Feb 03, 2024
Isabella Johns, an alumna of the 2021 cohort of GT Startup Launch, is a junior studying business administration, with a concentration in marketing, at Georgia Tech. From the age of 2, she’s danced ballet, and she began ballroom dancing at 16, which led her to founding her own dance instruction company, Danse L'Amour. Her Instagram account, firstdancecoaching, has almost 160,000 followers. We talked with Johns to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.
What made you pursue entrepreneurship?
I started to sort of see where there were some holes in the dancing industry. Customers were not necessarily being taken care of. I really wanted to figure out how to help this situation.
How would you describe your experience in GT Startup Launch?
It was spectacular. I was put into a batch with nine other companies that were also very creative. When we would do our updates, it was nice to be with other very artistic-minded people, have that community to hold each other accountable, and talk about our progress and our goals. The community has been so supportive, and there was an incredible support system with legal, accounting, and all of these things.
I also was connected to my business mentor, Don Oates, who has been an absolute game changer for me. He has become like a built-in best friend. He's so generous with his time, and he's really helped me ask the hard questions and make pivots when necessary.
How did you balance school and your startup at the same time?
This was during COVID. I really struggled in October of 2021. I was in my first in-person semester. I had been doing college completely online up to this point, and I had just gone through CREATE-X, wearing all the hats. I was not in a point where I could delegate. I was everything and also trying to have a social life, trying to stay close with my family, trying to exercise, all of that.
I think you start to see how easy things begin slipping.
A customer's mad because you didn't email them back fast enough. If I'm in school, sitting in a classroom, I can't be emailing customers. But, if I'm admin, CEO, and all those things, you start to become responsible for a staff, you start to become responsible to customers. You're also still responsible to your classmates for group projects. I would let my group project mates down. I realized this is starting to affect other people, not just me.
Five days before my birthday, I had to have an emergency appendectomy and then had two weeks after for recovery.
When I tried to get back into the swing of things, I couldn't; it was too much. I ended up failing classes that semester. I was having a really hard time. It felt like I had to just take a mountain of a burden off, and I had to figure out how to put it back on. It was a wakeup call for me.
I'm sure it might be a little bit different for me, compared to people who have co-founders where you can split the burden a little bit, but for me, it was overbearing. I had to learn to like triage, prioritize, and some things just had to get cut at the end of the day.
Because of my entrepreneurship passion, I decided to go part-time with school. I'm glad that I did because that gave me the balance that I needed.
What has entrepreneurship given you?
It has given me purpose. It has given me passion. It has given me freedom, immense freedom. It has given me a lot of character development and a lot of hard lessons learned. It has given me a community of people who are like-minded and entrepreneurial. It has also given me a community of people who rally behind what I also care about, which has been amazing. For example, my staff of seven women are the most amazing, powerful, creative, strong, interesting ladies I've ever met, and they inspire me every day. Entrepreneurship gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done and will ever continue to do. Maybe a few stomachaches or headaches too.
What book, podcast, or other resources would you recommend to students interested in entrepreneurship?
Alex and Leila Hormozi. They are the most amazing power couple and individuals who give you tough love. They're all about tough love. They have their short clips on Instagram. They have their Twitter and their Threads that they post to.
They have YouTube videos; they have podcasts; and, they have books.
I know one is $100 Million Leads. They are constantly on my feed and are an inspiration. Tough love is really, really needed as an entrepreneur. It's very motivating.
Receive mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs as a part of your GT Startup Launch experience. Applications for the 12-week summer accelerator program are open now. Apply for GT Startup Launch by March 19 and join our rich entrepreneurial network!