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Small Business Q&A: British Academy of Performing Arts

This East Cobb theatre, acting, dance and singing school breaks for the summer holiday.

Wednesday is Independence Day. founders Marsha and Gerry Newton, London transplants, keep a stiff upper lip when asked about how they will celebrate the 236th anniversary of the American signing the Declaration of Independence from British rule.

"Great Britian granted the U.S. their independence," Gerry states.

Marsha grins, "We're going to Florida and will be sitting in a British pub on July 4. We'll probably be having fish and chips and watching football."

The BAPA schedule of summer youth camps and youth classes takes a hiatus this week, allowing the willing to honor the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and giving all camp staff and students a rest before the brisk pace of Friday dance or musical theatre shows returns with three performances each week over nine weeks of the summer.

Outside of summer camps, dance and acting classes, BAPA is also home to the 21-year-old non-profit youth ballet troupe, Academy Dance Company; The Atlanta Shakespeare Company; and the BAPA Hip-Hop Company. The latter performs at an Atlanta Hawks home game each year.

Four studios and support areas take up 6,600 square feet of commercial space at the Sprayberry Square Shopping Center, located at the intersection of Sandy Plains and East Piedmont roads.

The Newtons moved to the metro Atlanta area in 2005 because they wanted an enriching place to bring up their five children; the two eldest are now attending college in the U.K.

"We're living Marsha's dream," Gerry said. "So, like a good husband I'm here helping."

Gerry works full-time at the academy, covering financial- and business-related responsibilities, while Marsha is responsible for curriculum, teaching, and directing shows. BAPA employs 15 part-time staff to help serve about 650 families each year according to Marsha.

Marsha answersed Patch's small business questions.

Q. What's the best thing about your job?

A. The kids. The best things are the magical moments, the positive memories, that are going to stay with the kids all of their lives.

Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?

A. The people. People move here because of the education system and that makes the whole community family focused. East Cobb has a very stable population, people who have been here generation after generation and a large number of people who migrate here from somewhere else.  We really do have an international feeling at BAPA, in the students and staff.

Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?

A. We came for a holiday to visit friends in Alpharetta and we literally got off the plane on the six o'clock flight and got up ten o'clock next morning and looked at each other and said, "Let's move. The kids will like it here."

Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?

A. I trained to be an actress in London and I didn't want to be a waitress, so, I trained to be a teacher. Here, I've got teaching and performing. The best of both worlds.

Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?

A. I go and teach at schools. Not just after school programs, I teach the classics at private schools in regular classes.

Q. When did you start your business?

A. 2005.

Q. How did your business get started?

A. The studio's been here for 25 years, it was a ballet academy. When I bought it it had students. Now the dance is about 60 percent of what we do. We still do technique and training but put a lot more focus on shows and stage time. And, the business is growing. When the recession hit we felt it was important to diversify and be flexible. We listened to what the community wanted.  We also didn't cut back on our marketing. When people lift off you want them to think about you.

Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?

A. Do your research. You've got to look at the history of a business and know what you're going to do differently. When I bought the ballet school I asked myself, 'why is the business being sold?' Every business owner knows that hard work is not enough.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?

A. BAPA is about nurturing the next generation, creating life memories, raising children's confidence levels, helping their communication skills. We try to get the whole family involved and we're always looking for volunteers.

Marsha Newton, director

British Academy of Performing Arts

2550 Sandy Plains Road, Suite 265

770-578-8272

http://www.bapa.us/index_old_1.html

http://www.facebook.com/pages/British-Academy-of-Performing-Arts-BAPA/114722071900301

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