Lisburn Dance Academy goes from just 20 dancers in a church hall in 2017 to around 350 weekly dancers at the new studio, thanks to funding success

30th June, 2023
Pictured are Tianna McCabe, William McCulla, Invest NI’s director of corporate finance, Mariona Hawkins, founder and owner of Active Dansa, Dónal Traynor, Ulster Community Finance Ltd chief executive and Olivia Rea

Originally located in a church hall, the dance school moved to a studio later that year to accommodate increasing demand. Funding provided by the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund allowed Active Dansa to relocate to a larger premises on Lisburn’s Chapel Hill in 2022 where they fitted out two professional dance studios.

The Fund is managed by Ulster Community Finance Ltd (UCF) on behalf of Invest Northern Ireland and delivered in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland. UCF is a subsidiary of the social enterprise organisation Community Finance Ireland (previously known as UCIT Ltd). Small businesses, sole traders and partnerships keen to develop their business can avail of loans up to £100,000, while start-up businesses can obtain initial loans of up to £15,000.  Active Dansa was founded by Barcelona native Mariona Hawkins in 2017, with a vision to create a dance school where students could develop their full potential in dance and performing arts.

Ulster Community Finance Ltd chief executive, Dónal Traynor, said: “Mariona has demonstrated incredible entrepreneurship and vision with her business. The implementation of a sound business plan plus using a sustainable growth model, has allowed her to meet the demand for dance and performance tuition in Lisburn and the surrounding local area. The fast and flexible finance that the Northern Ireland Small Business Loan Fund offers, perfectly suited her vision for Active Dansa and it has been encouraging to see her customer base expand.

“Other sectors which have benefitted from the Fund to date include manufacturing and renewable energy. The fund is open to organisations throughout Co Antrim who are interested in learning how financial support of up to £100,000 could further their business ambitions.”

Mariona explained: “Our youngest dancers start at 18 months old with some of our oldest dancers in their eighties and the growing appetite to learn different genres of dance has been incredible.

“The funding and advice we received from Ulster Community Finance for the Chapel Hill Dance studio has allowed us to increase the number and types of classes we can offer. From a group of just 20 dancers in a church hall in 2017, every week we now welcome around 350 regular dancers to the new studio. Alongside this, the extra space has allowed us to add new classes to accommodate the increasing demand and being able to offer classes in a wide variety of dance styles such as Ballet, Acrodance, Jazz, Tap, Commercial, Contemporary as well as growing our Performing Arts department with singing and acting lessons.”

The NI Small Business Loan Fund is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of loan and equity funds.

William McCulla, Invest NI’s director of corporate finance, added: “It’s great to see the NI Small Business Loan Fund continue to assist businesses like Active Dansa to create new jobs in the local area and respond to market demand. I would encourage other local businesses to get in touch with UCF who can support them to realise their growth plans.”

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