Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Dr. Mallory Quinn. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Alright, Dr. Mallory thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. Let’s kick things off with your mission – what is it and what’s the story behind why it’s your mission?
ABASI Dance Lab is a niche studio that provides a place for dancers that might not otherwise fit in the standard competition dance studio or recreational studio. ABASI Dance Lab is the first branch of the company ABA Sports Innovations which focuses on non coercive and behavioral based training using evidence based teaching methods and procedures from the science of Applied Behavior Analysis. Our studio services include: small group technique classes for all ages and dance styles, specialized private lessons for dancers using the science of ABA to enhance performance, gross motor therapeutic sessions for clients with special needs, and additional behavioral and mental health services for our dancers and parents.
Our classes are technique based and professional, yet our dancers do not “compete.” Rather we focus on creating employable and technique focused dancers with a focus on positive mental health. Our focus is on building confidence and physical and mental strength, highlighting each dancer’s individual journey, rather than comparison with others in the studio and society. We provide supportive mental health services through ABA therapy for dancers with special needs as well as ACT therapy for dancers struggling with anxiety, perfectionism, and/or social challenges. We even offer therapeutic services to our dance moms as well!
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
ABA Sports Innovations was developed in 2016 following a series of my published research studies in graduate school. These studies focused on altering the status quo coercive training in dance classes, to training focused on using behavioral methods, data, feedback, and antecedent manipulations. We found that this behavioral based positive training was equally effective and often, more effective than the standard coercive methods.
Originally, our studio was a hub for competition dancers to receive additional training for preparation to compete. However, with our staff’s background in behavior analysis, as well as a history of being recipients of coercive training and seeing the negative impacts of this, we decided to focus on this new training niche of behavioral and positive coaching in all of our classes and began offering group classes. We often receive talented dancers from other competition studios who did not “fit the mold” for whatever reason, and many who have mental health struggles following pressure to compete, and are looking for a home with great training and teachers, without the pressure to constantly “win”.
We are most proud of our integration of students with special needs who are frequently left out in other settings. We have behavior therapists on staff who assist with inclusivity of dancers with special needs. We are also proud of our dancers placing an emphasis on their mental health as well as their athleticism. We lead by example and our teachers openly speak about body positivity, the therapy we all attend, and by modeling specific praise and feedback and minimizing the use of punishing procedures.
Can you talk to us about how your side-hustle turned into something more.
I began ABA Sports Innovations and ABASI Dance Lab as a side hustle. I worked for multiple small businesses to learn the do’s and don’ts of running a small business and which managers were successful in motivating their staff and which weren’t. As a behavior analyst- I observed. I began as a dance teacher with a traveling ballet barre in my vehicle’s trunk and giving lessons in client’s living rooms as well as my own living room. I have some of those same clients today attending my studio! I rented an older home with a large mirrored wall, and I would push all my furniture out of the way every time I had a session, and yes, I was reported to the Home Owners Association-lol.
Even as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), I made the choice to limit my clientele at a higher paying job to focus on positions which would further my goals and career of opening my own studio some day. These positions included working as a barre and dance teacher, personal trainer, and even sales manager at fitness establishments. My professors and cohort members in graduate school indicated I was “overqualified” for these positions, however they led me to the destination I am at today of being a successful business owner. In addition, these positions provided research sites to conduct my ABA and dance research. The relationships with those in the community I built, led me to be the first graduate of the USF Applied Behavior Analysis Doctoral Program. As a business coach, I encourage my clients to take any position that helps them learn. No position is a waste if it helps you adapt the skills for your business. Keep at it and your side hustle will continue to grow and take over!
Can you share a story from your journey that illustrates your resilience?
Going through the COVID-19 pandemic as an owner of a fitness and dance studio was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. We opened our brick and mortar fitness studio in 2018 and were JUST starting to become very popular with packed classes when the pandemic began.
During COVID, I lost about 80% of my fitness clientele at our fitness studio next door and unimaginable amounts of revenue. In addition, many people were not understanding and always upset despite us working constantly to provide the best service we could, given the limitations placed on us. Personally, I didn’t have anyone to bail me out financially, it was only me and my decisions. It was not an enjoyable time to be a business owner in any way, especially one diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I don’t think I had a full nights sleep in all of 2020, and following, was diagnosed with a chronic autoimmune illness which I truly believe was exacerbated by the stress of being a small business owner during the pandemic.
There is no way our business would have survived without quickly thinking of and generating new revenue streams. At the dance studio, we saw an increased need for mental health services. During and post pandemic we saw many dancers with anxiety, social skills deficits, and depression, which is when I began intensive training in providing ACT therapy to my clientele. ACT therapy stands for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and teaches individuals to unhook from debilitating thoughts, feelings and sensations and make values based decisions to live the type of life they envision for themselves. We pivoted our services to focus on more private lessons and specialized therapeutic services, as well as forms of fitness for clients whom were still attending during the pandemic. For example, our yoga clientele was mainly of senior age, and many stay at home moms, whom were unable to attend during the pandemic due to health concerns and their kid’s unexpected new home school schedules. For an extended period of time we adapted to this by offering heavily cardio based classes such as cycle and bounce. We pivoted our private dance clientele to a heavy focus on yoga and ACT therapy to support our teens with anxiety. I even engaged in creative ways to make up lost revenue and covered rent some months by selling personalized masks from my Circuit machine. As a business owner, you just do what you have to do. No one realizes how hard it is until you are in it. That being said- I cant imagine myself doing anything else!
- Website: www.abasidancelab.com
- Instagram: abasidancelab
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/abasidancelab
Yasiris Torres Photography https://www.yasiristorresphotography.com & Jessica Andrews Photography