Rising Star: Alexandra Cownie’s [Case Study] 6 months marketing in one day

We are very proud to feature our Wonderful Web Radio Rising Star interview. In this segment, we speak with Alexandra Cownie.

Alexandra is a former professional ballerina turned author and successful entrepreneur. She is the founder of International Ballet Workshops: bi-yearly workshops with world-class guest ballet masters. IBW bring professional opportunities to all ballet dancers attending.

She is the author of “How to be a Ballet Dancer”, an information filled book for the teenage dancer. She is also the director of Ballet STARS Tamworth, the first dance school offering professional dance training in this area. Today, Mrs Alexandra is a sought after ballet adjudicator as well as master-class, mindset and classical repertoire teacher throughout Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

 

Transcript of the Interview

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Announcement: Welcome to Rising Stars Radio, where we share the stories of ordinary people taking action to create extraordinary changes in their businesses. They are the true rising stars to watch. Get ready to take notes around no fluff, cutting to the chase, 20 minute interview.

Janet:               Hello, everybody, and welcome to Rising Stars Radio. I’m really excited about today’s interview. I’m interviewing Alexandra Cownie and Alex is the owner of International Ballet Workshops and How to be a Ballet Dancer.

I’m just so excited to share her story with you because if you’ve been thinking all these different excuses on why you can’t get things done, Alex is just going to blow them out of the water for you. It’s so wonderful to have you here, Alex. How are you?

Alexandra:       Good. Thank you, Janet. It’s very nice to be here today.

Janet:               It’s exciting. Now, Alex is such an amazing person. She’s been a performer, professional ballet dancer, and now, she’s actually become an author of the books, How to be a Ballet Dancer. She has become a very successful entrepreneur. She’s the founder of International Ballet Workshops, these bi-yearly workshops with world-class guest ballet masters, and she brings opportunities to even rural areas in Australia that just don’t normally get those opportunities. I know she’ll be telling us a little bit more about how she’s doing that through another company that she’s brought in.

So, Alex, tell us, let’s get started. I’d like to, if you could share with everybody who is listening who is it that you serve and how it is that you serve them. If I can just say before that to everybody that is listening, welcome. It’s so great to have you here. Our intention today is to really help you to get some ideas on what’s possible for you to do in your business, and to give you some actions that you can take away at the end of today and implement immediately into your business.

That’s my challenge to Alex, is to be able to get from her some really, really good tips that meant that she’s been able to create some great success in her business. So, let’s start, Alex. Who is it that you serve and how do you do that?

Alexandra:       All right. Basically, what I do is that I help teenaged ballerinas, so it’s mostly girls, but there’s a few boys, to have the opportunity to train and possibly get scholarship or job even in Europe or America, which is where the work is for ballet dancers, without having to leave Australia.

Because that’s the big issue that I’ve been noticed when I’ve been teaching as a guest teacher around Australia and New Zealand, is that all those dancers they are really well-trained, they are really passionate and I really understand what they are going through because I have gone through the very same process when I was young, but they live 10-hour flights away from anywhere where there is a job for them, pretty much.

They train so hard and actually really there’s a very good level all around, but then they turn 16, 17, 18 and then their families have already invested so much money and time to get their training right, then they have to send them to Europe for auditions. One trip to Europe is not enough and often by that time, the families can’t afford it anymore, so the kids become dance teachers or even just change career altogether.

They really miss out on their dreams and that’s what I’m doing, bringing the opportunities to them at home to help their families, to help the students be inspired and have real-life opportunities to reach their dreams, really.

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Janet:               How do you bring the opportunities to these ballet dancers in Australia?

Alexandra:       I have a lot of contacts in Europe with amazing teachers and choreographers, company directors, thanks to my years as a dancer. For example, at the moment, I approached a ballet master from the Paris Opera Ballet so big, big name of dance. Everyone is so excited. I cover his flight and his accommodation and organize a teaching tour for him in Australia and New Zealand.

So he’s traveling all around doing one to five-day workshops, depending on which city he’s going to, and everyone is invited. Any student is invited so it’s not just in a specific school. Let’s say we do it in Sydney, anyone from the Sydney area. Then by the end of the workshop, this guest teacher offers opportunities to have a foot in the door into a dance company he thinks would be good for that specific dancer …

Janet:               Wow.

Alexandra:       … so that his personal feedback.

He also invites some of them to his international ballet competition in Brussels, in Quebec, in Canada because this competition has company directors and school directors watching so they give scholarships and they give jobs to the dancer by the end of the competition.

What else does he do? And whenever people need he offers personal references and personal support to get into a professional school in Europe or something like this …

Janet:               Wow.

