We’ve heard from a number of mommas who are wanting to either a) go into a completely new field or b) make the jump from stay-at-home-mom to working mom, and so “Career Chats” was born. Here you’ll hear from moms turned entrepreneurs, moms who went back to school to get the job of their dreams, and moms just doing the damn thing — hustling to make their goals a reality.
Today we talk to the owner of Baila Baila Studios, which introduces children to Spanish in a dynamic and engaging way through music, arts, and games. While there are brick-and-mortar spaces in both Santa Monica and Torrance, California, classes are taught throughout the Los Angeles area, as well as Miami, Florida. Isabel shares the ins-and-outs of starting, running, and growing a business, while being a momma to her 3-year-old son.
MOMMY BRAIN: How did the idea for Baila Baila come about?
Isabel Brazon: It is the result of two passions: children and music. I have worked with kids since I was 17 and I’ve been singing most of my life. Children have taught me so much — just in the way they learn, they feel and enjoy the simple aspects of life. I believe that the best way to deliver a message is through music, so I started writing songs that would help kids learn (and love) Spanish. As an immigrant from Venezuela, who learned to speak English fluently at age 21, I experienced firsthand how much easier it is to learn expressions and new vocabulary through song lyrics. I created Baila Baila as a way to introduce children to Spanish at an early age, in a fun, rhythmical way — keeping them motivated and increasing the love for the Latin culture.
MB: When and why did you take the plunge to launch your own business? Can you speak to the birth of Baila Baila?
IB: I began teaching music to infants and toddlers in 2007. Sitting in the classrooms and music studios, I discovered there was a need to teach certain subjects. It was with the help of the guitar and the energy of the students that I created lyrics with catchy melodies and rhythms that were easy to follow. I would take those snippets home and create a song. Once I had a good number of fun songs (that I had already tested in the classroom), I recorded my first album: Baila Baila. It was after the production of this album that I decided to register the company and create my own program based on the music that I was writing. The more I taught, the more inspiration I got for different subjects and ideas that led to more music creation and program expansion. Baila Baila LLC was established as a company in 2010 and it started with just me trying to cover the whole Los Angeles area, teaching in many learning centers and preschools, as well as doing birthday parties and events.
MB: Did you have any business background before starting?
IB: Not at all! I did work for other language companies for about four years, though. I was also fortunate to have some amazing leaders who taught me a lot about communication and client interaction. However, I mostly learned by trial and error, and the support of other business owners. It still is a learning process. I don’t think as a business owner you ever stop — there is always space for improvement.
MB: What has been the most challenging aspects to date?
IB: I can go many ways with my answer… Most of the struggle in terms of running a business includes: paying taxes, promoting said business, keeping up with clients, invoicing, etc. Also, having to learn all the legal aspects of registering a company and what it means was a challenge. Keeping up with it all is hard, and there are many fees and penalties involved.
Expanding my business and becoming a leader, not just for the children, but for a team of fabulous people. Even finding those “fabulous people” was (and still is) a difficult task. Finding staff that can represent what I was doing by myself for years and literally replicate myself in another teacher/musician is extremely hard. However, it’s not impossible. We have worked with wonderful souls that have represented Baila Baila beautifully in the past and to date.
Becoming a mother and trying to balance my time is definitely the hardest task. I had to learn to schedule: teaching times, administrative hours, personal hobbies, social life and self-care, and most importantly, quality time with my 3-year-old and husband. Thankfully my son loves to come to class and hang out with mommy. Lucas Lee has been the inspiration for many of my songs and even though we are trying to raise him without a preschool or daycare, he has managed to adjust fabulously to our busy lifestyle. One important aspect is the fact that my partner is there for me and supports us by making Lucas’ days an incredible adventure.
MB: How did you/do you promote Baila Baila?
IB: I believe that the greatest form of advertisement is delivering quality service, keeping your clients happy, and making the program appealing and fresh for our families. Happy clients will talk about the program and refer their friends, which is normally our main source of clientele: word of mouth.
Social media also plays an important role in helping to grow our audience, providing brand exposure, and showcasing our services. Additionally, local shows and events within our neighborhood and through out Los Angeles have been very beneficial for us. It allows us to meet new clients and introduce the program in a more personable way — with an incredible showcase of the music and energy of the group.
I am also always talking to everyone I know about what we do. The more people I tell, the more people I attract. Everyone has a friend, cousin, or coworker who may be interested and would suggest the program.
