The Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber (GGCC) awarded Bella Ballet, LLC as the recipient of the 13th Annual Small Business of the Year Award (SBY) on December 5, 2019; as a part of their Annual Celebration Dinner & Awards Ceremony. The award was presented by Aj Nwoga with M&T Bank.
The Small Business of the Year Award recognizes small businesses, which are a vital part of our economy and community. The award is presented to the small business that demonstrates success, community involvement, and excellent customer relations.
Bella Ballet is a staple in the Kentlands and surrounding communities. The social impact and positive change that Bella Ballet provides for the community through dance, empowers and inspires young women to love who they are, love others, and be a philanthropic member of society. The Bella Ballet team has created a safe space for little girls —ages 1 through 12 – and builds “confident ballerinas one twirl at a time”.
Hope MacDonald opened Bella Ballet in 2013 at age 24 with $5,000 of her savings. It was her dream to create a dance school where children were able to learn traditional dance repertoire, with a sound dance education all while learning key values to inspire confidence and spark passions. She wanted a space that empowers dancers with leadership skills, addresses bullying, builds positive body image, provides empowerment, and promotes other positive values with respect, kindness, and love for all.
At the very beginning, MacDonald approached different banks, lenders, and commercial brokers wanting for financing a new space where she could share her dream and passion. However, she was turned down and was told repeatedly “how hard running a business could be and how the likelihood of failure was pretty high”. Knowing that 60% of businesses within the first three years, she was determined to make it work. She found an investor, used her savings for operating costs; painted her studio with family and friends, and began teaching 15 ballet classes per week.
In her third year in business, a pivotal and challenging year for many business owners, MacDonald was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. But this didn’t stop her. Instead she has kept on going and teaches her students everyday about the importance of a positive mindset and overcoming adversity. “MacDonald is the perfect example of practice what you preach, inspiring women to never stop believing in who they are and powering through despite their obstacles”, said Nwoga. She still teaches every day of the week and is an active member of her community.
Since its inception, Bella Ballet has added various styles including ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, musical theatre, a program for children with special needs, and contemporary dance.
They are now a team of ten, holding 52 classes a week, teaching more than 500 students weekly. Bella Ballet was named the 2019 “Best Dance Studio” by Bethesda Magazine; 2017 & 2018 “Best Ballet Teachers” by Expertise Magazine; 2017 “Best Arts Program” by Washington Family Magazine; among many other accolades.
“Bella Ballet exists because of Hope’s hard work and unwavering belief in herself and her vision of Bella Ballet could become,” said Marilyn Balcombe, GGCC President / CEO. “She is an extraordinary business leader and deserves this recognition.”
As if teaching alone isn’t enough, MacDonald started the “Sparkle of Kindness Initiative” at the studio, which teaches children the importance of philanthropy, lighting a fire in the hearts of her students and teaches them to continue to look out for the community and others for years to come. She conducts several philanthropic events with many non-profit organizations including: The Tree House Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County, Soldiers Angels, Comfort Cases, and Nourish Now. She created the Kentlands Community Fall fest; and the Kentlands Holiday Jubilee.
Bella Ballet, LLC has been a Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber Member for a year and has supported and continues to support the Chamber in many ways.
The GGCC is active in providing business-to-business networking opportunities throughout the year: a collective voice in local, regional, and state legislative affairs, professional development opportunities and other services that enhance the business environment.