Alexandra:       … because it’s so competitive and it’s so hard that even if it’s just a foot in the door into an professional ballet school overseas, it is an amazing and never seen before opportunity. That’s why we get people like my current guest teacher from the Paris Opera Ballet which is a big name. With 100 or 1000 applicants for a school or a company the competition is almost impossible! If a dancer is referred by a Paris Opera Ballet master, their file is at the top of the list and it’s quite amazing. It’s an amazing opportunity.

Janet:               Wow.

Alexandra:       And we’ve had results. We’ve had a dancer get a job in South Africa, we’ve had a dancer be accepted in pretty much a top school in Switzerland, the top school in the world that happens to be in Switzerland is what I’m trying to say.

Janet:               Wow.

Alexandra:       We’ve had dancer from New Zealand won a category in Canada. She went two months ago so it’s not just fluffy opportunities. It’s actually things that dancers can do. They get real results from this and it all started attending the workshops with us, which is by itself is amazing because when can they train with such high-standard teachers? Just for that, it’s worth it in terms of what they learn and what they get out of the workshops.

Janet:               Absolutely. I love that you’ve seen … because obviously by your gorgeous accent, you’re French and your seen in this professional … even the idea of being a French ballet … even as I said that, Alex, I stood up from my feet and I kind of swirled across, I don’t know if you can hear me, just hearing you …

You have a visual of Janet so that you can see around her office while talking to you, but just that opportunity to see that … unless you’ve actually been in Europe and being there where it is, where all those opportunities are, within Australia, so many of these dancers wouldn’t even really been aware, it would be like pipe train so to be able to see that niche and to be able to fulfill it through your contacts is just brilliant.

Let’s talk now at how this has developed and your marketing of this because this is where people who are listening are going to be able to get some brilliant ideas from you. Number one that I can see here is you do not have to do everything alone. Through what you do, having contacts, simply facilitating other people to be able to learn from those contacts that you’ve got, looking at what strengths you’ve got in your joint venture partnerships can really help you to achieve your goal. I think that’s a really big thing for people who are listening to take from the way that Alex has approached this.

Alex, let’s look at your marketing and programs that you’ve done with me through Wonderful Web Women. What’s the program that you’ve studied and implemented on?

Alexandra:       When I really studied the METV program so the video blog training and I loved it. So when I got the program, I said to my husband, “You watch the kids.” We’ve got two beautiful young children. “You watch the kids for 3 days and I’m doing this. You don’t get a choice.” So I had the time limits and I think most people listening have a time limit, too, and I just stuck to it and I did not procrastinate. Just listen to video, after video take notes, and then I applied it. Two days after that, we organized for babysitting and we went to take six-months’ worth of videos and you can see the videos on How To Be A Ballet Dancer that come in the blog.

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Janet:               Excellent.

Alexandra:       Yeah. What’s been really good about this is that I’ve been able to, more than anything, build up my own confidence because I’ve got a strong accent and sometimes I’ve been feeling I’m not good enough or I’m not … Paris Opera Ballet person, how are people going to believe I’m the read deal and actually know what I’m talking about?

Just by filming the videos, I’ve been feeling more empowered and more deals on that, and I’m like, it’s actually alright. Then slowly I’m starting to get people sending me emails and sending … “Oh, this is actually really good, keep them coming. My daughter is 10 and blah, blah, blah. She’s loving it, she’s learned how to fix her ballet shoe” or whatever. It’s just really nice and it’s really motivating and…

Janet:               Can I just take you back one step?

Alexandra:       Mm-hmm.

Janet:               First of all, I just want to acknowledge what you achieved because you said this so fast, as if, oh, yes, this was just what we did of, first of all, actually I want to just explore that a little bit further. But then, went through the program and hired a dance studio and shot six months of video. You said that really quickly and then we just went on. So I just want to really visit that back for a little minute now. What was the reason why did you want or need to shoot six months of videos?

Alexandra:       I’m very thankful and I knew that if I was to do just one or two videos that would stay at this stages of one or two videos before another two months before I could find the time to do it. Because I just had watched and understood the whole program, it was all very fresh here in my head and I quickly made a list. I only wrote the title of each video because it’s things I know. I don’t need to write a script or anything. It’s all on the top of my head so had …

Janet:               Excellent.

Alexandra:       … headline and sometimes one or two bullet points to keep me on track and that’s it. I knew that if I wanted to do this, I had to just do a big batch; otherwise, it wasn’t going to work and …

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Janet:               You were pregnant at the time, weren’t you, when you were shooting this?

Alexandra:       Yes, I was pregnant. My brain wasn’t very effective.

