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Name: Isolde Kanikani

Business: Iwi Studios

Location: Utrecht, Netherlands

Industry: Professional Services 

Reason for starting? I became a professional Argentine tango dancer at 16 and set up the original form of my business to enable myself to explore this path. Cielito has continually been changing in form to suit my needs as a dancer but also as an entrepreneur. Everything from constant touring for 6 years to a project studio in Plymouth, UK. A Tango dance company of non-professional dancers, organization of festivals and finally the move to a new clarified set of goals, name and branding.

Iwi Studios was created to offer affordable space to small businesses and individuals doing great things. Each of our spaces is designed to suit different business needs be it an office, a cafe, a social place or dance studio. Aiming to facilitate a community of business owners and individuals coming together to create more than we can apart. Business has always been about learning for myself personally and connecting people through growth and collaboration.

Related: Listen to our podcast with Hera Hub co-working space founder, Felena Hanson, here.

How do you define success? My idea of success has changed with time. In the beginning it was to have enough work and to grow my reputation. Two years into my dance career and business I had a full agenda. At first it was about choosing what I wanted to offer, successfully taking my clients with me and importantly charging enough for the quality product I was delivering. This is still a theme as I love to help people but there is a fine line between enabling someone to be dependent on you and facilitating independence.

With Iwi studios my goals for success are financial stability to the point that profits can further our aims and community building. The creation of a close knit group of people learning, collaborating and doing business together in a great center close to the heart of Utrecht. Lastly and very important for me is that the business gets legs to walk on and doesn’t feed off my energy continually. I think this healthy too.

Biggest success: It’s hard to choose. There have been many big successes and big mess ups that hopefully I have learned from. My biggest successes has been the growth of my touring program that took me across the world performing and teaching Argentine tango. My other biggest success has been the start of Iwi studios and its continual growth, even though we have had some pitfalls along the way. We have reached the point of growth rather than simply trying to exist which gives us a lot of confidence and feels amazing. But there is always the continual learning curve if you are active and so now there is a whole new set of things to learn which I embrace with a little trepidation and a mountain of drive.

What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? These two challenges come together for me. The business has always relied on my input whether I was starting up the business or scaling up. There was one long period of time where I was the only one in the company. It was productive, things moved quickly and became strong. But the more I gave the more it felt like I couldn’t step back. A lovely guy once asked me how a man ever gets to date me. The question stuck in my mind and started a process of wondering about the rest of my life outside work and in that moment the fact that it didn’t exist. I later met a lovely man, fell in love and moved to the Netherlands where we were happy for a long time. I focused on the rest of my life for a few years until I found my feet. It was difficult to find a balance until a couple of years ago. Making a strong base, scaling up and bringing more people into the mix will allow me to step back, develop other areas of my life and also bring a more intrinsically deep view of my business from different angles.

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Who is your most important role model? I was lucky enough to meet all my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. My two grandmothers gave such different images of how to be a woman in this world but the strengths and ideals they brought me up with have left their mark. The ambition my grandfather and uncle had for us children was inspiring and instilled in all of us a kind of drive to do well and believe in ourselves. If we invest we can move the world. My other grandfather gave me aware of how life can be hard but also how having a keen mind and continually learning is one of the greatest assets of all. If you can learn then you can change, and if you can change you can adapt and innovate.

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Edited by The Story Exchange