Just outside of Philadelphia in Havertown, PA, is Kristina Pulcini Ballet Academy, a place where young people’s dance dreams come true. Founded in 2009 by professional ballerina Kristina Pulcini and her mother, Janis, KP Ballet, as it’s affectionately called, is revered by dancers and audiences alike for the unparalleled quality of the school’s programs and performances. In 2016, KP Ballet purchased a commercial property and in 2020, Pursuit helped them refinance to an SBA 504 loan, which lowered the monthly payment by about $1,000 each month.
Learn about how the Pulcini family started and grew the academy and how Pursuit helped them gain financial stability to weather today’s financial challenges and plan for future growth.
A professional ballerina, a family business
After performing with professional ballet companies in the U.S. and Europe, Kristina was ready to bring her love of ballet and teaching back to her community, with help from her parents. She says, “Being in this together is great because we each bring different skills to the table. I have experience with dance and productions, while my mother and partner, Janis, has business management experience. And my father, Frank, takes care of pretty much everything else,” which includes guidance on business decisions, marketing strategy, and facilities management.
Opening a high-quality academy that’s suitable for a range of ages, dance styles, and experience levels means costly buildouts, from flooring through lighting and everything in between. In addition, because one of Kristina’s dreams for the academy was to offer professional-level performances for their young dancers, they needed space to store the professionally designed costumes, sets, and more that are integral to the KP Ballet experience.
KP Ballet’s reputation for excellence spread quickly, fueling the growth that led to several moves to accommodate expansion.
“Building out a studio for professional-level dance is expensive and time-consuming,” admits Frank, who leads facility projects. “After we’d already moved twice, it became clear that we needed a more permanent solution, which meant buying a commercial building.”
In 2016, they found the current location, obtained a commercial mortgage, and moved the academy in.
An SBA 504 refinance loan lowers their monthly payment by $1,000
Prior to the pandemic, KP Ballet had about 300 students, with many attending several times each week, but when they had to close temporarily, “Our older students did alright with online classes,” says Kristina, “but with the young children, online dance classes were really difficult.”
She adds, “Our school grew because of our reputation for professional-level performances and since the pandemic, we haven’t been able to rent auditoriums or theaters to hold our productions and we’ve taken a huge hit financially.”
Frank continues, “When the pandemic hit, we looked at every way to reduce costs and we thought we might be able to get better terms than we had on our existing commercial mortgage.”
They used the SBA Lender Match tool, which presented Pursuit as a match, and soon, Pursuit loan officer Ashley Heaton was in touch. In partnership with Truist, Pursuit’s team developed an SBA 504 refinance package and the Pulcinis were on their way to substantial monthly savings.
“Our refinance loan was for about $700,000 and the new terms meant that our monthly payments were reduced by about $1,000. That’s important any time, but especially through the rebuilding process as we come through the pandemic,” says Kristina.
Frank agrees, adding, “It’s been a really positive experience all around. An SBA 504 loan can seem daunting because the process requires a lot of documentation and steps, but our Pursuit team was really helpful and kept things on track. Now, we’ve got great terms, including a fixed interest rate and a 25-year loan amortization, which makes it so much easier to manage.”
Rebuild today with a vision for the future
Today, the academy is moving past the pandemic-related challenges. Kristina says, “We were completely closed for about three months and then restarted with ‘dance camps’ last summer, which were amazing, a blessing, even though we’d lost about 40% of our business. We’ve since rebuilt enrollment to about 275 students with about 25-30 classes per week.” The academy received some pandemic-related grants and loans, which have been helpful, too.
Looking ahead to the next few months, the Pulcinis hope that they’ll be able to hold the academy’s performances in theaters around the region, as they did before the pandemic.
“For now, as our community moves forward, we’re just thrilled to be open again and to continue bringing the beauty, passion, and fun of dance to Havertown and the greater Philadelphia area,” Kristina says.
Pursuit can help with commercial property and other financing needs
Frank says, “If I had any advice for other small business owners, it’d be to look into the SBA 504 as soon as you’re thinking of buying a commercial property. It may be an intensive process upfront but it’s well worth it because it’s hard to find better overall terms. And honestly, without Pursuit, it would’ve been much more difficult. Instead, Pursuit helped us navigate the process and did a really great job on our behalf.” Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you, too.