Wisetail Q&A with Genevieve Custer Weeks, Founder of Tutu School
To say that it’s been a crazy 10 years for Tutu School Founder, Genevieve Custer Weeks, would be an understatement. Her concept caters ballet classes to toddlers and — while decidedly adorable — has become a force to be reckoned with in the world of franchise business. The former professional ballet dancer has scaled Tutu School to over 30 locations in seven states in the last decade and isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
When did you realize you wanted to go into business for yourself?
It’s funny, but both of my parents are entrepreneurs – as is my husband – so I don’t think that it seemed as crazy as it otherwise might have for me to just create the job I really wanted to have. Ten years ago I was performing professionally as a ballet dancer, and in between gigs I had fallen in love with teaching ballet to preschool-age kids. I started dreaming of opening a boutique ballet school that would cater specifically to the needs of very young children, and I began telling my husband about this business I wanted to try and build at some point in the future. He listened, and asked, “Why wait?” I decided not to.
Tutu School is growing very rapidly – what has been the biggest challenge for you as continue to expand?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is just keeping up with our growth. Frankly, it’s what led us to Wisetail. We’re always looking for ways to better support our expanding community of owners while also ensuring that our brand is taken care of on every level.
What made you decide to franchise?
Quite simply, on my own, I couldn’t open all of the Tutu Schools I believed that there could or should be. Franchising presented what felt to me like an organic way to grow and expand to new markets without taking on investors or outside funding. I’d like to say that I was also inspired by the idea of helping new entrepreneurs launch their own Tutu Schools, but truthfully that didn’t come until later, once I had guided our first few owners through opening their businesses. Now it’s one of my very favorite things.
“My personal motto is, “Do the next right thing.” When you are a small-to-medium size company in the midst of rapid growth, everything feels important – and often immediately so. Instead of traveling a centimeter on a hundred different paths, pick something and head in that direction with determination.”
Ballet and teaching ballet to young children is clearly your passion. How do you ensure that each franchisee is as passionate as you are, meeting your high standards and living your vision for Tutu School?
Ultimately, I think that we’ve just been very committed to finding Tutu School owners who feel completely called and connected to our mission. When we support that connection – and help Tutu School owners keep it at the core of everything that they do – that’s pure magic.
What is your advice to other founders that are in a similar stage of growth?
My personal motto is, “Do the next right thing.” When you are a small-to-medium size company in the midst of rapid growth, everything feels important – and often immediately so. Instead of traveling a centimeter on a hundred different paths, pick something and head in that direction with determination.
What the most rewarding thing about your journey with Tutu School so far?
Honestly, the same thing that made me want to start it all in the first place: We get to create a space in children’s lives that is specially designated for creativity, meaning-making, and joy. There’s nothing better.
What’s next for you and Tutu School?
We’re still growing, but right now we’re actually more focused on balance and strength-building. I think a lot about the journey of a ballet dancer, and how even the most accomplished dancers are never done working on their technique or refining their craft. So, while Tutu School is still opening new studios all over (and hooray for that), I am equally focused on making sure that the foundation that got us to this place is stronger than ever and ready to carry us forward. In other words, we’re still committed to practicing our pliés and pirouettes. We’re not taking anything for granted.
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