ShaVonne Davis, Acting with Mrs. Davis
ShaVonne Davis is a former classroom teacher who channels her love for theatre arts into her small business, Acting with Mrs. Davis. Acting With Mrs. Davis is a Theatre Arts Education Company that provides after-school programs, classes, workshops, and education consulting. ShaVonne teaches her students culture, self-confidence, and creative expression and understands that when you do good work, success will follow.
Episode 37 – ShaVonne Davis, Acting with Mrs. Davis
[00:00:55] Sanjay Parekh: ShaVonne Davis is a former classroom teacher who channels her love for theatre arts into her small business, Acting with Mrs. Davis. Acting With Mrs. Davis is a Theatre Arts Education Company that provides afterschool programs, classes, workshops, and educational consulting. ShaVonne teaches culture, self-confidence, and creative expression to her students. Here today to share the story of her business and how she balances work and family life is Mrs. Davis herself, ShaVonne Davis. ShaVonne, welcome to the show!
[00:01:27] ShaVonne Davis: Thank you, Sanjay. So happy to be here.
[00:01:30] Sanjay Parekh: Well, I'm happy to have you here and I'm hoping to get some acting tips here, near the end of our conversation. But first, let's start out with your background and kind of what got you to the point that you're at right now.
[00:01:42] ShaVonne Davis: Well, I am a proud graduate of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. Yeah, that's right. A proud HBCU graduate and I have my Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts. And so, that kind of spearheaded, well, a little bit, I'll backtrack. I was in acting and modeling classes when I was younger. And that kind of got me in the mind frame of wanting to be involved with theater. And then in college I was like the president of our theater organization, the CAU players, and, just really enjoyed, started to enjoy the behind-the-scenes aspect. And that's when I started a company called Banks Entertainment LLC. And I came back to my hometown in Fort Worth, Texas. That's where I'm from. And decided to start this business working with local artists and performers and promoting events. And then I started a printing service. I'm like a serial entrepreneur and, it just runs through my family. My family is full of entrepreneurs and business owners, and so, yeah.
That led me to, starting to work with youth on the youth side of entertainment and, poetry and performing. And so, I started a summer camp, a Saturday night summer camp for kiddos. And then everyone was like, hey, you're so good with kids, you should maybe be a teacher. I was like, What? At the time I didn't have any children, so, I was like, wait a minute, do I like kids? And so, yes, I was, I started to see the magic that I was able to make with children, through my love for the arts. And then I entered the classroom, and I taught theater arts in the classroom for five years.At two different schools in Fort Worth. Excuse me, in Dallas and Grand Prairie, and then I started to do summer programs and spring break programs. And, that became really, a really big thing, really needed to increase equity and access to the arts in underserved communities and being able to provide these programs for free in areas where they couldn't necessarily afford them.
And, and so, that led to, right before the pandemic. I decided that, hey, I'm ready to step away from the classroom, spread my love for theater, to youth all over. And that's when Acting with Mrs. Davis was birthed.
[00:04:20] Sanjay Parekh: Let's step back a little bit. So, when you went to college, what was your idea as to why you were getting a theater degree? Like what did you, when you started, what did you want to?
[00:04:30] ShaVonne Davis: I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be in television and film. Every year we would get our season and I would select a play that I wanted to get the starring role in. And so, I would always get that lead role, but it was when I decided to be the president or got voted to be the president for the theater organization that I kind of liked the backside of it, the behind-the-scenes side, and even experiencing with directing. And I liked more of helping develop actors and develop people. And that transferred into where I am now with being an acting coach, hosting theater after school programs for various school districts in the metroplex. And now I have teaching artists that work for me that I train, to my curriculum and being intentional educators, and intentionally impacting youth through theater. And, then I also provide that service to schools and help train other educators, with that model. So, yeah, it's really turned into something I just wasn't prepared for.
[00:05:42] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, so, I think a lot of people just like entrepreneurship, a lot of people view acting as, oh, that just seems like a fun job, right? Like, you just get to show up and just pretend and do those kinds of things. But it's a lot of hard work, right? And just like entrepreneurship, because what everybody sees is just the end result, when everything is great and not all the work that gets there. Like how did you think about that as you were going through the process and thinking that you might want to be an actor? Like how did you view that work side of it? How did that affect you?
[00:06:16] ShaVonne Davis: Yeah. I think that's the good part about being able to receive a degree in a particular area because you get to explore all facets of it. And so, I think it was like a wake-up call for myself as well. Like, okay, I'm getting these roles and I'm participating in these plays. And it is fun, but I want more, like, I want a little bit more, you know? And this is cool but, I really like the business side of things and it's so crazy because like I said, my parents are business owners, my grandparents are business owners, I have aunts and uncles. And I always kind of said I didn't want to become a business owner because of the hard work. So, I kind of like jinxed myself because I am absolutely an entrepreneur and business owner, and I have been for the majority of my life.
