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Creating and Inspiring Confidence Through a Business Model

Building a business where people go to feel inspired and confident is much easier said than done. Replicating and franchising that concept, all while making the important things stick, is even harder.

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.


Building a business where people go to feel inspired and confident is much easier said than done. Replicating and franchising that concept, all while making the important things stick, is even harder. Jami Stigliano, owner and founder of dance studio franchise DivaDance, managed to make it happen. On this week’s episode, we talk with Jami about what inspired her to open the business, how she creates such a positive and welcoming environment, and how she turned it into a growing franchise.

To really understand just how welcoming and inspiring DivaDance truly is, we need to first hear from our Yelp reviewer, Emily A. Her first experience with the studio gave her the immediate “sense of women empowerment and community”—something she hadn’t experienced in a long time. As she shares in her review, Emily survived a domestic violence relationship, which inhibited her freedom and left her feeling isolated. Through DivaDance, she found a place where she was welcomed with open arms. “I never feel judged or out of place. DivaDance is the most inclusive dance, gym, squad, business ever.”

When Jami set out to start DivaDance, she wasn’t even really thinking about the “business” aspect of it. She, in her own words, “did it because I wanted to create something that was accessible, inclusive, and helped people feel good.” It’s that pure intent that enabled Jami to create such a successful business—one that has now franchised into 20 states.

All of the DivaDance franchises operate with the same shared values. To Jami, these values are more than just a marketing ploy. They genuinely and authentically represent who they are and how they show up in their day-to-day business operations. This is how Jami’s initial mission with her New York City location has translated across 20 locations. It is a place that welcomes all and fosters an incredible community, including the Austin location where Emily was able to find confidence and make lasting connections.

Here’s a quick highlight of what else you’ll learn from this episode:

  • Think about your audience. Jami set out to start a studio of her own because of an experience she had at a dance class—one that was exclusionary and competitive. So instead of searching for the experience she wanted, she decided to create it herself. At DivaDance, she prioritizes inclusivity. Through simple things—like not using complex dance terminology—she’s able to create a welcoming environment.
  • Eliminate excuses. When looking to start the first DivaDance, Jami couldn’t afford to buy a New York City studio. But she didn’t let that deter her. She just created her own model that allowed her to move forward. She started renting existing studio spaces throughout the city, wherever she could make it work. If you’re thinking about starting a business, think about out-of-the-box ways you can make it work. Try eliminating the “excuses” standing in your way.
  • Be open to change but not afraid to take a moment to regroup. When the pandemic hit, in-person dance classes were of course off the table. Jami had never operated virtually before, and she had to rethink everything they knew about how they operated—and they did. She also gave her franchisors a moment to breathe. Some had moved into home-schooling roles, and most were dealing with the overall stress and weight of a pandemic. Jami knew that and allowed everyone to take the time they needed to adjust (as much as possible in a pandemic) and then get back to work.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Jami and Emily, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday. We want to give a special thank you to Emily for sharing her story with us this week.

Emily Washcovick

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As Yelp’s Senior Field Marketing Manager and Small Business Expert, Emily is responsible for building a thriving network of local business owners, operators and marketers through education and networking events (now, exclusively virtual). She hosts events and webinars to provide business owners with resources that help them succeed and grow in the world of online reviews. Emily’s expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management and all things digital marketing. Her knowledge encompasses countless industries and through thought leadership and speaking engagements, she’s able to share insights that business owners of all kinds can leverage for the future of their business.

Emily is also host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media that features conversations with business owners and reviewers about their experiences—whether positive or negative —giving listeners behind-the-scenes insights and real life learnings.