You’re never going to feel “ready,” but you have to launch fast and learn fast! I have this perfectionist personality that stems from my days in the competitive ballet world. I love to be overly prepared for everything, but when it came to launching Alljoy, I was pushed by a business advisor to get it out fast. This was much earlier than I had planned or felt comfortable with, but she was absolutely right: Get it out there! Make the mistakes right away, learn right away, and make improvements right away.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily DeLay.
Nothing brings Emily more joy than dancing. At the age of seventeen, Emily started her career as a professional ballet dancer, but the highly competitive, high pressure dance environment quickly proved to be unhealthy for Emily. She pivoted to business school and has most recently founded a new dance fitness organization called Alljoy.club that strives to spread joy globally.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/63f540c38e8e5eb42306d43eb43b328a
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Absolutely! When I was three years old, I told my mom “I wanna be a ballaweena when I grow up!” I’ve always been a goal-oriented individual, even at a young age. I was not your typical high school student. I was laser focused on my dream of becoming a professional dancer and graduated high school in three years to pursue what I knew would be a very short-lived career. About two years into my ballet career, though, I realized my dreams and reality weren’t lining up. My dreams of becoming a professional ballerina were finally real, but the joy dance used to bring me was quickly replaced by anxiety, stress, and pain. Only two years into my career, I remember my parents sitting me down, all three of us crying, and them telling me “It’s okay to stop dancing. You have so much more potential to offer… no one, including us, is going to be upset or disappointed in you for letting go of ballet.” This was it. I knew they were right, and I remember texting my dance friends that night telling them I was not going to be at ballet class in the morning. I told myself I would put ballet on “pause” and explore new things.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain!” I know, it sounds cheesy coming from a dancer, but I always come back to this one. My dance career brought me down some dark paths, at a young age too! I’m so grateful for these experiences though. They quickly taught me that perfection is impossible and when life gets crazy, difficult, or just overwhelming, it can be a beautiful opportunity: an opportunity to rethink, reset, and refocus your energy on something new, something better!
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I first read this question, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Center Stage from 2000. The movie obviously resonates with me because it showcases the dark realities of the ballet world. It ends with the most talented ballerina in the school sitting out the most important performance of her life. She meets her mother in the lobby during the show and confesses that her heart is not in ballet and she is not healthy. This right here is a huge part of why I wanted to create Alljoy. I want Alljoy to spread the joy of dance to all, WITHOUT any of the stress, drama, or negativity that typically goes hand-in-hand with the dance world. You should always dance with your HEART, a joyful one!
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Sure! After graduating from the University of Minnesota, I joined corporate America and landed my first big girl job as a project manager with United Health Group. Huge company, great experience, but not challenging or interesting enough for a girl that came from the crazy performing arts world. About three years into it, I left UHG for a small non-profit, start-up organization. It was 100% the right move because I was challenged in new ways, wearing many new hats, and encouraged to let my creative juices flow.
My day job was keeping me plenty busy, but there was still something missing in my life… dance! Of course, I didn’t miss the pressure or drama that came with the dance world, but the joy dance used to bring me… I sure missed that! Luckily, I stumbled upon Zumba classes and was instantly hooked. Soon after, I was hired as a group fitness instructor at Lifetime Fitness and my life was forever changed. Dance, fitness, community, and JOY; it was everything I wanted (and needed) and more. This became my new side gig and my new PASSION.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
As I explained earlier, dance fitness is my passion. It is a crucial part of my everyday happiness and balance. When the gyms closed as a result of the pandemic, I was devastated. My “people” and my source of joy were suddenly gone. I felt deflated and unmotivated. About a week into the pandemic, many of my fitness followers were messaging me begging for virtual classes. My immediate response was “No way… it is incomparable to the in-person experience and I won’t waste my time.” However, when I realized the pandemic was not going away any time soon, I caved and decided to experiment with teaching through my iPhone.
