Growing Through Arts® Retailer: Ballet Hawaii

Ballet Hawaii boutique Lesley Young, school and volunteer coordinator at Ballet Hawaii, is very proud of what her school has been able to accomplish since it was founded 38 years ago.

Considered one of the premiere dance academies in Hawaii, the school has more than 500 students at three locations. Each year, students have a chance to perform in the annual production of the Nutcracker as well as a story ballet in the summer, both led by professional dancers from world-renown companies such as the New York City Ballet, the Washington Ballet and Carolina Ballet.

In addition, the school brings in celebrated professional companies such as the Martha Graham Dance Company, Pilobus, and Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago to perform for the community.

Of course, doing all of that as a non-profit organization takes a lot of money. They have to fly in the professional dancers, pay for their rental cars, bring in the sets and costumes from dance companies throughout the United States, pay the expensive rents in Hawaii, and more.

“We’re always saying prayers that we break even,” she says.

That’s why Young was excited when she came up with the idea of selling the Growing Through Arts® storybooks to raise money for her school.

“I really enjoy the books myself,” Young says. “They’re not fussy and they’re easy to read and the illustrations are really nice.”

For the past two years, Young has had parent volunteers sell the Nutcracker Ballet by Aleksandra® storybooks in the lobby during their annual Nutcracker performances. “We do extremely well,” she says.

Young says figuring out a good way to display the books is important in generating a lot of sales. To help showcase the books, she wheels four large display cabinets into the lobby and puts a few copies of the books up on an easel for easier viewing.

This summer, Young expanded her inventory to also sell the Cinderella Ballet by Aleksandra® storybook during the company’s summer production of Cinderella. She says the books are helpful because they teach children about the story of the Cinderella ballet rather than the Disney movie.

Of course, performances aren’t the only time Young sells the Growing Through Arts® books. She also sells them year-round in the Ballet Hawaii’s on-site ballet boutique, which carries a wide variety of tights, shoes, leotards, hair accessories, stuffed animals and ballet-themed gifts. Plus, she also markets the books to students and parents during Nutcracker auditions in September. “There are a lot of new students who don’t know anything about the Nutcracker,” she says. “[The Growing Through Arts® books are] really great because they’re a real learning tool for them.”

Profits from the sale of the books not only support the school, but also help underwrite the outreach programs that Ballet Hawaii offers such as free performances for underprivileged children, military children who have a deployed parent, or children who are part of the Child Welfare Services.

“We’re pretty proud of what we do over here,” Young says. “Selling merchandise helps out a lot.”