“Blending Priorities” is how stacey says she manages to do so much.With a growing business, three young children, and many entrepreneurial pursuits in tow, stacey is a woman who’s long overdue for a spotlight in focus …
You’re a local Wauchope girl. Tell us about where you grew up and when you got involved in dance and performance?
I was one of the lucky ones. I learnt dance from a young age under the expert tuition of Francessca O’Donnell, who I am now honoured to call my friend and colleague.
The love of dance that she instilled in me has taken me all over the world. Firstly, as a professional dancer, then choreographer and now teacher. I have danced in musicals and magic shows, taught at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and in the early 2000s I ran a national education program for dance, educating over 20,000 young people over the span of four years.
Somewhere in the middle of all of that, I gained my Bachelor of Education in Dance and Bachelor of Creative Industries and studied my Masters in Education majoring in Dance Education at Deakin University. I spent a good number of years working on breakfast radio, a job I loved and was devastated to give up, though I enjoy sleeping in now! I’ve lectured at universities, spoken at conferences and choreographed for dance companies in New Zealand and New York, but the most rewarding journey has been the creation and growth of Port Macquarie Performing Arts.
How and when did you form PMPA?
Port Macquarie Performing Arts was born from my desire to empower the next generation of young people from this area. Our dance studio in Wauchope gave me so much stability and confidence when I was younger, and now it’s my turn to pay it forward to the next generation.
PMPA opened in 2011. While initially we promoted ourselves as a “boutique ballet school”, my plans of running just three babies’ ballet classes per week out of our garage quickly turned into something that was far from boutique. When 73 kids turned up on our first Open Day, we kicked into overdrive – and haven’t stopped since.
There are so many local dancers now teaching at your school; it must be heart-warming that you are all growing this business together.
We are family. A unique, passionate and lifelong dance family. Almost every member of our faculty was either taught by Miss Francessca or me, sometimes both. We learned from her the importance of integrity, hard work and most importantly, loyalty. And this is what we pass on to the next generation of dancers coming through Port Macquarie Performing Arts. At PMPA, we describe our dancers, our dance parents and clients as our dance family, and although that phrase now seems to be overused, for us it really rings true.
The ultimate joy for me comes when people I danced with when I was young, bring their little ones in for classes. Or, when past graduates get back here from travelling the world, call and tell me they are ready to come home.
We very rarely have to advertise for new teachers; we grow them ourselves, send them out into the world and when they are ready, they come home to inspire the next generation. How cool is that!
PMPA and yourself have won some notable awards, including reaching the state level in the NSW Business Awards. Can you give us some more information about that?
Entering business awards, no matter at what level, gives my team and I the opportunity to analyse every aspect of our business. This helps us improve on the experience we give our dance families every day. Locally, over the past few years, we have taken out the Embracing Technology Award and the Excellence in Innovation Award twice. I won the Young Entrepreneur of the Year three years running, won at the regional level and then got to go to the state awards at Luna Park.
Last year I won locally and regionally for Outstanding Business Leader and went to state again (and bought a new dress!) We try to enter as many awards as we can. The learnings that come from the hours and hours of writing and re-writing those submissions make it so rewarding when they call your name out on the big night!
What drives your passion to make PMPA a cutting edge school for young performers?
The kids we teach. Whether they want to be ballerina or a marine biologist, if they love to dance, then we have a class for them. And whilst our graduates have gone on to perform all around the world, forging incredible careers dancing professionally, we understand that not all of our students will want to take on dance as a career. So, we make our classes about having fun, making new friends, building self-confidence and learning new skills.
We also differentiate ourselves in a very crowded market by providing our dancers with #exceptionalopportunities. We take our dancers on tour, both nationally and internationally, performing with professional companies and hosting workshops and masterclasses with the industry’s best choreographers. We are always going above and beyond to make incredible memories for our dancers that last a lifetime.
