The L.A.-based studio will expand to 27 cities by the end of 2016.
Class at Millennium in L.A. Courtesy Millennium Dance Complex.
Dancers who wish they could spend more time (or any time!) at Millennium Dance Complex are in luck. The North Hollywood–based studio for commercial dancers is expanding across the country, and around the world. Millennium Dance Franchising LLC, a new company Millennium Dance Complex co-owners Robert Baker and Ann Marie Hudson formed with business executive David Kingsdale, has opened franchised locations in seven U.S. cities and Tokyo over the last two years. Another 18 are planned for 2016—Malaysia, China, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Toronto are among them, as well as more U.S. cities. “Now anyone can learn to dance through Millennium with the latest moves from some of the best choreographers in the world,” says Baker.
Millennium has been offering jazz, hip-hop, ballet, tap and contemporary dance instruction since it opened in 1999. Regulars know they may rub shoulders with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Pink, Usher or Britney Spears. But how does this well-known brand translate to far-flung locations? The 700-page operating manual for franchisees certainly helps: It outlines everything from business details to dance class syllabi. There is also training at headquarters for franchise owners, their chief employees and at least one choreographer per location.
Still, quality control and finding franchisees who will be true to the brand is the biggest challenge, according to Baker. “It’s been a steep learning curve. It’s not like Subway, where there are technical specs for the food. It’s trickier,” he says. “And we know that quality control is a vital part of being successful when you franchise.” They plan to add staff specifically focused on those on-the-ground quality standards.
What about the famous choreographers who teach master classes at Millennium? There’s a place for them at the franchises, too. Choreographers sometimes give workshops when they’re on tour: For example, when Ariana Grande went to Tokyo with Brian and Scott Nicholson, they spent time at the Tokyo Millennium. While it’s up to the franchisees to be proactive about spotting these opportunities, Millennium can help facilitate them, with contacts and marketing help. Ideally, says Baker, “this will be an economic engine for choreographers and franchise owners. I can see down the road a choreographer going on a tour of 30 or 40 franchises.”
Like gyms and fitness studios that have taken the franchise route (think Planet Fitness), there’s a big potential upside for Millennium in the dance market. Franchising is a lower-cost route to expansion for the flagship business, with franchise owners taking on the capital outlay and day-to-day responsibility for new locations. They, in turn, get the benefit of a proven brand and business model to give their studio star power. Win-win.