Katia Pryce moved to New York City in hopes of becoming Broadway’s next big triple threat, and she nailed it…in a slightly different way. Katia turned her passion for dance into DanceBody, a global dance fitness empire with online classes and boutique studios, one of which, yes, is on Broadway.
DanceBody is a high-impact, cardio-driven dance fitness class that leaves you feeling like Beyoncé (even if you can’t quite move like her). Katia created a class that literally lifts you up physically and mentally. However, she didn’t stop there! She then went on to create DanceBody at home, an online streaming platform making DanceBody accessible to individuals all over the country.
All in all, Katia did not have a perfectly laid-out plan for DanceBody in the beginning. It grew organically from her private training clientele, and from dancing melded with fitness–this idea that she loved, really believed in and brought to life.
Fast track a few years later, DanceBody became so successful, it grew into a team of 25 DanceBody trainers, 16 full-time staff, and 3 studio locations. She’s incredibly ambitious and determined to exceed all limitations.
What is your most memorable moment?
When we opened our second NYC studio in TriBeCa. What a whirlwind! We only had 10 days to completely turn around the studio and open. Right up until 4 am the night before, we folded leggings, unpacked equipment, put up branding – we literally watched paint dry! Even though we were pressed for time, it never felt stressed to the point that it wasn’t fun, it was actually joyful throughout: we all laughed, took pictures, drank wine, and worked our asses off. “Work hard, play hard” is an easy thing to say, yet a hard thing to actually do – but we did it then, and do it still.
What is your favorite part about your job?
I love working with clients who identify as “non-dancers”. They start out nervously in the back row with a baggy t-shirt on, and in a month I have them in the front row in a crop top confidently moving. Empowering people to feel confident in their own skin is what keeps me inspired to inspire. It’s my life’s mission.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Read books. Do your homework. Listen to people who have done what you are trying to do. Gain all the information + advice, then decide what applies. Make magic “must happen” list, meditate on it daily. Put your blinders on, stay focused. Find your purpose, drive it home. Don’t let anyone fuck with your vibe. Know that your intuition is your strongest primal asset. Never sign anything unless you FULLY understand it. Be prepared to fail, and appreciate those lessons. Master the pivot. Learn to love change. Always be open. Stay in your lane. Lead with love.
At what point did you know you it was the right time to work for yourself?
Once I understood that I had something that others wanted to feel, I knew I had something to really give. At the inception of DanceBody, it was pure supply and demand. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, so becoming an entrepreneur did fit my MO – even though I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. (Full disclosure, I had to google “entrepreneur” when I first started) Once my private sessions were turning into 10 person classes, I knew I had to accelerate to the next level.
How would you describe your leadership style and what has made it so effective?
I would describe it as: Empathy infused Enforcement. As a trainer and employee myself inside of DanceBody, there isn’t much I don’t understand about what my trainers and team might be feeling. With that in mind, I try my best to approach our initiatives with compassion and kindness. At the same time, that doesn’t mean it’s all rainbows and roses! There are always tough decisions that need to be made and a real structure that needs to be followed in order for DanceBody to be effective and successful – and that gets fully enforced. I think having strong boundaries keeps the clarity of the company, so that we can all stay sane in our lane.
What is your secret to being an effective CEO in terms of building the company culture and values you need to make the company successful?
Weirdly, I pull most of the way I build the company from my own family upbringing. My mom was a real force, and I learned so much by the way she parented and worked. Because I have the luxury of deciding who works around me, I try to always select people with a similar sense of pride in themselves and their work. Team players are the only coworkers I want. I’m not the type of CEO that just starts a company and floats above it, looking down. Hell no. I’m in it – every single day. That keeps me connected to our mission and to my people. It’s a 100% authentic drive that connects us all. DanceBody was never a “concept” or “business plan”, it was perpetually in motion.
What methods have you used to effectively encourage innovation within the company you lead?
I’m a big fan of collaboration. I love hearing ideas and other points of view – so our creative brainstorming meetings are crucial. They aren’t necessarily a means to an end, but rather a time for us to percolate and ideate together – that is essential! Passion is the potion. Logistics are just steps to dreams, and there are steps to everything.
Did you start DanceBody by yourself?
Initially, Yes, with lots of advice and support along the way – some good, some bad, but no one truly does anything alone. My core team has and continues to help build DanceBody by my side every day.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced so far as a business owner?
Trusting myself. I know it sounds strange, but I’ve learned many lessons the hard way because I entrusted someone outside myself to make huge decisions that impacted the company and myself. Because I don’t have a business background or family pedigree that lends itself to what I’m trying to do, for years I felt doubtful of my own skills and fearful to trust my gut. I’ve made some real mistakes listening to other people who were really “smart”. But now I’m tuning into my instincts much more frequently. Confidence in business is acquired, not inherited. And no one knows my business better than me.
You’re a busy woman, Do you practice self-care at all?
Absolutely…now!. I spent years believing that the more I grinded myself down, I didn’t sleep, overworked, stressed, the better I was doing. I guess that’s the Midwest in me. Now I understand that I’m more effective when I give myself mental breaks to reconfigure. Traveling outside NYC is really the only way that works for me – or a deep tissue 90 min massage where I can zone out – same thing! I’m OOT!