Interview with Oxana
Interview with Oxana, owner of Cosmic Dance Studio. A story about passion for dance.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Oxana Banshikova, I am from Kazakhstan where I was born and spent a good 20 years of my life. Dance always drew me in and so I tried different types of dance. I was into professional gymnastics, ballet, jazz and different folk dances, but I could never find anything that would really satisfied what I was looking for. Also my parents insisted that I have a formal degree to support my family in the future. So I have a degree in International Relations and Foreign Policy of the Republic of Kazakhstan. It was the closest to my interest of sharing cultures and traveling. I hoped, maybe it can take me somewhere where I can find my passion. After I finished my degree, I had an opportunity to go to India. That is where I saw Indian classical dance. And straight away I felt that this was what I was looking for. It was not only the physical part of dancing techniques, but the history, philosophy, literature that I was very interested to learn more about. So I came back to Kazakhstan and was fortunate to find a teacher, who learnt Indian classical dance in India and was teaching it. I started learning from her, and enjoyed immensely. Deep within I knew straight away that I want to go forward, and find ways to become a professional.
In 2002 I received a scholarship from the Indian government to go to the most famous Indian classical dance institution called Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts in Chennai, India. I was there for 5 years; it was a full time course in Indian classical music, dance, philosophy and religion. In between all of this I managed to get married and my husband was transferred to Hong Kong in 2007.
HereI started my career afresh, as an Indian classical dancer. Of course I was scared and had no idea where to start. I wasn't even sure if anyone likes it the way I do.
How did you manage to get a scholarship from the Indian government? How, they have such a massive population?
This is something I really appreciate about the Indian government. It is a really smart idea. What they do is, they sponsor foreign nationals to come and learn their culture. All these people who will come and learn Indian art, dance, literature, history, they will go back to their countries and will promote Indian culture, encouraging more people to come to India as tourists, as business investors. This is a foreign policy with the long-term future in mind. Of course I see it through the lens of my former degree.
Tell us more about your business
I started my business in Hong Kong in 2009 and it wasn't that I was looking for business opportunity. I wanted to practice my art, to teach, to perform but I couldn't find anyone who would employ me and give me a good salary. But I had students. So I started looking into legal opportunities to teach. I went through different options, non - profit, association, or something else. Research showed that it is much easier to have a Business Registration. I decided to give it a go and if it doesn't work in one year, I will drop it. But in one year’s time I had so many students, I was encouraged to keep going. Initially, I started with a small place and four students but in one year’s time I already had twenty. Year on year it started growing bigger and bigger. Of course, there are certain limitations, because it is still an art. I have to keep it quite exclusive. I can’t expand, because there are not many people trained in this art. I think so far it’s been 7 years and its going strong.
How was the idea born and what were your first steps?
The idea was born when people asked me to teach. I started asking around, about the legal ways of teaching and promoting my school. Different people gave different advice. But opening the company was the easiest way. I had someone help me to register my business, open a bank account and just find a name. It actually took me a long time to find a name. My company’s name is Cosmic Dance.
What was your biggest motivation and inspiration when you decided to start your business?
Hong Kong is a very entrepreneurial city. I have met many women who are doing their own business, but I was so scared and thinking Hong Kong is so big and I am so small, how can I just jump into all this?
What was the most challenging part to start your business?
To find the courage!
Tell us about your first client.
My first clients were already my existing students. I used to teach at a yoga centre, as a part - time teacher. The yoga centre closed down, but there were students, who wanted to continue learning from me. The problem was, we didn't have any place to do it. So in a way, I was lucky to have my own clients, before I actually opened a business.
Some of these students are still with me. It has been 8 years now. I know them like family. They are very close to me. I am very very fortunate to know them. They are very loyal.
Which marketing tools do you find to be the most successful? Which methods worked the best for you to acquire new clients?
The most successful tool is our on-line platform. It’s the best for us. Because people who know what they want just google and they find the answer, they find us.
And also once we have so many students coming to our classes, word of mouth is the best. Hong Kong is a closed city in a way. People talk to friends, comment about their experience. So now it’s mainly word of mouth.
So do I understand correctly, you have no competition pretty much?
No, we do have competition. However, I would say that the aim of the different schools is different. The majority of my students are ethnic Chinese or foreigners. Most other schools cater to the Indian community. I, being a foreigner, attract various people. Just being the example of an outsider who learned Indian art.