[00:07:06] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, let's dive into that a little bit. So, you said there's a lot of entrepreneurship in the family. What is the very first entrepreneurial thing you remember doing for yourself?
[00:07:15] ShaVonne Davis: Ooh, that's fun. Wow. I would say, you know what, I tried to put together, well, I say tried because the first time doesn't always go well, but I put together a family comedy show. And I booked some comedians, and it was, a family-friendly comedy show, here in Fort Worth.
And it was in a new little, lounge area or event space and they had like cool couches and it was really cool. That was my first event. And, yeah, a long time ago.
[00:07:53] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Well, so, when was this? Was this during college or before or after college?
[00:07:57] ShaVonne Davis: This was right after college. Yeah, when I started my company. Yeah, this was right after college.
[00:08:03] Sanjay Parekh: And so, when you took that dive into entrepreneurship, I'm assuming because you have entrepreneurs already in the family, this was like, this was an accepted thing. This was like, oh yeah, this will be fine. Or was there any kind of pushback saying like, well, you just got this degree, you should go do that first.
[00:08:22] ShaVonne Davis: You know, I have very supportive parents, especially my mother. And so, she absolutely, supported that idea. And with ideas, with financials, like she supported it all. And so, that actually is what kind of kick started it in being able to have that support. Because you do have to have some thick skin as an entrepreneur, and you do need support. You absolutely need support. You can have some really, really good days and you can have some like, and you can look up and you're like, well, no clients, no anything going on. And then the next week you can look up and it's wonderful.
[00:09:02] Sanjay Parekh: Right, exactly. It's really easy to get people to party with you when things are good. But it's when things are bad, that's when it's the tough times and you need people around you. So, let's talk about that first time you were starting out then. How did you find your clients when you were starting out? I mean, you're just right out of college. You don't necessarily have a network that you can pull in. You're probably doing something different than other members of your family. So, how did you find clients?
[00:09:30] ShaVonne Davis: Networking. I remember going to a lot of events, and just kind of, and you're right, like really not meeting a lot of people who were, in my, I guess, lane of business. At these events, joining Chambers and attending like entrepreneurship workshops and classes and just trying to get as much knowledge as possible because, of course I went to school for theater, but not necessarily, to start a theater company, so to speak. And so, that, that pretty much, just networking, getting the name out there and looking now years later, a lot of people know about what I do and I'm very big in the arts community here in Fort Worth.
[00:10:20] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, it's an interesting point you kind of alluded to there of where you didn't learn those skills in college, right. Of how to start a business and all that stuff. What are the things that you wish now in retrospect, that you'd maybe taken classes on, and what is it that you had to learn along the way and how did you figure out what you needed to learn?
[00:10:40] ShaVonne Davis: Ooh, finance and accounting. But I will say, I think it came naturally to me. I've always loved math. I actually used to do my mother's bookkeeping when I was in high school. So, I definitely knew about it, but I taught myself. So, I always thought like, how much more knowledge would I have received if I would've taken like a class or, let them build upon the self-taught knowledge that I had. But yes, I would probably have, expanded my knowledge in finance, maybe even, possibly got a business degree and maybe minored in theater. I may have done that or had a dual major.
[00:11:24] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, It's funny because I'm very much the same way in retrospect. I regret not taking finance and accounting in undergrad. I went on and did business school at grad school, but I'd already learned a lot of that stuff by then, and it's like, I wish I'd learned it earlier. So, maybe any recommendation from the two of us is, if you're listening to this and don't know, finance and accounting, that’s something you should do. So, starting the business that you're in now, how did that really get underway? Like, what was the kind of epiphany and the thing that you said like, hey, I need to start this thing?
[00:12:00] ShaVonne Davis: Yeah, so, my first year of teaching theater arts was in a challenging neighborhood with youth who were experiencing just unimaginable things at home and bringing some of that trauma, through their schoolwork and things. And so, I kind of felt like I was like thrown to the wolves a little bit. Like, hey, you're a teacher, get out there, do it. And I'm like, okay, so, I know theater, but what I didn't know is how to connect with children. And so, what I ended up seeing is that through theater and teaching them creative expression, it really gave them a voice and it created a really safe and inclusive culture in my classroom. And I took students who had no experience in theater arts to competitions and we would win across the board. And I was like, I'm good at this. And then it's that culture in my classroom, started to spread through the school. And I ended up going to another school, a year after that. And the same thing, similar experience just in impacting an entire school culture through the relationships that I was building with students and the skills that I was teaching them through theater. Because it's not just acting, it's a lot. It's public speaking, self-confidence, culture, all of that. Yeah, just deciding that it is time for me to kind of marry my five years of classroom education experience with being a business owner and out came Acting with Mrs. Davis.
