CEO and owner, Stage Door Studios
When Jill Athridge opened Stage Door Studios in 2007, she had 40 students. Ten years later, the dance studio has more than 600 students and a staff of 20.
“I worked like a dog the first couple of years because I didn’t have the money,” Athridge says. “I did a lot of volunteer work.” That included helping in elementary school physical education classes and choreographing school shows.
“My competition was so focused on marketing in magazines, and I just wanted people to get to know who I was as a person,” she says.
Now, because of Stage Door’s success, she’s able to sponsor programs at 10 to 12 area schools.
Athridge, who was born in Massachusetts, moved to Sarasota when she was in sixth grade. She says she was the youngest student at school when she started. “I struggled, and what got me through was dancing at Flex,” she says of taking lessons at the former Sarasota dance studio. “When I went there, I found my niche.”
She taught dance at Flex through her teenage years until age 20. Then she moved to New York City to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. While in the city, she managed a restaurant in Times Square. “I learned so much,” she says of the experience. “It’s amazing what I brought back to running a dance studio. A lot of people who own dance studios are very artsy and very creative and don’t always think about the bottom line. This is a business, and I have to have my business plans in order.”
Athridge calls opening the studio the best decision she’s made. “Getting to see a child’s first recital is pretty amazing or a kid who’s been practicing a dance step for several weeks and gets it for the first time,” she says. “I absolutely love those moments.”
— Grier Fergsuon
Name: Jill Athridge
City of residence: Sarasota
Employer: Stage Door Studios
Birthplace: Norwood, Mass.
Years on the Gulf Coast: 20
Marital status/children: Married with two children (Boy 3, Girl 2)
Alma mater/degree: Graduate from American Music and Dramatic Academy, NYC
Best place to network: Local schools and mom groups
Messy desk or clean workspace: I like a Clean Workspace….but it often gets messed up
Eat lunch out or at your desk: At my desk
Best business lesson ever learned: Always look forward, never stop growing and learning….you can always be better
Weirdest job you’ve ever had: Managing a restaurant in Times Square
A website that makes your job easier: dancestudioowner.com
App you use the most: Facebook
One thing you do every day: Kiss my kids
Community group you’re most involved with: Church
Favorite off-hours activity: Trips to Disney with the family
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Chita Rivera and Jesus Christ
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: Sportscaster
Top item on your bucket list: Go to Europe
Your happy place is: My dance studio
Your biggest fear: Something happening to my children
Skill you’d like to learn: Knowing a foreign language
Who would play you in a movie about your life: Amy Adams
Describe yourself in three words: Passionate, bold and creative