Rachael Hurton has always had a passion for dance and performance and in 2014 she brought her dream to life by starting Synergy Dance – a dance fitness programme for children of all ages.
Synergy Dance is a dance fitness programme for boys and girls of all ages, from infants and juniors to teens, across an array of dance styles at schools and leisure centres in Surrey. The aim is to get children and teenagers more active through fun and innovative classes and workshops. In addition, Synergy provide a separate outreach programme for children and teens with special needs or disabilities, in her mission to be fully inclusive and reach all children who may benefit from dance and movement.
Synergy Dance is based in Guildford, but covers all of Surrey and beyond into Sussex, and was launched by Rachael Hurton (Swann) in January 2014. Rachael has an academic and performance background – with a career which spans working on children’s books to taking on management positions. However, Rachael’s true passion is for dance and performance (for which she has an MA from RADA/Kings College).
Rachael wants to make a difference to how children feel about keeping fit, and she is teaching dance in leisure centres, schools, colleges and nurseries across Surrey. She is also doing great work within the community with Synergy Dance, by providing separate outreach programmes for children and teens with special needs and disabilities.
Rachael works for the business full-time and is as hands-on as possible. Synergy Dance employs freelance dance and fitness instructors, along with a personal assistant, website designer, Business Manager, and an accountant. Synergy also offers sixth-form students work experience placements.
The Synergy Dance mission
Rachael set up Synergy Dance to make a difference in children’s lives through dance, to help break down gender stereotypes and provide more inspiring forms of exercise in place of outdated activities. Her mission is: “to reach those children and young people who may be less suited to team sports and prefer a dance option to keep fit – both in mainstream and disability sectors. We want to keep the next generation healthy and target inactivity and the growing problem of obesity”.
The business now runs Synergy-branded courses, dances parties and classes at Guildford Spectrum Leisure Centre to meet popular demand. Synergy Dance has been working hard to develop an outreach program for children with special needs and disabilities. Rachael and her PA deal with the admin side of the business – both work virtually from home offices to keep overheads down, but Rachael is looking to branch out into her own premises as the company is growing fast.
Rachael also manages to do professional acting and works separately as a dance instructor when times allows outside of running the business. She was always inspired by her love for dance, making it her mission to use dance as a way to change how children keep fit.
Challenges along the way
There have been some challenges for Rachael throughout her start up journey, particularly when launching her idea as she was a one-woman band. She acknowledges that there are a lot of competitors in the industry, however, Synergy Dance has overcome the competition by delivering high-quality, inclusive and innovative services to customers. Recruitment can sometimes be a challenge as dance instructors need specialist qualifications and requirements for the job, which can sometimes be hard to find. Synergy offers graduates the opportunity to train up within the company in junior assistant positions as well as employing experienced primary teachers and dance instructors on the team.
Since starting up, Synergy Dance has expanded its client base tremendously. Synergy has been working in partnership with Guildford Spectrum for the last 3 years and supplies all the children’s and teen dance provision for this leisure chain. They are also School Engagement Partners with Active Surrey.
The dance classes and parties are now up and running in five leisure centres in Surrey, schools, colleges, nurseries, Brownie and Scout groups. Synergy Dance also supplies free workshops to disadvantaged kids via the FISH/Guildford County Council scheme in school holidays, and sponsors community events such as Go Fest, which bring families together to have a go at sport and dance.
Performance and community work is at the centre of what Synergy Dance does, offering students of all abilities the chance to express themselves and inspire others to take part in dance-related activities. Synergy also supplies online packages for schools via EMDUK and has taught as far out as Bedfordshire and London in schools.
“Synergy is keen to cross-market, collaborate, and partner, and feel that building a loyal team and working with other companies will help Synergy to grow into a national enterprise”.
Rachael has big plans for Synergy Dance, and is working hard to establish the dance and fitness program for children with special education needs and disabilities. She is receiving funding from Active Surrey, a sports management company, to get this scheme underway.
Her long-term goal for the business is to franchise the business to reach more areas of the UK and build brand awareness. Rachael is also looking for investments into the company. Rachael feels that now is time to expand the programme as the product and business model is fully established in Surrey.
The Start Up Loan’s experience
Rachael had a really positive experience with The Start Up Loans Company and says:
“The Start Up Loans scheme enabled me to get going on my business idea and make it happen, following a three-year pilot in schools. The scheme offers valuable guidance on reputable sources for managing finance and accounts, legal affairs and trademarks.”