[00:13:41] Sanjay Parekh: There you go. So, and we'll dive into what exactly that is and kind of how you manage it, but let's start first talking about the stress of owning a business and working kind of full time. And, and did you start Acting with Mrs. Davis as a side hustle first or did you just go full in?
[00:14:01] ShaVonne Davis: You know what, I guess I will say it was a side hustle, because I started doing a spring break program, a spring break theater program, while I was still teaching.
And then I did like a short summer program. And then I started going to other programs and teaching theater. And I started doing some acting coaching on the side, like started with some of the students that I worked with who wanted to audition for other opportunities and wanted to work one-on-one. And so, it started with that and then, now it's carried over to various area theaters. I actually, provide workshops for them, as well as what I do on my own. And I mean, it's really turned into an all-out theater education company.
[00:14:49] Sanjay Parekh: So how did you, in those early days then, how did you manage the stress of doing two things? Two jobs, basically right at the same time?
[00:14:57] ShaVonne Davis: You know, I could not pour into it the way that I wanted to because I was so, consumed with my school day work, my work in the classroom. And so, it was very challenging, coming from being a business owner because, prior to that I had ran my own company for seven years.
And so, I was used to just, kind of doing things on my own time, creating my own schedule, my own office hours, things like that. And so, it was hard working all day and then trying to come and build, this business on the side and then also make time for family and, yeah. And so, it was a challenge. And I think that also contributed to my decision to go ahead and, pursue Acting with Mrs. Davis full time.
[00:15:46] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, how did you deal with kind of family life in all of this as well as now? It's really easy for entrepreneurs to let what they do, consume a hundred percent of their time, maybe even 150% of their time. So, how do you manage that and make sure that you still have time for family and fun and friends and all of those other things that are important?
[00:16:12] ShaVonne Davis: Well, right now I am absolutely just navigating, taking things day by day. I have, my actual baby just turned one year, last week.
[00:16:23] Sanjay Parekh: Oh, congratulations. Happy birthday.
[00:16:25] ShaVonne Davis: Thank you. Thank you. And so, I had her later in life. My husband and I tried for 10 years. So, she's our miracle baby. And so, it is definitely a challenge of being, not only just an entrepreneur, but this business owner, this new mom, living all my life, just kind of doing, picking up and doing whatever I wanted to do, you know? And now I've got this little one. And so, again, the support. My husband and I are a great team. I could not do the things that I'm doing without his support. I also run a non-profit organization, and so, and I'm a PTA president. I have a stepdaughter and she is about to be 16, and so, I'm the PTA president at her school. I've got a lot going on.
[00:17:17] Sanjay Parekh: You're trying to not take it easy; it seems like. That's a lot of stuff.
[00:17:22] ShaVonne Davis: Well, I call it heart work. Not hard work, heart work. Because it's all good when it's coming from the heart.
[00:17:27] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, and kids definitely make you get a different perspective on life and work and all of those things.
[00:17:35] Adam Walker: Support for this podcast comes from Hiscox, committed to helping small businesses protect their dreams since 1901. Quotes and information on customized insurance for specific risks are available at hiscox.com. Hiscox, the business insurance experts.
[00:17:56] Sanjay Parekh: So, let's talk about, setting boundaries. I can imagine, the work that you do with, kids and others to coach them and acting like they have auditions all the time, and they might want to call you and get advice like, their jitters just before, like how do you set those boundaries? To make sure that, you still serve your clients who you, I'm sure, love, but then also have time to get everything else done right? Like you're probably doing the marketing for your business and like all of these other things that are really required for you to kind of keep propelling forward.
[00:18:32] ShaVonne Davis: You know, I'll be honest, I told myself if I ever got into business again, that I would really take the time and, think about myself, put myself first, family, not let work consume me, like really have a good healthy work life balance. And so, just to be transparent, when I think of the services that I want to offer, and now that I have a baby, and I enjoy being home with my baby and, things like that. There are certain services that I don't offer as much. And there are services that I've gravitated too more. I've really picked up in the education consulting arena, working with school districts and, providing professional development workshops for educators and one-on-one coaching with educators and then also having my afterschool program. So, it's like a very small window of now, honestly, where I work, my afterschool programs are only from like, four to six. And so, I enjoy that schedule. And then, during the day is when I do my social media marketing, my brainstorming on ideas, my meetings, connecting with other community partners and things like that. And so, yeah, I've had to kind of say no and had to kind of walk away from some things that didn't really fit into my new schedule.