MB: What are your top learnings so far?
IB: I have learned to be patient. Building up your clientele takes time. I have also learned that in order for things to run more effectively (both at home and at Baila Baila), I have to delegate and accept help. On a personal level, I have realized about the parts of myself that allow me to perform better and confront any adversity on the road.
MB: How do you “balance” (is there really such a thing?) being a momma and Baila Baila?
IB: Most difficult thing in the world! However, I am blessed with a happy child that is pleased easily and loves being at our studios, participating in the classes, or dancing during our concerts. Before Lucas was born, my husband and I discussed how having a baby was going to affect the dynamic with the business and our social life. He was game! He’s home with him, while I am working. I managed to stay home for his first year, working only a few hours a day. Now that I work full time, I try my best to spend QUALITY time with my family. Even though it is all about the child, I try my best to also pay attention to daddy, who supports me and takes care of our little boy beautifully. My schedule is planned so I can have every meal at home, on weekends we always try to do fun things together, and I really try not to bring work home.
MB: What are your top three tips for someone looking to start a kids-focused business?
IB: Do what you love. If you are willing to do it for free then you know that you are in the right field. Putting all your passion and energy into your business will make you stand out and give that personal touch and uniqueness.
Stay focused on one service and don’t overwhelm yourself by branching out or offering more than what is in your area of expertise. I am a singer, songwriter, teacher, graphic designer, face painter, balloon-animal twister, entertainer, entrepreneur… the list go on. While I could also offer stationary, party decor, and event planning, I’ve tried to focus on just teaching, performing at events, and entertaining at birthday parties.
Surround yourself with good-hearted people. Professionals in your area that are going to be part of your team MUST be an extension of a certain part of your personality that you are trying to replicate and portray to your clients. Look for people who care and love what they do as well — people that together you can grow and support each other to achieve professional and personal goals. I believe in good ENERGY. It is important and is a key aspect for clients to come back and be comfortable in your establishment.
MB: You just opened a new location in Torrance, how did you know it was time to expand? And why did you choose that location?
IB: With our first studio, we knew it was time to open the Santa Monica location when we began teaching classes at our home. I felt the need to have a proper space, in a much more comfortable and professional environment. That was an easy decision and a giant move! After seeing the potential of the Santa Monica studio, we decided to replicate it. We have had more and more demand from the South Bay cities for classes. The opportunity came about also as a result of one of our star teachers: Luis. He’s been wonderful to work with and has done a terrific job of representing the brand. His schedule includes teaching classes mainly on the west side and east side, commuting long hours from the South Bay. We decided to offer him a lead position by opening a location in the city where he resides, and we have no doubt that he will proudly make the Torrance Studio a special place for families to meet and take Baila Baila Classes.
MB: What are your future plans for Baila Baila?
IB: Producing my fourth album, opening more classes in Miami, training more wonderful teachers, and exploring the San Fernando Valley for classes and/or studio.
MB: What does overhead look like for starting a business like this? Is it something you saved for or did you need a business loan?
IB: With the financial support of my partner and my savings, to open the Santa Monica studio, I probably had about 10K to start up.
MB: Now that you’ve been through the process of opening a brick-and-mortar location, what tips do you have?
IB: I would say:
- Write everything down so you can replicate it easily.
- Do not rush into things and only choose a location if it is absolutely perfect and financially doable, otherwise you end up spending way more than you planned.
- Keep a list of vendors, contractors, and services that you are happy with so you can use them again in the future.
- Again, do not do everything yourself. Delegating and managing your time will make the process easier and less stressful.
- Ask family to help out with the little ones, they will demand your attention and you will simply not have the energy.
- Be patient.
- Starting is hard, but if you utilize every bit of your time wisely, you will see results.
- Don’t sit and wait for clients to show up, keep making promotional plans and use your team to execute your ideas.
MB: Knowing what you do now about the business, what’s one piece of advice you would have for your then newly-entrepreneur self?
IB: Don’t try to do everything yourself. And maybe waiting till you have the capital to pay for help, it is definitely worth it and less stressful. Part of this process has been learning how to delegate and relinquish some control. It is hard, but possible if you find the right people.
Join the Mommy Brain private community where members can have open and honest discussions about all the parts of motherhood, whether that’s parent/child-related, self-care, life after becoming a mom, divorce, career changes, intimacy with your partner — there are many layers to who we are as women and as mothers. This is the space to talk about it all!
*Photos provided by Isabel Brazon.