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Rising Stars: Meet Erica Peterson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Peterson.

Hi Erica, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start, maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
I wish I could say I grew up an easy-going, simple woman. Someone who didn’t question people or things. Someone who did not always want to be right. Someone who didn’t love the spotlight. But in fact, I was a small-town, Midwest girl whose big personality could not survive there any longer. I was theatrical, animated, loud, opinionated, and bossy (only a little!). I always knew I was destined to live a bigger life, the city life. Seeing “my name in lights” was always on my mind. So, at no surprise to anyone, I packed up and moved to San Diego after high school. And I never looked back. I had been a competitive dancer my whole life – I was not the best out there, but I truly loved performing.

I grew up dancing in a studio, did high school dance teams, and participated in performance companies in my college years. As much as I loved to dance, I loved being a leader more. From class projects to team captains or management in the workplace, I enjoyed the responsibility of managing the team’s tasks and thrived with the weight on my shoulders of the team’s successes. It was only a natural progression that I would ultimately become my own boss. My husband would joke about it for years. He would tell me I would eventually become a difficult employee because I just wouldn’t fall in line. I will put it in writing (just one time) he was right. I was meant for more. However, the feeling of conquering all of that on my own made the dream never seem a reality.

Timing is everything. You, through a series of unfortunate events, are paired with a coworker to get a project done. This is where my business partner, Brittany Jagoe, and I’s relationship began. We were colleagues together in a dance studio. We not only completed one task, we conquered many together. Through many conversations, it became apparent to me our goals were the same, and a future vision was there. I wish I could say there was this defining moment where I just knew she would make a perfect business partner for me, but there was not. For being her superior at the time, I still always valued her opinions. I valued the extra level she brought to the job and clients. Mostly, I valued the fun we had together just creating. Choreography, costumes, ideas, concepts, all of it felt right. When I approached her about going into business with me, it was a simple question with a simple answer, like finding the perfect life partner. In 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, we officially filed and created Level 8 Dance, LLC.

Whether we are strong because of how much I believe in her or because of how much she believes in me – the answer does not matter. A partnership means that you come together to make each other better. This is what we want our clients to see and feel. Starting a new business is a rollercoaster of emotions. Having a great partner to ride it out with makes all the difference. Forming our corporation, we, like many business owners, have risked every dollar we have, but there is no greater reward than when a passion and a career come together.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Opening a business in a pandemic. That sentence pretty much sums up how smooth it went. In all honesty, we have amazing clients and a fierce army of dance moms who have had our backs since we were dance teachers. It is the trust they have in us that makes the stressful days manageable. I also have an incredible, calm, cool and collected husband who keeps me sane. He and our families are my extra eyes and ears. From our remodel to accounting to client management, they inspire me, support me, and lend any helping hand they have. In the grand scheme of things, all setbacks are truly minor setbacks in our eyes. The big picture is still there.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I am Co-Owner of Level 8. We are an elite competitive dance training facility located in Kearny Mesa. Our doors officially opened for business in May 2021. At Level 8, dancers are not dancers. They are athletes. Created for dancers looking to advance their training and expose themselves to the dance industry outside the walls of the studio. For dancers ages 5 and up, Level 8 students, families and staff share in the same high level of dedication, hard work and perseverance. We know the importance of a strong and safe dance environment. Goals are never achieved through flexibility but through strength and a solid foundation of understanding each dancer’s individual body and development phases

We believe it takes a village. We believe the strength and encouragement given by teammates is unbeatable. We believe with teamwork, proper training and focus, dancers will not only strengthen their bodies, but their minds to truly achieve personal success.

Transparency is key in our field of work. Letting every client know we value their dollar and make sure it is being utilized in proper training specific for their athlete/dancer. No matter how large our clientele gets the customized class plans, training and focus we give each one is priceless. Dance is a sport. It is an expensive one. To be an elite member in the industry, it requires countless training hours year-round. However, it is a rewarding one. These athletes are learning the value of teamwork, leadership, winning/losing, physical fitness and more. I am grateful for all the leaders in our industry who have come before us and am proud of the program we have created because of them. Our clients and kids are already amazing (the photos speak for themselves), and we are excited to watch them continue to grow.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
Our clients would be polite and say my organization skills or determination will help lead to our success, but I would say it’s three personality traits: assertiveness, honesty, & being black and white. I make decisions, and I stick with my gut. It has yet to lead me astray. I have a small circle I confide in for guidance, and I believe that is what helps me stay true to myself. I enjoy making clients happy, but I will not lose sleep at night if not. I know what I bring to the table, and I know who I have sitting at the head with me. We are confident and clear.

Being a parent nowadays must be harder than ever. The world is moving faster, and the need for instant answers and satisfaction is driving our youth. I listen to our parents discuss their days: getting kids to school, work, grocery shopping, errands, chores, one child has after school tutoring while another has soccer, the pet has a vet appointment, Spouse’s car is in the shop, and it goes on and on. There is no room for schedule changes because there is no time to reevaluate the schedule. And when I started working with families, this is how I knew being assertive would pay off. I make choices every day – right or wrong, but I stick to them. Brittany is the greatest listener I have yet encountered. This is what parents need. They need us to be black and white for them. Be consistent, listen and be on their side. Not all our clients like the decisions we make, but they know they were at the forefront of it.

Our success has been based on partnerships from the very beginning. Our clients are each another partnership for us. We acknowledge the families and dancers’ struggles, we are honest with what is required to succeed, and we do our best to achieve each athletes’ goals. Because at the end of the day, you don’t build a business, you build people and people build the business.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
@ofstardustandearth Jen Fellows

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