[00:19:58] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, was the way you decided this all based on the amount of time it was going to take? So, was that the main driver or was it money as well? Or like how did you pick and choose the things that make sense?
[00:20:12] ShaVonne Davis: I would say a little bit of both. Time is definitely a big deal. I like to do things in excellence and so, I never want to feel like I'm rushing or not giving someone the best service. Money, definitely, when I think about, how much money I can make for teaching a one hour acting lesson to providing education consulting services, it’s just kind of like, okay, we may need to lean more towards this, less time, more money. Let's work smarter, not harder. But at the same time, I am still committed to the community. Like I said, through my non-profit, we offer free, fine arts programs all of the time, free summer programs, and so, for me, I get to have that healthy balance of, I have to make a living for myself, but I'm still involved in the community doing the work like that as well.
[00:21:12] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, on that theme of work smarter, not harder, do you have, technology apps, systems, anything like that that you've kind of implemented for yourself that you'd recommend other people look at if they're trying to do a side hustle or launch a small business like you?
[00:21:30] ShaVonne Davis: You know what, the first thing that comes to my mind is Canva. So, Canva is my favorite, Like, that is my best friend. I don't know what her, what his or her pronouns are, but Canva, I love you Canva. So, I always tell, people about Canva, your marketing materials. I spent so much money, in my first entrepreneurial life, shall I say, on people doing graphic design, people doing my websites. This one not turning out right. Finding someone else, managing it, designing business cards. And I said, never again. And actually, then I started to teach myself through Microsoft Publisher. If you're in the graphic design world, like girl, what are you doing?
But I started out in Microsoft Publisher, and I would even do some stuff for clients. Got a little bit into Photoshop, but, so, if you have a little bit of background in graphic design, Canva will like, I mean, change your life. But yeah, I would say definitely Canva is one. And for insurance, Hiscox!
[00:22:37] Sanjay Parekh: There you go. A nice shout out for Hiscox there. Anything else that you use like day to day, like if you did not have it, would be really tough for you to manage your business?
[00:22:49] ShaVonne Davis: Ooh, you know what my new thing is? Calendly. Yes. So, that, at first, I was nervous about it because I was like, are people going to be like, who is she sending me her calendar? Pencil yourself in, on my calendar. And so, I was nervous about it at first, but it's all about how you word it with clients, letting them know, here's a link to my calendar. You can schedule, or here's a link to my schedule. You can schedule the best day and time for us to meet. And it's like so easy and simple rather than, Are you available on this day? No, I'm not. Are you available on this day? No. Are you available? So, that has really helped me and being able to sync that, into all of my calendars and directly on my phone. And so, yeah, that's definitely a plus for business owner.
[00:23:40] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah, I've heard that same thing and I've had that same reservation too, but what I've seen a lot of people do is like, hey, let me know when you're available, but if it's easier, here's a link to my Calendly. And you can just go ahead and schedule right now. And, I'm with you on saving that whole back and forth. That's just better for everybody, right? So, let's talk about like now kind of retrospective. So, thinking back to the very beginning of when you started being entrepreneurial, like thinking back, what do you think you did poorly and what would you do differently, knowing what you know now?
[00:24:18] ShaVonne Davis: Okay. Yeah. Something I did poorly was not believing in myself and not believing in my vision. Just kind of like trying something out and not really mapping out what success looked like. And so, in the beginning I felt like I needed like to collaborate, and I needed to work with other organizations. Like I, myself, wasn't enough. And so, I ended up working with a company, like kind of bringing them along and it just ended badly. It just wasn't a good idea. They got really intimidated and jealous and it didn't work out well. And so, at that moment I felt like, I'm enough on my own. I don't really just have to tag someone along and so, once I realized that, I just really started to make good connections and just believe in myself and really just work harder. And it's just led me to so many great things and so many good people in the community. Not all business is good business, shall I say.
[00:25:35] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. So, this is interesting, this kind of point you're making here, especially because you've been surrounded by entrepreneurs and to not have that self-confidence, even though you've seen entrepreneurs all around you. It's interesting and I think it's not an uncommon thing, right? A lot of entrepreneurs, although we go do these kind of startup things, we're always questioning like, Can I do this? Is it possible? Whatever. How is it that you got yourself over that?
