Nina Micor from Souris Studio
February 13, 2023
BY Nina Lyhne
Studies Cand.ling.merc. at Aarhus University
Former professional dancer
CEO and founder of Souris Studio (souris means “smile” in French) that offers dance shows and teaching, active breaks at the workplace and mentoring. Nina has also developed the training concept “Strong & Balanced” based on her own experiences of suffering from back pain.
Founded Souris Studio in January 2022
How did the idea of becoming an entrepreneur arise?
After having to give up my professional dancing career due to back pain, I began my Master’s degree program at Aarhus University. Due to all the uncertainty in the world, it feels safe for me to have something to fall back on and have an education and a paper on some of my know-how. Besides my studies, I began working freelance as a dancer, fitness instructor etc. I got all kinds of different smaller jobs at events – and seized all the opportunities I got.
One job was especially a game changer. I was hired by a major construction business to do an 80’s-inspired dance lesson for all their employees. It was a big challenge for me to overcome, but it was a great success, and I had so much fun. And in just one day, I earned what many of my fellow students would earn in two weeks at their regular student jobs. This really whet my appetite for starting my own business and get paid not for the hours of work but for the value of my work.
During the corona lockdown, I also developed my own training concept “Strong & Balanced”. I have always suffered from back pain due to a skewed spine, and in the end, the pain costed me my dancing career. I had to sleep with a spine brace every night for a year and train my back and core intensively to get rid of the pain. Based on that challenge in my life, I created my own training concept – and it has become very popular.
How did you get started with your entrepreneurial journey?
It was the course ”AtLAS – Athletes as Entrepreneurs” that helped me think about all my smaller freelance jobs as a potential business concept. AtLAS is a one-month entrepreneurial course tailor-made for elite athletes. When I started the course, I had no idea for a business – at least that is what I thought. But then I realized that I already had a business with a potential to become a B2B business concept. The course helped me sharpen my business concept and think more of it as a real business. And I actually ended up winning the final local pitch competition. Unfortunately, I couldn’t’ go to the international finals due to an exam – but it gave me a lot of confidence about my business.
Since the AtLAS-course, I have been part of The Kitchen, where I have gotten a lot of help from both my startup advisor and all the other helpful entrepreneurs in the startup hub. We have tested out different projects, done vision boards etc.
What has been the biggest challenge in the process?
My imposter syndrome is one of my biggest issues as an entrepreneur. I always feel like there are others who can do things better than me. Why should I be able to do this best? And there are so many new things you need to learn as an entrepreneur. I am good at all the creative stuff. But the business-related tasks like budgets, taxes etc. – not so much.
Another challenge is combining my business with my studies. That’s a constant balance, and there are rarely enough working hours in a week.
What does a typical workweek look like in relation to combining your startup with your study?
My weeks vary a lot. I hardly ever take any time off, and my holidays are often spend working on different projects.
Luckily, I am very good at learning new stuff quickly, which is something I had to as a professional dancer. My way of working is a bit different than many of my fellow students. I come to all the lectures and take good notes instead of spending many hours on the reading materials. Being a former professional dancer also means that I am really good at doing presentations – even with very little preparation. I know that it is very much about how you appear – you need to look confident.
Besides the studies, I have a study job working with event coordinating which I do about 20 hours a week, then teaching my Strong & Balanced classes and reformer strength classes 3-7 hours a week, and lastly I work freelance with the projects that one day hopefully will be my business. As for now, I sprained my cruciate knee ligament in May and have a year of rehabilitation right now. Therefore, I paused my projects in The Kitchen in a while to focus on my own health as I got a dance contract outside Denmark soon, which I am preparing my knee to be ready for. It takes way to many hours every week to also prosper my business idea.
How do you use your academic skills as an entrepreneur?
I use my academic knowledge about communication, storytelling and branding to tell the story about my company and personal brand.
How do you use your skills as a former athlete?
The shift in identity from being an elite athlete to being a university student has been hard. As a former elite athlete, I have another way of studying and learning new things. I do not really fit into the box of being a university student. But there are many similarities between communication and dancing – dancing is very much about creating and expressing a personal brand.
On the other hand, I also have a lot of skills from my dancing career that I can use both as a student and as an entrepreneur. I have a strong mindset and are used to working hard and disciplined. This helps me a lot when things are tough. It is okay to take a break – but you need to get back up on the horse again. Being very structured and disciplined makes you achieve things quicker, my every day is always planned down to hours.
Where is the startup today, and what are your dreams for the future?
I am at a turning point with my business right now, where I am trying to separate my business concept Souris Studio from all the other smaller jobs like modelling, advertisements etc. that I also get. I keep those in my own name in order to keep a more clearcut business concept for Souris Studio.
At the moment, customers are mostly approaching me, but I am working on doing more canvassing in order to get enough jobs and customers to go full time at some point. Souris Studio is now on social media, and I am also working hard to establish a name through word of mouth.
I dream about creating a personal brand which is big enough to give me other types of creative and professional challenges. For instance, I hope to get the chance of writing a book someday, and I also dream about working as a mentor or coach to help others achieve their full potential being the happiest and best version of themselves through a positive mindset and a healthy life style, as I believe your diet is not only what you eat.
Your best advice for students or athletes who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
Follow your passion and take the leap, even if it feels terrifying. One of my favorite quotes is “No risk – no story”. Try to find your own niche and don’t be afraid of standing out from the typical entrepreneur or student. And remember that one “yes” is worth the hundreds of “noes” you will get along the way.
Another advice is to use your network and other young entrepreneurs for advice and feedback. It is going to be a tough journey, so reach out for help where you can – if you don’t ask for help, no one will give it to you.
My last piece of advice is to find inspiration from podcasts and books with people you look up to, or who have done something similar.