Lavania Lav Hajji, Creative Director – Dance Embassy
A freelance dance fitness instructor who always loved dancing since young but was advised against having it as a career, Lavania Lav Hajji today runs a successful dance academy in Singapore catering to individuals, groups and even corporates. It wasn’t a planned foray that brought Lavania to where she is today. While working with Singapore Airlines a few years ago she was spotted by one of the instructors at a dance class that she was attending. That instructor turned out to be her driving force to pursue her passion. Not an easy decision to leave a comfortable job, take a huge pay cut and pursue her passion. Starting off as a franchisee of Bollybeatz, years later Lavania started Dance Embassy . All through this transition she found a constant support in the dance instructor who spotted her talent, Nidhi Mehta.
Lavania who recently became a mother took some time out to share her journey exclusively with AsiaBizToday.
Setting up your business and the activities that you undertake
Dance Embassy was started in 2012. It was quite a ride. When Nidhi left her classes to me, I was left with only a handful of students who gave me a chance. Most of her ardent fans left with her. Am very grateful for those who stayed back for their words of encouragement kept me going. I figured my own marketing strategies to get more students which at that time was mostly through word of mouth.
What started with about 5 students have now grown to over 400 students both in my private and corporate classes, even weddings.
Your inspiration and motivation to get started
I always knew I had a knack for dance but not fitness. I was asthmatic when I first started. I remember taking breaks in between classes to grab a few puffs from my inhaler. Within 6 months, I managed to wean myself from the inhaler as my stamina grew. This motivates me to also inculcate changes in my students. Many of my students have not only lost weight but they have created a community in Dance Embassy. Many have found purposes through dance and many have turned instructors. It’s these milestones that motivate me too. Dance Embassy is a family. Not many dance and fitness businesses can say that.
Experiences of running a business
Lots of sacrifices, tears and sometimes self-doubt if I could ever make it. Running a business alone is never easy. I had to constantly network and make connections. I am an introvert by nature though many will find it hard to believe. So putting myself and my business out there, I had to psych myself each second before leading a class, workshop, performance etc. My students and my faith have been my driving forces and I can’t be more grateful.
Important factors that keep you going
Passion, faith, sincerity.
Challenges and obstacles in your journey
Lots! Where do I start?! I have had instructors who try to poach my clients and who have carried out acts detrimental to my business. But you learn from it. In business, there is no such thing as “act in good faith”. Everything has to be black and white to protect your business. I used to be naive but running a business has taught me to be tough. When some try to negotiate ridiculous rates, I am now tough enough to reject the assignment as compared to when I first started, I took every job I could!
There are no specific challenges I faced as a woman. I am probably lucky to be living in a country that has a pro- woman culture.
Source of inspiration
YouTube mostly. There are so many talents on YouTube who inspire my routines.
Your proudest moment so far
There are so many to be honest, it’s hard to single out one. Having sold out workshops for Dans Fest in Esplanade for the past decade to giving an interview on AsiaBizToday! God has been good.
Definition of success and your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women
Success to me is when others view you as successful. It’s humbling.
Never give up. Never self doubt. We live in a supportive society. Work hard and people will recognize it. I had recently attend a workshop for women entrepreneurs. Through that, I realized that being surrounded by like-minded women is so important for growth. Choose your circle wisely. The kinds that lift you up.