Janet:               If I can remember, one of the things that you were sharing with me was that the reason why you were going to shoot six months’ worth of videos and the nice part about through the METV program is you actually learn how to do that. It’s not actually impossible to do, so you were able to do that in one day, and to then to be able to see how to set it all up so it automates so you don’t have to then focus on it, was so you’re about to have this second beautiful baby and you knew that you just would not have much time for those first few months when that little one was born.

Alexandra:       Oh, yes, absolutely.

Janet:               Yeah. I just love your story, Alex, because a lot of times, I will find people going, oh, you know, I haven’t got the time to do it, or it takes me so long or I’m worried about my body image or all of those sorts of things. Yet, here you are, a little child at home, very pregnant, knowing that you’re dying to … you’ve hit the wall, you’ve got to get this done and just knocked it out. You’ve got them all done in one go. I haven’t shot six months’ worth of videos. I always do mine in three months, so I just think you’re totally awesome being that organized.

Alexandra:       I didn’t have a choice.

Janet:               Sorry, do go on.

Alexandra:       No, I didn’t have the choice so it was everything on asking situation and I don’t back up. If there’s a little challenge, I’ll just take it on. It’s more fun. It’s a more fun way to live your life.

Janet:               That is such a good attitude. Being pregnant and … so people who are now watching the videos they would be expecting over six months to see, “Oh, is she pregnant? Oh, her belly is getting bigger. Oh, she’s got the baby in her hands,” but because it was six months, what did you do? Did you make it very obvious that you were pregnant? Did you shoot in a way so that people couldn’t see you were pregnant? How did you do it so that there wasn’t that kind of a frozen pregnancy for six months?

Alexandra:       Good question. We shot it probably mid along the way so you couldn’t really share I was pregnant. I knew because I was chubbier than normal on my face and everywhere, but people wouldn’t have known.

The other thing I got someone to … I always get people to advertise on everything I do because then that’s upfront money that fund my project so I never need to put any money upfront in anything I start. I had an advertiser that provided all his dancewear that I could wear on the video. I made sure I pick something very large so you see I wear this stuff that has my arms and it’s very large at the front so it just looks like loose clothes and that’s it. People wouldn’t know I was pregnant on the video.

Janet:               That is excellent. For people who are listening and taking notes, there’s a few things here that I’ve picked up that are really, really applicable for you.

Number one is you do not have to script every single thing out. Exactly as Alex said is because she knew her topic well and I know that you, you know your topic well in whatever your niche is. Because each episode is just one little tiny tip so you don’t have to have labored over every single thing that you got to say, just like Alex did. She wrote down her headings and a few dot points in some spaces.

I challenge you to do that and not get so tied up in having to work out everything beforehand. Because then, as Alex says, it’s just such an exciting way to live your life is to just go for it. Having that attitude of, you know what, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to play at 100%, just go for it, and just let this happen is such a beautiful refreshing way of looking at what you’re doing.

Another important thing here is if you’re going to be shooting them in one big sitting, and largely that you only have to set up your setting once if you’re going to use lighting or whatever you’re going to do, and think about your background. I thought it was really clever for Alex to actually go to a dance studio so that her background reinforced what she does. For a lot of people you don’t need to do that, but think about if you’ve a got a background that’s going to be really suitable.

A really clever thing there, I thought, was your point there, Alex, on using advertisers so have you got advertisements that could advertise on your website and what else can they contribute that means that you’re not going to be up for any money. I think that was a really, really clever point. Thank you for that.

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Alexandra:       You’re welcome. I’ve done it for many things this advertising process of advertising my book. When I wrote my book, I do not want … it’s a publishing fact publishing a book it can get quite expensive so I need to throw about 10,000 dollar, which I did just through advertisers. I just put their ads at the back of the book, on the website, give them the whole package, things that are easy for me to deliver. But then I had money upfront and it cost us nothing to make it, and then advertise on websites and pretty much. Yeah, the workshops I’ve got a sponsor, which is really an advertiser that I co-sponsor because it’s nicer.

Janet:               Right so that’s just language, isn’t it? That’s really good.

Alexandra:       Yes.

Janet:               Look, Alex, you are just such an inspiration and I just love that you started with having your Web TV and really setting your brand there. I love that you went okay, advertising, how can I do this? I’m not going to be adding any expenses, from then to build on and now to have your workshops, to now have your ballet school, I just think it’s such an inspiration. I really do hope people who are listening, some of these things that we’ve talked about, that you’re going to be able to go and take some action this week.

Let’s look at that now, Alex. For people who are listening, what sort of action tips can you recommend for them that’s going to help them to be able to go and take steps forward like you’ve done?

Alexandra:       Yes, sure. Well, the first thing that I’ve learned that I really, really want you to do right now is to take action, even if you’re not fully ready. I never was fully ready. Each of our kid … were you ready before you had them? No, nobody. Same with your business, so just take action and if you make mistakes, it’s okay, because imperfect action really is better than perfect inaction. Something will come up out of every action you do and this has proven to be true with me over and over and over again.

