Stacy Tuschl was an 18-year-old dancer just trying to stay connected with the activity she loved as a child when she started teaching dance – for free – in her parents’ backyard.
She continued this hobby for three years, while also earning her business marketing degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and tending bar to pay for groceries. Then in 2005, at age 21, Stacy started her own dance and music studio.
“I incorporated, rented space, and threw myself into my entrepreneurial dream, full force,” she said.
Tuschl, a longtime U.S. Bank customer, has been named the 2019 Small Business Person of the Year in Wisconsin, an award given annually to one business in the state by the U.S. Small Business Administration leading up to National Small Business Week.
The sweat that Tuschl put into creating her business is familiar to most entrepreneurs.
“I was everything. I was the girl answering the phones. I was the dance teacher. I was cleaning toilets. There was nothing that I was too good for. My parents and grandparents taught me that if you want to be successful, you’ve gotta get your hands dirty.”
To help realize her dream, Tuschl borrowed some money from her parents and relied on the support of her husband Kent, who works as a police officer.
“We kept growing. I told him I promise you this is going to work out,” she recalled. “The first year we were married, he supported us while I was not making a profit.”
The Academy of Performing Arts now has 50 employees and two locations, a 9,000-square-foot facility in Oak Creek and a 7,200-square-foot studio in nearby Franklin. U.S. Bank arranged financing for both, through SBA 7(a) loans. In the studios more than 1,000 families participate weekly in ballet, jazz, tap, hip hop or poms classes or take lessons for voice, piano, guitar or violin. Together they generate more than $1 million in annual revenue, are profitable and growing.
Things are running so well, in fact, Tuschl has been able to follow another dream – helping other entrepreneurs navigate through the hurdles of life and business.
She coaches small business owners both in-person and at multi-day conferences she has put on in Milwaukee. She also wrote a book, “Is Your Business Worth Saving?,” and for the past three years has produced a podcast, called She’s Building Her Empire, that has more than 350,000 downloads.
U.S. Bank Business Banking Client Manager Kate Haugom has worked with Tuschl for almost a decade and isn’t at all surprised by the success of her studio or consulting business.
Tuschl understands the importance of empowering her staff and creating a positive environment, Haugom said.
She is also very focused, Haugom said, adding, “Everything she does, has a purpose.”
Haugom introduced Tuschl to Joshua McCann, an SBA Business Development Officer at U.S. Bank. McCann, who helped arrange SBA loans for each of the buildings, nominated her for the SBA award.
Tuschl said her affection for both bankers runs deep.
“[Kate and Josh] really feel like people I can go to and ask questions and turn to for support,” Tuschl said. “I just feel like they’ve been such an instrumental part of my business and I can’t imagine going through all this without them.”
The most rewarding part of having a small business is seeing the impact the studio has had on the community, she said.
“They truly aren’t just customers. I’ve attended graduations and weddings and baby showers of students and former students. That’s pretty amazing. We are a close community.”
She also puts in the hard work to be a good role model for her daughters, Tanner (6) and Teagan (3).
In her work as a business coach she’s come to realize that many other women entrepreneurs have similar missions.
“We know that we're not just here to raise a business, we're raising a family at the same time,” Tuschl said. “We want to work, but also want to be amazing moms and wives.”
For more tips and resources about small business ownership, visit U.S. Bank Financial IQ.