OK, so we’ve covered the dance school, but you have some other passion projects. We talked to you and Jane Hillsdon last year about the “Miss Bossy Boots” Podcast. Can you give us a quick refresh of what you are doing there?
The Miss Bossy Boots podcast is all about keeping it real for women in business. Each of our episodes is driven by a desire to help other women (and men) tackle the often-conflicting commitments that business, family, physical and mental health and life in general can present us with.
We are steaming towards 100 episodes and with over 10,000 downloads in over 15 different countries. Miss Bossy Boots fulfils Jane’s and my passion for education and sharing our learnings with other like-minded business owners. You can download Miss Bossy Boots Podcast by searching for it in Apple Podcasts or on Spotify.
You have three beautiful children, a husband, dog and family. How do you fit it all in?
I love that you included the dog, Benny – we love Benny! Yes, I certainly am raising a family, along with raising my business. Heath and I have been married 10 years next year, and he is a Partner Optometrist at Specsavers Settlement City. This sparks many entrepreneurial conversations at our dinner table. Lucinda has just started big school, Patrick is finding his feet on the basketball court and at Sprockets (which he LOVES) and Henry has just turned one!
I try not to use the word balance, but instead try to blend all of my priorities by scheduling in time to focus on each of them throughout the week. I have “Mum days”, where I just focus on the kids, their lunches, pickups, puzzles on the floor and making tall towers out of blocks. Then I have “work days”, where they are all occupied with Grandma and Grandpa or Nanny Marg and I can go to work and focus on being present with my dancers. I am lucky to have an incredible support network around me.
I try where possible to be very specific about whether I have my Mum hat on, or my Miss Stacey hat on. That has taken a lot of practice; I don’t get it right all of the time, but I work hard on it every day.
We’ve seen you have created the “NotsoTogether” mum Instagram account … is this just for laughs and to help keep it real?
Yeah, it’s just for fun really. I am anything but together at any given moment of the day. I think that term “together” brings with it so much pressure that we as women and/or mothers put on ourselves. By making fun of it, I am giving myself permission to be not so together and cool with it. Follow me at @notsotogethermum
What are three things you are excited about right now?
There is always something exciting happening at PMPA. Rehearsals are about to start for our third America tour in 2020. We also have our Junior Performance Program Dance Camp coming up, rehearsals for our Gala Night at the Ballet performances in August and the launch of our Girls Geared for Greatness program.
Girls Geared for Greatness (it’s for boys too; I just loved this name) is a holistic education program that we have started for our dancers this year.
We are incorporating sessions that dancers can share with their mums into our curriculum. These sessions, run by health professionals, will focus on protecting yourself online, building self-worth, bullying prevention and goal setting.
Personally, this month I am headed to San Diego for Social Media Marketing World, which is a massive three day conference. We are also heading on a family holiday to Japan to visit one of our teachers, Mr Kye, who is currently appearing as Peter Pan at Tokyo Disneyland.
I am now halfway through my Invisalign journey (yippee), so thanks to the amazing team at Port Macquarie Orthodontics, I am finally going to have straight teeth – now, that’s something to get excited about!
What’s next for Stacey Morgan?
With the launch of my media network, Morgan Media, last year, I am now busy curating content for the podcasts we produce and represent, along with my own. Miss Bossy Boots and Ask a Dancer have both been going for over two years, but next month we launch a podcast that I am co-hosting with a big time superstar (in the dance world) called the DanceLife Podcast. So, life is very busy preparing for that.
The Gala Night at the Ballet is a massive event that we are producing in August at the Glasshouse. Our PMPA dancers are going to perform alongside artists from The Australian Ballet, the West Australian Ballet, the Queensland Ballet and the Melbourne City Ballet in a glittering spectacle of dance, right here in Port Macquarie. It will feature the re-staging of my very first choreographic work, Armistice on the 20th anniversary of its premiere. That will be a very special, full circle moment for me.
And of course, spending as much time with my kids, Heath (and Benny) as possible and making the most of this incredible place we are blessed to live. It doesn’t get much better than that!