Susan Browney Dillon, owner and president, Golden Slippers Inc. |
2019 Entrepreneurial Excellence award winner
Starting the company: I founded Golden Slippers in 1979 after graduating from college and acquiring some professional dance experience. It was a dream derived from my childhood passion for dance. Forty years later with five locations, we are going strong!
Hardest part of launching the company: When my “shoestring” budget ran out from my build-out, I took to the streets passing out ad fliers from my bicycle.
A lesson learned: A successful business requires deep passion and commitment. Golden Slippers has been my baby. I’ve nurtured it throughout the years, protected it, nursed it when ill, loved it unconditionally and watched it grow into a success I am proud to have created.
Company growth and biggest obstacle overcome: There was a genuine need for a dance studio at our inception, so expanding was natural in a growing city to accommodate the needs of new families. It was a challenge for me to learn to delegate to others and oversee locations from afar.
Earning a profit: Our well-mapped satellites have made it possible to earn yearly profits, offering dancewear in all locations and constantly broadening our curriculum by tailoring it to the needs of the community.
Greatest innovation: It is vital to never get so consumed in your business that you ignore other passions in your life. I currently satisfy my dedication to homeless animals by producing and directing “Dancing for Paws,” an annual fundraiser to benefit the VBSPCA.
Future plans: While we search for possible future sites, I will continue to teach as well as manage Golden Slippers. I keep a sign in our lobby that I read everyday: “Never forget why you started.”
Biggest challenge for the future: The number of competitors entering the market. Many do not realize, however, it’s not just what you do, but how you do it. Your reputation is your greatest asset and the standards we’ve set have allowed us the opportunity to raise thousands of children, provide fond memories and teach lifelong lessons in discipline, teamwork, dedication, poise, performance skills and self esteem.
Published: Inside Business June 21, 2019
Golden Slippers Dance Academy, 40 years |
2019 milestone Anniversary
1979, Virginia Beach by Susan Browney
2924 N. Lynnhaven Road, Virginia Beach. Four additional locations at Haygood, Kempsville, Redmill and Princess Anne.
Dance school for children and adults offering ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop, contemporary, acrobatics, ballroom, Irish step dance. Dancewear sales at all locations.
Expanding from one to five locations; sustaining top quality mainstream instruction and performances in an ever-changing market; maintaining viability with growing number of competitors in our industry.
Purchasing our building headquarters in 1995; chosen as small business of year for Virginia Beach by the Hampton Roads Chamber; top entrepreneur of Hampton Roads 2019
Attention to service, best of the Beach winner for 22 consecutive years; providing great instruction for children and adults at reasonable prices, culminating in “broadway style” year-end productions at Chrysler Hall; dedication and passion for our product and commitment to our customers.
Expanding our dancewear company in Hampton Roads.
Originally Published; Inside Business July 12, 2019
Susan Browney always knew she’d own a dance studio one day. The Lake Taylor High School and Old Dominion University graduate danced professionally locally and on the West Coast. Golden Slippers Dance Academy was born when her father co-signed a $5,000 loan for a five-year commercial lease on a building in Lynnhaven when Browney was 24.
“I was so young and naïve,” she said. “I didn’t understand that I could fail.”
And yes, it was scary, she added. She copied flyers at the library and “literary got on a bicycle and rode around the area.”
Word spread, and she opened with 88 students.
Flash forward to 2019, when more than 50 former students will return for a 40th anniversary celebration on stage during the recitals June 14 and 16 at Chrysler Hall. They’ll join more than 1,000 dancers from Browney’s five Golden Slippers locations.
“I feel like my life has flashed before my eyes,” Browney said at one of the alumni group’s practice sessions. She energetically taught them the fast-paced choreography to a medley of Motown tunes by The Jackson 5; Earth, Wind, and Fire; James Brown and more.
“Work it!” she exclaimed. “I feel the energy in the room!”
Golden Slippers has been a family affair for many. Growing up, Angie Lee’s mother danced with Browney at a Norfolk studio. Lee, a Lakeview Park resident, and her sister danced at Golden Slippers, and now Lee’s daughter Alysa Bailey is one of Browney’s proteges. Browney has made the rehearsals fun, Lee said. “She’s got some spunk in her!”
Santina Irving from Chesapeake entered Golden Slippers in 1995 at age 5. She’s excited to get back on the stage, especially because her 5-year-old daughter Alliyahna is also in the show.
Gemma Mateo began dancing at Browney’s studio in 1991 when she was 4.
“This was our home,” said the 2005 Landstown High School graduate.
Mateo said she was a shy young girl, who learned how to be a leader. Her brother Neal Mateo joined in at the age of 8 or 9.
“It helped me open up,” said the 35-year-old, who earned a dance degree from Old Dominion.
Windsor Woods resident Mary Donahue Berryman was part of Golden Slippers for about 10 years.
“So many of us attribute our love for dance to Susan,” said the 1995 First Colonial High School graduate.
Brittany Robles Little traveled from Maryland with her Golden Slippers dance bag. She danced more than 20 years beginning in 1985, and was part of Browney’s performing company and competition team.
“Oh my gosh, dance was everything,” she said. The art helped her physically and mentally, and also kept her out of trouble, she added.
Oceanfront resident Courtney Stowe, 40, was part of the studio for about a decade beginning in the 1980s, and now has her own wellness company. She gained confidence and learned “presentation skills and appreciation for the arts,” she said.
Browney wondered if former students would return to help celebrate the milestone.
“I just put it out there on Facebook, and it went crazy,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams” did she think the response would be so wonderful, she said.
“It’s nice I’ve been able to make a career in something I love so much.” And having students come back is icing on the cake, she said.
“It brings me so much joy.”
· Jun 10, 2019
Our Video Gallery