Don’t get me started on all of the tech challenges I faced, but all in all, it was well worth it. While experimenting with these virtual classes, I realized I could now reach people well beyond the four walls of a studio and I could help spread JOY during a dark, difficult time. This inspired me to take this concept one step further. I began writing a business plan for what has now become Alljoy.club: A global community that chooses joy. Alljoy offers a digital platform of JOY-filled workouts and inspires its members to prioritize things that bring them joy. While many fitness brands focus on weight loss and physical fitness, Alljoy focuses on building a community of JOY.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
A few weeks into the pandemic, I began offering free virtual classes. Some of my friends that couldn’t afford Lifetime Fitness memberships were now able to take my class for the first time! One of my dear friends who moved to India was now able to take my class again. We were separated in a physical sense, but now we could all come together, dance together, and spread joy together. I remember feeling all giddy inside as I watched my Facebook group with my online followers grow exponentially each day. People were craving movement, community, and joy! Virtual dance fitness classes were the perfect solution. This “Aha moment” inspired me to think more creatively and seriously about taking my virtual fitness classes to the next level.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Amazing. Crazy. Fun. Difficult. Challenging. All of the above! Overall, I am incredibly pleased with what we have accomplished in very little time. I am the type of person that is always striving for MORE, but when I stop myself and reflect for a moment, I sincerely feel proud of myself and my team. We built a business plan and launched it in just a few months’ time. The day we launched, people signed up and we are still growing. More importantly though, we are accomplishing what we set out to do: to spread joy.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Yes! I met Nes Rotstein about 4 years ago. He came to the first class I ever taught at Lifetime Fitness. I think there were four people total in class. Nobody knew me. Nobody likes the “new” instructors at the club, but Nes gave me a chance. I remember him coming up to me after class and complimenting me on my teaching and dancing abilities. He also asked me about my life outside of the studio and we instantly connected. After that day, Nes became more than a “regular” to my dance jam class; He became my friend and my mentor. Little did I know he would help me start my first business four years later. Nes is now the Co-Founder and COO of Alljoy. He believed in me from day one and I’m eternally grateful. I could not ask for a better business partner.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
I was in the studio warming up before a video shoot. A six-year-old boy comes up to me five minutes before we were about to begin filming and asks me what I was doing. I said, “I am going to film a dance video, do you want to be in it?!” Without any hesitation, the little boy says, “Yeah!” He jumps in behind me and when I introduce him on camera, he takes a bow! Of course, he showed up all of the adults in the video. Children bring us joy, but watching children dance is next level joy! My heart was bursting that entire 30-minute class. This marked the beginning of Alljoy for kids (coming soon), and reinforced my theory that dance (and joy) cut across lines of age, gender, religious views, etc. Dance is a universal language, and it brings joy to many!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1 . You’re never going to feel “ready,” but you have to launch fast and learn fast!
I have this perfectionist personality that stems from my days in the competitive ballet world. I love to be overly prepared for everything, but when it came to launching Alljoy, I was pushed by a business advisor to get it out fast. This was much earlier than I had planned or felt comfortable with, but she was absolutely right: Get it out there! Make the mistakes right away, learn right away, and make improvements right away.
2. Some people will be haters. Don’t let it take you down!
I thought when I was building a joy club, everyone would get behind it. Who doesn’t believe in spreading joy?! Especially during a global pandemic? Well, I was wrong! There will always be people who hate on your ideas or marketing or vision, but you cannot let it drag you down. Do not take things personally. Listen to others with an open mind and heart always but take some of that negative feedback with a grain of salt. Keep your chin up, keep smiling, and keep kicking butt!
3. Always keep your snack cupboard stocked!
If you are really passionate about what you are doing, you will likely let it consume your life. I sure have! Cooking can take too much time away from your focus, so keep your snack cupboard stocked for your late-night work sessions! I’m only 27 years old, and my friends stopped inviting me to things a long time ago. Suddenly, you’ll realize you’re home alone on a Friday night. A feeling of loneliness may pass over. Just know you’re absolutely not alone and your friends who really care about you will admire you and support you through it all.
4. Don’t be shy! BE BOLD!
I’m actually a very shy person. I come to life when I dance, so people who meet me in the studio think I’m this big extrovert, but I’m definitely not. However, when it comes to getting yourself out there, your brand and your business… you cannot be shy! Especially if you are using social media for marketing, it’s crucial to have bold, engaging, relatable content for viewers.
5. Data is your new best friend!
Data is everything these days! Every post you make on social media, every email you send, every click on your website is important. This is one thing I wish I would have spent more time on right off the bat. The data is almost always right and tells you what you should be focusing your time on.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Easy! I stay away from the news (as much as possible) and have been putting all of my time and energy into building Alljoy! Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have moments of anxiety and frustration with all of the ramifications of the pandemic, but my main source of joy throughout all of this has been dancing and building my Alljoy community! Endorphins really help too! If I am having a sulky day, I will turn on a workout video (yes, I even do my own workout videos) and get my blood pumping. I instantly feel better. Oh, and sugar… I love my sweets! Occasional excursions to Starbucks for a white chocolate peppermint mocha also spark some joy!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
We are trying to create a movement with Alljoy! We want our members to prioritize joy in their life and build a global community that chooses joy through dance, fitness, parties, travel and more. Who doesn’t want or need more joy in their life?
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
The first person that comes to mind is Kathryn Morgan, former soloist with New York City Ballet. I follow her like a hawk on Instagram and she is just so inspiring and beautiful to me (inside and out). Obviously, she understands the dark side of the ballet world, but she does not sit and sulk about it. Kathryn opens up about the challenges, frustrations, and pain she has experienced with her career as a ballet dancer and how she has coped. I can relate to many of the issues she speaks on, and I’m constantly inspired by her courage to speak up and be a role model for other dancers or performing artists.
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Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!