New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career, and home. A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies to help better manage the balance of work and family. At NJMOM, we want to highlight these extraordinary women building New Jersey businesses, and learn the secret to their success.
Uptown Dance & Uptown Girl Owner and NJMOMpreneur:
Leslea Clark is the owner of two dance studios, Uptown Dance and Uptown Girl in Belleville, specializing in children’s dance and women’s dance, respectively. Leslea has been dancing since she was two-years-old, and began learning the ins and outs of her mother’s dance business early in life. After her mother retired, she passed down the family business to Leslea to continue teaching children about the art and expression of dance in a non-competitive, nurturing, and fun atmosphere. This year, Uptown’s brand expanded when Leslea opened up a second location, designated especially for women. Her higher education and multiple certifications in a wide variety of fitness areas, including Zumba, Yoga, Spin, and Personal Training, allow her to help women with their fitness goals and expression.
NJMOM had the pleasure of chatting with Leslea about her journey as a professional dancer, lessons she has learned from her parents and teachers along the way, and her favorite things to do in New Jersey with her family.
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Leslea: I have two dance and fitness studios, one for children (Uptown Dance) and one for women (Uptown Girl). My children’s studio is unique because we are one of the few that are strictly recreational. We prefer to teach the children in a nurturing, non-competitive environment. We want the children to feel free in our space and appreciate dance as an outlet and art form rather than a competitive sport. My women’s facility is similar in a way; my goal is to empower women through dance and fitness.
NJMOM: What inspired you to come up with the idea for your business?
Leslea: My mother started our children’s facility 24 years ago when the studio I was attending abruptly closed. My mother happened to be a dance teacher at this facility at the time, and along with another teacher, she decided to give the kids a place where they can finish the season out. As soon as I was of age, I start helping her run the studio and eventually it got passed down to me when she retired three years ago. I just opened up my second studio this year because I wanted to give adults the same welcoming and encouraging atmosphere to assist them in becoming the best versions of themselves through dance and fitness.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Leslea: I love seeing my students and clients transform physically and mentally. Having someone tell you that you inspired them or helped them is by far the best gift.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Leslea: I have been dancing since the age of two. I have an Associates Degree in Dance Arts. I have also danced professionally for several local sports teams, did an off-broadway musical, and two instructional DVDs for children. I have been certified with AFAA since 1999 and have over 15 other fitness certifications such as Zumba, Yoga, Pound, Step, Mat Science, Personal Training, Spinning, and more.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
Leslea: My dance teachers have always been very influential in my life, but I must say my mother has been my biggest influence.
NJMOM: What’s the best piece of advice a role model ever gave to you?
Leslea: My dad taught me everything I ever needed to know about finances, which I’m thankful for. Three phrases really stick out that my mother use to tell me:
- Treat people as you would like to be treated. This, of course, taught me compassion and to be kind to others. I feel this is the reason why I’m always trying to help others.
- Only boring people get bored. This is where I get my so called “hustle.” It taught me to always be busy and productive.
- There will always be someone out there who is better than you. This kept me humble throughout my dance career, even if I won first place in a competition. My mom would congratulate me and encourage me to go practice because there is someone out there who is a bit better than you.
Lastly, something my college ballet instructor use to say and something I now use with my students: “Don’t say you cant, say you havent mastered it yet.” I simply love this and use it in many aspects of my life.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
Leslea: Every line from the poem “Promise Yourself” by Christian D. Larson is quotable. One inspiring excerpt is…
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Leslea: I love the fact that we have seasons. We love the beach, or as we say “going down the shore.” We are most recently loving Ocean Grove, Asbury Park, and the Long Branch area.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Leslea: I’d have to say, bringing them joy. There is nothing better than a child’s happiness and genuine excitement for life. So many areas of motherhood are difficult but it’s truely amazing to know that you have created a life, and when they smile, it just brings everything into perspective.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Leslea: Oh my, I have so many! The 3rd Wave Cafe in Lyndhurst for healthy food and juices. Once Upon a Skirt in Clifton to keep mommy fashionable. Ooka and Aki Sushi restaurants – my entire family enjoys sushi. I enjoy my trips to Massage Envy and The Chiropractic and Physical Therapy Center of NJ to maintain my health and wellness. My go-to for anything is our local Target, of course!
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Leslea: We live in Nutley, New Jersey. I grew up here and my parents still live here in my childhood home. We love to vacation south at the shore points.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Leslea: I like to remind everyone that being a mom is indeed one of the hardest jobs, but in turn also the most rewarding. We all have bad days, and remember, thats okay. We all make mistakes. Learn to forgive yourself. I often find myself repeating the mantra way too often, “this too shall pass.” I have learned that the situation passes quickly, but the way you react to that situation is what leaves an impression. Also, if you have a dream or desire, I say to go for it! The only limitations are the ones we put on ourselves. As women and moms we are really truly powerful; don’t be afraid to link arms. There are so many other wonderful supportive mommies out there! Finally, just stay positive. Your kids feel your energy and the more positive we are, the happier (and I find, well behaved) our children are.