Life is a Tango For This Entrepreneurial Couple
Andrea Shepherd left her full time job as an editor at the Montreal Gazette to follow her childhood dream of opening a dance studio; her partner, Wolf Mercado Alatrista, who maintains a full time job at the YMCA to keep their family afloat during their start up phase, is also following his dream. Together, they are the founders of MonTango a thriving tango studio in NDG, Montreal.
All totalled, Wolf and Andrea have danced Argentine tango for more than 20 years. They taught together before deciding to open MonTango. Now, a year in, they see how their ability to “dance in the moment” with each other on the dance floor and in life helps them run their business. Andrea manages operations, communications and instructs. Wolf focuses on the client experience and instruction.
While MonTango’s initial mission was to teach people to tango, it now expands to creating community. Andrea says,
Bringing people together and creating friendships wasn’t our original purpose but it has become a wonderful by-product and is so rewarding.
You have only to spend an hour at a Sunday afternoon Cafe Croissant Tango to see that they have succeeded wildly on this count. And it is not by accident. Wolf and Andrea, and their teaching staff, regularly dance with beginner and advanced students, giving freely of their time, their enthusiasm and their instruction.
Of course, one doesn’t live on goodwill alone and dance studios are notoriously risky businesses. Expensive rent for studio space, competition, and changing dance fads can wreak havoc with the business model. Happily, social dance has never been more popular with shows like So You Think You Can Dance. It helps that Montreal is the tango capital of North America and that interest in tango, the most complicated and wonderful of the social dances (emphasis all mine!) shows no sign of slowing down. Even in a down economy with a lot of competition for students, MonTango has doubled its student number since last year.
The current supportive climate and endless hours working on and in the business have ensured their general trend in revenue is upward. Nonetheless, their dance in business has not been without hiccups. Some near misses have taught them:
April marked MonTango’s one year anniversary. We celebrated by dancing tango to live music by Ensemble Montreal Tango. More than 120 tangueros/ tangeuras joined in the festivities. For MonTango, we, tango aficionados all, are more than clients. We are a community of friends. And what business doesn’t need friends?
So….If life is a tango, will you sit it out or dance?
If dance is your reply, MonTango invites you to try one of their free introductory lessons, from June 22 to 25 at 6 p.m. at 5588A Sherbrooke St. W. (corner Marcil). They will also hold tango dancing at NDG Park (across the street from the studio) every Friday from June 26 to Aug. 28 between 6 and 9 p.m. For info, click here or call 514-486-5588.