Our challenges this time around have been supported with time and knowledge to strategise and implement more effectively.
As a small business owner, what are some serious considerations you are faced with in times of uncertainty?
Cash Flow is always at the top of the pile of considerations in any lockdown for us. And how to maintain my team both physically via continued work, and emotionally through support in unknown circumstances. I prepared ‘Plan B’ (online delivery) at the beginning of the year, and it’sactually exciting to now have it put to use and see where the gaps are if any. My main criteria for any online tutorials is 1) is it easy to use, 2) can it be done on any size screen (we’ve discovered that an iPhone will work and is more likely to be used by the student without impacting the family resources), and 3) does it keep us and the student connected progressively. This time around, we don’t want to fall into a void of simply ‘holding space’ until we resume face to face. We want online connections to be valuable and enjoyable. We run our extracurricular program with a focus on competitions for primary and secondary schools. Both competitions are due at the end of July and may not proceed. This is super tough for us to navigate with parents wanting a quantifiable outcome for their financial investment, which is typically seeing their child on stage in the competition. We will be rethinking our options this year to ensure there is an outcome, including running our own online competition.
Interestingly, two years ago, my senior team and I ran a session on ‘what are our greatest fears / what could go wrong, and not having a competition to enter was one of them. At the time, we countered that fear with the hypothetical solution of running our own competition. We may now be looking at the exciting challenge of what that actually entails. I’ll be keeping a close eye on my young team to ensure their mental health is being supported through regular contact and explaining how our plans will roll out, making sure any concerns are aired and heard. Their confidence in me as their leader to help them navigate this lockdown is strong. My team is my greatest asset, along with my ever evolving business brain that has grown thanks exponentially to COVID (dare I say that!).
How have you felt supported by WOTSO during this time?
WOTSO has given exceptional support when they themselves were going through their own financial losses. The pausing of our membership on both lockdown occasions speaks volumes for someone’s clever thinking (whoever they may be, I applaud them). As a loyal person by nature, WOTSO has secured my membership for a long time to come as a result of their generous offers to support via membership pauses.
Onsite is such a fun vibe, proactive business hum, and gorgeous vibrant team buzzing around. It’s always better than a membership pause. But that they offer this to support us, the majority who are small businesses is testimony to a company who understands what it’s like to build from the ground up.
I’m looking forward to getting back and seeing familiar faces, funky spaces and the energy of entrepreneurs. But for now, I’m deeply grateful for WOTSO’s model of business, strategic thinking and incredible support of us, the clients of WOTSO.