Huntsville native Anna Ward went from working in the Black Hawk division at Redstone Arsenal to opening her own dance studio, Soles Dance Center. She shares her lessons learned on the Arsenal, what dance means to her, and why she loves the Huntsville community.
What division did you work with on the Redstone Arsenal? I worked in Black Hawk, specifically negotiating the purchase of Black Hawk helicopters for the US Government and its allies. I was a contract specialist, so I was involved in all the “red-tape” processes in order to get these purchases priced and on contract.
What skills did you learn on the Arsenal? Team building and how to work with a diverse group of people were the main skills I learned on the Arsenal. It was the first time I was in the real world, and not in my bubble. I found myself thrown into groups of people with different thought processes, educational experiences, backgrounds, strengths and we all had to figure it out and get the mission done. No excuses, no blaming, just do the work and improve upon it. You learn a lot from people that aren’t like you.
What are the 3 greatest strengths you gained working on the Arsenal and how have those helped you in starting your own business?
- Negotiating, Budgeting, Pricing – Learning the government’s approach to these financial topics gave me a lot of confidence on the financial side of the business and real-world experience in finance.
- Managing Personalities – I learned a lot about personality types in training sessions on the Arsenal. I took classes on the DISC profiles, Myers-Briggs, and conflict resolution.
- Understanding Huntsville – I knew very little about the defense industry before working on the Arsenal. For it to be the biggest factor in Huntsville’s success, I feel now I have much better insight into the Huntsville economy, the people that Huntsville attracts, and what appeals to our residents.
How did the arsenal mold you as a woman in business? By learning under good leadership, working in a team setting, and gaining confidence when interacting with new people, I was able to give my business degree a lot of practice before launching my own business.
What do you like about owning your own business? It is exciting to run a business you are passionate about. I love being a positive part of people’s lives. I love the idea of creating a place with big energy that gives kids and their parents a community to call their own. I am fully bought into our mission of connecting people and making an impact. This environment gives me a strong sense of purpose.
What has been your greatest challenge as an entrepreneur? I think a lot of entrepreneurs are part of the hustle culture. We work too much because we love it so much. It is hard for me to take a true day of rest and to plan time off because I hate missing out. It is hard to realize that you can’t do it all, work 24/7 and be present with your family and friends.
What do you love most about Soles? I love that we are bigger than a dance studio. I feel like we are a community of people. Yes, we dance together all of the time, but we also do homework together, eat dinner together, walk in the Christmas parade together, volunteer together, and basically grow up together.
Why do you hope people choose Soles? First of all, I hope people choose Soles because dance is very fun. But other than dancing, I feel like we offer children a safe and positive after-school environment and hobby. Nothing matters more than our kids. Nothing. I know that our faculty does an excellent job in dance education. The whole vibe of our studio is a positive one.
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business in Huntsville? The first few years are draining. It gets better. Huntsville is booming. Find your ‘why’ and learn your ‘how.’
What do you love most about Huntsville? I love how smart the people are here. I think the intellectual talent in our city is extremely impressive.
Favorite military movie? Black Hawk Down.
Favorite Alabama book? Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. I love that she went to The University of Alabama.
Something you miss about the Arsenal? The people and the office banter. I loved a good office party and a good prank on the boss.
What are the 3 greatest strengths you gained working on the Arsenal?
- Negotiating, Budgeting, Pricing – Learning the government’s approach to these financial topics gave me real-world experience in finance.
- Managing Personalities – I learned a lot about personality types working on the Arsenal.
- Understanding Huntsville – I feel I have much better insight into the Huntsville economy, the people Huntsville attracts, and what appeals to our residents.
I love the idea of creating a place with big energy that gives kids and their parents a community to call their own. I am fully bought into our mission of connecting people and making an impact. This environment gives me a strong sense of purpose. - Anna Ward