Cosmic Dance studio is definitely a niche business, what are the challenges of running a niche business?
Well, in my case many people don't know what I do, what my art is because it is so rare. So it is limiting. It’s not as popular as salsa, jazz and ballet. We still need to work on promoting this form of dance and make people interested in it.
How many students do you have now?
I have about 80 students.
Yes, and at the moment I am the only teacher. The 2 other teachers are on maternity leave.
Congratulations to your teachers! Are they planning to come back?
I hope so, so we can start nursery. (laughs).
You have a child now, all your teachers have children. You should start incorporating kids in your dance.
We have students from 4 to 60. Different groups, different levels. We also do performances and corporate events. We participate in a number of cultural and charity events and supporting different cultural organisations and minorities in Hong Kong.
What did you find to be the most difficult part about running your own business?
The most difficult part is a stable income. At the moment, I don’t have anyone to cover for me. If I am sick or busy or if I just don’t have enough time to accept many clients, I feel it’s a big stumbling block in expanding my business. The income directly depends on my well-being and my time.
And would you be looking forward to hire new teachers?
I am always looking, but there are not too many people who are qualified. It is an art and we try to maintain a high level. So I do have people approaching me, but I don't think they are qualified enough.
So are you well connected within the Indian community?
Yes, we have a lot of Indian friends, and I am a strange combination of nationalities and hobbies for them. I have a lot of Indian friends, and it feels like everyone has at least heard about me, being a strange foreigner who is doing an Indian dance. That also helps.
So you are a celebrity in the Indian community. (laughs)
More like a weird person. (laughs)
Do you attend social events within the community?
Yes, sure. We work very closely with Tamil Association, Telugu Samakhya, Indian Arts Circle, Nepalese Association. Association. And there are so many events organised by LCSD, supporting ethnic minorities. We are really part of almost every single Indian event in Hong Kong.
What is that you love the most about what you are doing?
Uh. (laughs) Everything. I chose it as my love, my path. It’s kind of my life. Everything I do, is about a philosophy, a way of life and practice. It is difficult to explain I guess.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having your own business?
Of course I can plan things. I can take long holidays, I can have time according to my availability. I am my own boss and I can do whatever I want. And I am responsible for my own actions. If I work hard, I can get the result I want.
Disadvantages are the same. I am not getting enough rest. If something has to be done, it has to be done by me, I can’t delegate a lot of things. I have to be the one responsible for my actions. Sometimes things don’t run as smoothly as expected and you have to invest money and time. So it is pretty much the responsibility that you are taking on your own.
As a women, you most probably have something to tell about work - family balance. Please share your thoughts with us.
Well, since having a baby, it is more difficult to concentrate on the business side. I would sometimes rather stay home with my son. But of course when I get out of the house and I go to my classes, and I do my work I get inspired, I am in the moment. It is very difficult to find the balance. Whatever I do, I get involved in it. But I can’t be 100% in both places and it is not very satisfying. So I am still looking for a balance.
So what would you recommend to someone who wants to start their business in the art world?
I would recommend starting with research. Is there an opportunity to be employed? Can you go and experience how other companies or other schools and studios work? Or just ask around and see what do you really want? Do you want to have as many classes as you can? Or do you want to perform? It’s a very important decision to make at the start. Once you have a lot of classes, it’s your responsibility not to leave your students. You have to go on probably for years. So your performing career would suffer. If you really want to perform, you might just consider something like corporate events to support you financially, while you are expanding your performance career. So its pretty much making a choice in the beginning and doing the research.
What is your motto?
Be sincere and passionate; give 100% to what you do. If you are interested in a subject, you will devote all your time and energy. You will do all the research and you will enjoy doing it. If you are not passionate or interested, leave it to someone else, who will do it better.
What a beautiful story about art, dance and passion.
I guess I will often repeat your advice “give 100% to what you do”.
Thank you for your interview and I am sure that your story will make many women ask themselves “what is that, that I love the most? What is that, that inspires me? What is that, that I am ready to dedicate all my time to? ”
You can visit Oxana at Cosmic Dance at:
1st floor, No 33-39 Austin Rd (Temple street crossing),
Or make booking at:
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