We recently connected with Katie Wilcox and have shared our conversation below.
Katie, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Folks often look at a successful business and imagine it was an overnight success, but from what we’ve seen this is often far from the truth. We’d love to hear your scaling up story – walk us through how you grew over time – what were some of the big things you had to do to grow and what was that scaling up journey like?
PDT was established in 2005 by myself. Katie Wilcox, Ms. Terri Bruno & Ms. Sharon Godsave as The Plano Dance Theatre (PDT). We started very small in studio location in Plano. The three of us were handling every job from teaching and directing to marketing, accounting and janitorial tasks. We put on several productions, ran the studio and slowly grew over the course of the first few years.
In 2012, PDT adopted Ms. Mary Barnett, (who began as one of our students,) Mr. Larry Luna and Mr. Greg Griffin as co-owners to build our family and aid in growth of PDT. We moved from our first location in Plano to our current Allen location and renamed our business, “PDT Dance Arts.” Each owner contributes their time and individual talents that contribute to the well oiled machine that is our business. We have a strong bond & mutual respect for one another and the contributions each owner provides to make the business the best it can be. Facing adversity together as a tight knit team makes problem solving far less challenging. Sharing the hats of running the business makes business production run smoothly. This is the key to our success as a business.
Over time we hired instructors to aid in the growth and education of the students. Most of the instructors we have now were raised with PDT, trained with us and have become industry professionals. They hold our expectations of excellence for both technique and core values in education for our students. Our instructors continue their education and professional careers while passing along their priceless knowledge & talents to our students. They take the time to get to know our students and share with them their love & passion for the arts.
In 2018 we decided to expand so we opened our second location in Prosper. Like our first location, it took time to grow our second location, however, because we already had a well working business set up, we were able to implement all we had learned through our first location to help our second location thrive with a bit more ease. We run the business as one, so even though students study at different locations, they are often brought together as one team, and one “PDT Family”. Students on the competition team are blended so when our company attends competition we compete as one team. For our Nutcracker and other holiday performances, we perform as one as well. This aids in camaraderie and sense of belonging for all of our students which is appreciated by all. Our instructors teach at both locations, so all of our students are able to experience the same expertise they have to offer. We now have two successful locations that create one big happy family.
Over the last 16 years, PDT has been home to thousands of students, young and old. Students have grown and flourished through our programs, both recreationally and competitively. PDT graduates have gone on to colleges & careers, both in the arts and otherwise with great success we could not be more proud of. Thanks to the hard working, wonderful people that make up PDT, are able to provide our dance families with the very best in education, excellent customer service and a positive atmosphere for all.
Katie, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
My name is Katie Wilcox, I began my dance education at the age of 2. As the daughter of a dancer and dance studio owner, I grew up in the studio taking any classes available to my ability. I attended my first competition at the age of 6 brining home awards both regionally and nationally for for talent and performance through out my youth. At 12 years old, I began traveling to a variety of prestigious schools around the country to expand my education. I attended Ballet Chicago, Ruth Page Foundation School of Ballet, Gus Giordano Dance Center, Lou Conte Dance Center, Joffrey Ballet New York and Ballet Magnificat, to name a few. I performed several leading roles in productions, including the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen in the Nutcracker. Upon high school graduation, I moved to Chicago IL, where I attended Columbia College. I earned my BFA and continued my dance training through out the city, studying with company members of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ballet Chicago and Gus Giordano. Due to a back injury, I had to set my performance career aside, where I discovered my true love of choreography and teaching. I taught at several schools in the Chicagoland area before relocating here to Plano in 2005 to open The Plano Dance Theatre, (Now PDT Dance Arts).
Since my teaching career began, I have won countless awards for teaching and choreography. More importantly, myself and the other PDT staff members have raised many students in the arts that have won countless awards themselves for their outstanding work & technique. Many have gone on to colleges & careers in the performing arts with scholarships and accolades for their excellence. I am also an adjudicator for national talent competitions, sharing my knowledge with students across America. I also do freelance choreography for the Plano East Senior High School show choir and corporate performances in my spare time. I maintain personal relationships with many of the students that have grown through PDT and I find my purpose in positively effecting the lives of young students.
My primary focus is to ensure that all students know they have a place on the stage, that each child can learn self expression through the arts and that through dance they have a voice. My passion is to help young students grow, gain healthy self worth and learn life lessons to carry them fully and successfully throughout their lives.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
One Word: COVID-19. When adversity strikes, the PDT staff is ready to tackle. When many other like businesses were closing down, we were ramping up. We recorded classes and posted them online, we got two zoom accounts and created a schedule in record time. We kept all of our classes going and found solutions to every problem the COVID lock-downs presented us. We made sure we were still able to provide our clients with the education they deserved, and we kept connected to our students so they knew that even though they were apart, we were all still together.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
The biggest pivot we have faced was opening our second location. Our second location opened a new world of possibilities for our company, and expanded our client base, providing new relationships and community. Everything we were doing, we just did it times two. It increased the workload, but it also increased the reward!
Photography credit: Grady May