Eve can still vividly remember her first dance recital. She was four years old with a tiara on her head, and she enjoyed being dressed up on stage. Yet when it was her turn to dance, Eve simply stood and looked around. After the show, her mother sat down next to her and said “you looked so pretty out there, I really enjoyed seeing you ready to dance. But do you think next time, maybe you could dance?” Eve said she looked at her mother and said, “Okay. I can do that.”
In the decades since, Eve has taken nearly every opportunity she has to dance. However, what she remembers most strongly from that memory is the ability her mother gave her to exercise her own choice. Eve’s love for dancing came at an early age, as her mother owned a dance studio in Lowell and her parents took Eve and her siblings to every possible dance and theater production. Yet Eve knew she didn’t want to be a professional dancer or own a studio like her mother—she wanted to find her own way to pursue her passion.
The Key to Opportunity
Eve stayed connected to dance by teaching part-time, and selling her students some of the dancewear and supplies they needed from the studio where she taught. She would pick up her products from local suppliers. On one visit to a supplier in Chelmsford, Eve walked into a very busy afternoon. She immediately jumped in to help the owner. The owner noticed, and offered her a job on the spot. The job was a godsend when she was laid off from her corporate job not more than two weeks later. It was then that the owner handed her a key to the store. “She trusted me and that was that,” Eve explained.
In 2004, after managing the store for 10 years, Eve was offered the opportunity to buy it and become the new owner. She named it “Damien’s Dancewear” after her son. The responsibility of owning a store was nerve-wracking. “It was scary for me because I was a single mom, so I had no option to not make it work.” Yet Eve was honored to be given this chance and was up for the challenge. Through the guidance and friendship she had formed with the store’s previous owner, she felt confident to make informed business decisions and succeed. “I like the feel of people shopping in my store. I like interacting with people, I like seeing the children. When the kids come in for the first time, it’s an experience. It’s something they’ll remember.”
Up’s and Down’s and Up’s
While Damien’s Dancewear has had a long following of loyal and satisfied customers, the store recently experienced an unusually low year of sales, and Eve needed some support. “I felt like I was running on a treadmill and I wasn’t catching up. I was starting to feel a little buried with debt,” Eve explained. Eve was referred to Accion by her banker at TD Bank and approved for a loan. “Accion helped me catch up and get back to where I wanted to be.”
Eve shows no signs of stopping or even slowing down. She credits her mother for showing her dance and letting her incorporate it into her life the way it fit best as well as her father for supporting her in having her own business. “This business enabled me to do dance my way. It doesn’t matter what your passion is, you have to love it enough to sell it. I’ve never felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore. Even though there have been times that are struggles, it has always been gratifying.”