[00:26:06] ShaVonne Davis: I think over time just overcoming challenges and getting stronger, each time and not making the same mistakes, actually learning from my mistakes and also just being a good person. Really, honestly, when you do good things and you intentionally do good work and provide people a good service, and when you give back to the community and when your heart is in the right place, like things just always work out. And being in a business where my focus is impacting children's lives, it has just been very rewarding and fun. I literally tell people, like I get to wake up and have fun with kids every day. It's just the best.
[00:26:51] Sanjay Parekh: Especially looking back how, you were still unsure if you wanted to work with kids or if you like kids. And now you're, you're all in at this point.
[00:27:03] ShaVonne Davis: I am. I do, I love kids. I love giving them opportunities that I had and didn't have. Like, I love it.
[00:27:08] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. That's great. So, let's think about, what would you tell somebody that's thinking about taking the leap and starting a side hustle like you, or taking their side hustle and making it a full-time business? What advice or, or what thoughts would you give somebody like that?
[00:27:26] ShaVonne Davis: Plan. Plan, plan, plan. I haven't done much of anything without some sort of a plan in motion. And then I work backwards in the theater world, when we prepare for plays, we look at the end result and we backward map, like, what do we need to do to work up towards show day? And so, kind of like that same model. Where do I see myself in a year or two with this organization? And sometimes two years may be too far to think. Sometimes three, five years is too far. You can start with six months. What do you know? What do I look like in six months? Let me backward map the steps that I need to take. And also, one of the biggest questions, because I do coach with a lot of entrepreneurs, in the area and provide them help on contracting with districts and, just entrepreneur mentorship. And just kind of tell them, don't think too much about, Oh, the money, the money, the money. Because if you're doing something good, the money will come. It will absolutely come. And, if it's a part of your plan, it will come. So, that's why planning is very, very important.
[00:28:35] Sanjay Parekh: So, Okay. Most probably important question, at least for me. I've been waiting to ask you this, and the last question. Acting, you mentioned this, it's very much like public speaking. So, give us like a couple of acting and or public speaking tips so, that all of us that are listening to this can level up our abilities.
[00:28:55] ShaVonne Davis: So, you said some public speaking tips?
[00:28:59] Sanjay Parekh: Acting and/or public speaking tips, right? Like it's all kind of the same. I think most people that are listening to this may not be actors. And so, maybe some of the advice you can give, are around public speaking because I think in a lot of ways the two are, are very similar.
[00:29:13] ShaVonne Davis: The biggest thing that I can say is keep a smile on your face. No matter what you say, sounds good when you have a smile on your face, like, look, broccoli, chicken nuggets, talkies, you know. Things like math, homework, look, homework, so just putting a smile on your face, when you are delivering your message or communicating, just adds energy and adds some color to whatever your message is, whatever you're saying. And express joy too.
[00:29:51] Sanjay Parekh: Yeah. Okay. I do actually have one more bonus kind of final question. So, if any of our listeners are actually thinking that they might want to go into acting and be actors, what's the first thing or the best thing that they can do right now to get them on their way?
[00:30:06] ShaVonne Davis: Start some acting classes and if you're in the metroplex, you can always go on ActingWithMrsDavis.com and see where I'm at. So, I would say that, start with some acting classes. Start with some workshops and get your skills built up because before you try and go into management, that's what they're going to ask you, what's your training like, what's your experience like? So, yeah, I would say that.
[00:30:29] Sanjay Parekh: There you go. So last thing I was going to ask you where our listeners can find and connect with you. We already heard your website. What other places can they find you?
[00:30:38] ShaVonne Davis: Social media, Facebook and Instagram @actingwithmrsdavis. And that's “Mrs.” I'm married. I'm married Mrs. Davis. So, ActingWithMrsDavis.Com and on social media, that’s where you'll find me.
[00:30:53] Sanjay Parekh: Awesome. Shavonne this has been fantastic. Thanks so much for coming on.
[00:30:57] ShaVonne Davis: Thank you, Sanjay.
[00:31:07] Sanjay Parekh: Hey there, listeners. Our team is taking the next two weeks off for the holidays, to rest and relax. So, you won’t hear any new episodes for the rest of the year. We’re excited to bring you more interviews in 2023. The first episode next year is with my friend and former co-founder who has a pretty big following. We’ll see you then.
Thank you for listening to this week's episode of the Side Hustle to Small Business Podcast, powered by Hiscox. To learn more about how Hiscox can help protect your small business through intelligent insurance solutions, visit hiscox.com. And if you have a story you want to hear on this podcast, please visit www.hiscox.com/shareyourstory. I'm your host Sanjay Parekh. You can find me on Twitter @sanjay or on my website at www.sanjayparekh.com.