Janet:               That’s brilliant.

Alexandra:       Another thing I do, and I force myself to do it and I love every time I do it, is every day I start my day with the marketing. I don’t check my emails, I don’t do anything else. I just do, alright, how can I get more sales today right now? Is it a phone call, is it an email, is it a text message even, is it a blog post, something that I know will get some results right now. Maybe just even boost the book on Facebook, it’s costing you to set up and I get more sales in straightaway.

Every day I do that and some days when I don’t feel like doing it, but I’m human, I procrastinate at times, it happens. When it comes to midday, I’m like, oh, I haven’t got any sales today, what’s going on, I haven’t done my marketing. I do it, two hours later I’ve got results. It’s something I’d really want you to consider, which is if you don’t do anything, nothing will happen. If you do something, even if it’s small, even if you make 20 dollars, it’s 20 dollars you didn’t have 10 minutes ago. It’s the way you need to think to keep moving, I guess.

Janet:               That’s brilliant advice, yes, so start your day with a marketing activity before you do anything else, before you check your emails, go on Facebook. Do anything. That’s a brilliant, brilliant tip, Alex. Really good.

Alexandra:       Thank you. I guess the last thing I’d really like to share with everyone is when you are in business, there’s things you know and there’s things you don’t know, and the things you don’t know, there’s always a solution to whatever is happening. I’ve got a French background. Things in France work quite differently than here in Australia. I’ve learned the language on the go, so my writing is not as perfect as it could be, like a native Australian. There’s so many things I just don’t understand, don’t know, building a website, all that stuff, but there’s always a solution to anything that happens.

I think that if you just look at the solutions instead of going I’ve got this problem and this thing that’s going to drain you, it’s going to make your life harder because your business is something that’s just never going to end. If you’re committed to this, you shouldn’t expect for things to stop, for problems to stop coming and happening. They will happen and that’s okay. You just have to improve how you think about it. If you focus on, alright, I’ve got this problem, and then the solution to it. Even if I don’t know what it is, I know there’s a solution.

For example, I need 10,000 dollars for my book, I don’t have it, I don’t want to use a selling site, how am I going to do this? There’s a solution. Get advertisers to give me some money and then I can pay for it. That will really make your business more profitable, I think, and you expand your business better there.

 

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Janet:               That is such brilliant advice. You’re an inspiring woman, Alex. I just love those.

Alexandra:       Thank you.

Janet:               Take imperfect action, do your marketing very, very first thing before you do absolutely anything else, every single day, and just accept that there’s always going to be problems and you may not know the solution, but the solution is there, so just get on with it. Such really simple brilliant tips, but, yeah, just love it, really love it.

Before we go, how can people find you, Alex? How can they check out your websites and get in contact with you?

Alexandra:       Sure. Well, for my ballet workshops, it’s on internationalballetworkshops.com and the website is updated so you’ll get a good feel of what’s happening in terms of events and these opportunities I bring to young dancers. For my video blog, it’s on my book website, which is howtobeaballetdancer.com.

Janet:               Excellent. That’s great. Thank you so much for that, and just as an aside, I’m still dancing around the room, you know, the whole time I’ve been talking. I’ve been finding myself … I think it’s because my socks are quite slippery so I’m feeling yeah, dancing and do a pirouette for me, everybody. Any last messages for people before we go?

Alexandra:       Well, I would like to set a mini-challenge to everyone, which is, right now, as you hang up your phone or whatever you’re listening this audio on, I would like you to take action and make a contact through email or phone call or message to someone that will get you some sort of results for your business. Take a small action. Doesn’t have to be huge, doesn’t have to be scary, but do it. Take the small action that will get your results right now, and then you will feel empowered and then you can do it again and again and it will be awesome.

Janet:               Excellent. That’s such a great message to end on. Thank you so much for your time, Alex. Thank you for being the inspiration you are and thank you, everybody, for listening. Thank you for trusting us with your time.

One of the best rewards that you can give, Alex and I, is to give us some feedback and the best feedback is to tell us what you did. When you’re listening to this, you’ll see that the page that we’re on, there’s a place there where you can leave comments. Come back and tell us what it is that you did today, what was the action that you took immediately on the challenge that Alex has set up.

That would be wonderful, wonderful feedback for both of us and both of us will come back and we’ll join the conversation and cheer you on. We would really appreciate that from you. Go forth and just make it happen.

Thank you, again, so much for your time, Alex, and thank you, everybody. Have a brilliant day.

Alexandra:       Thank you, Janet. Bye-bye.

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