Louis Soma & Gage Clark – Our Dance Studio Thirty-four years ago when Louis Soma answered an ad in a newspaper looking for dancers to train, he had no idea he’d stumbled on a career that would last a lifetime. Originally from the Detroit area, Soma was working in Grand Rapids when a co-worker showed him the newspaper ad. After a six-week training period Soma was the only dancer left standing and was offered a position teaching. “I consider myself very persistent,” said Soma on how he survived the trial. “I don’t really know how to quit.” Soma continued to teach, moving back to the Detroit area for a bit. When he met a woman who needed help teaching at her East Lansing studio Soma moved to the area, eventually opening his own dance studio — Our Dance Studio — about 12 years ago in downtown Grand Ledge. Although his son Gage Clark had danced on and off his entire life, Soma never knew Clark had a desire to teach dance professionally. That is until about five years ago when Soma had to relocate his business. When looking for a new spot, he came across a perfect building, but it was a bit too large for just one instructor. It was then that Clark, who had been training as an auto body repair mechanic, told Soma he wished to join him in the dance business. “I was surprised,” said Soma. “He hadn’t really shown an interest.” But Clark had seen first-hand the rewards of being a dance instructor. “It’s entertaining,” he said of the family biz. “Helping other people have fun and relax.” Both father and son say that while teaching dance can be physically and emotionally challenging, having clients walk out of the studio less stressed than when they walked in is all worth it. Our Dance Studio teaches students of all ages from around the entire state all forms of ballroom dancing. Along with competitive dancers they also give lessons to engaged couples hoping to wow guests on their wedding day or couples who are simply looking for something fun to do together. Clark added that while working together as a father/ son team may have a few challenge, it’s important that he and Soma leave any disagreements they have at the door when they come to work. “We try very hard to treat each other as adults – not just father and son,” added Soma. The bottom line is Clark and Soma enjoy working as a team. Soma said having your son as your partner is hard to beat. “It’s a huge benefit,” said Soma, “he’s just got my back all the time.” – Emily Caswell Keith & Ron Granger – Granger
Family is the name of the game for Granger — after all, it’s the very name of their business.Ron Granger started the business together with his brother Alton and their father Keith in 1959. Since then, the company has grown to offer waste hauling, recycling and landfill gas-to-energy services to communities across the United States.Ron’s son Keith (named for his grandfather) began working for the company in high school, spending his summers in the field cleaning bins, and moved on to driving a truck in college.
“That’s where I picked-up some important skills,” said Keith. “I saw how much customer service matters and got to see the business from all levels.” He fondly recalls a time in which his dad commented on his job performance — at the dinner table. “I remember once at dinnertime he said ‘good job improving your times-per-load.’ I didn’t realize he had been keeping track of my performance at all. But he was, and he let me know I was doing well.” In 1989, Keith joined the sales team, working directly with his brother Brent and indirectly with their father, who headed up the company at the time. For the next five years, Keith continued to receive counsel from his father on performance, but pushed himself to always achieve more. Now Keith, a third generation owner, is the CEO of Granger, leading the company to become bigger, better and stronger. Under Keith’s direction, and with the blessing of the second generation leadership team, Granger underwent a rebranding process. “They were all really receptive to the idea,” said Keith. “Part of what makes Granger such a successful company is that the leadership is willing to step down and graciously let the next generations make their own choices and have their own successes.” Another success for the company was the establishment of Granger Meadow Park eight years ago. “I love driving by the park and always seeing people enjoying it,” said Keith. “Our relationship to the community is almost as important as our relationship as a family.” So what’s next? They’re embarking upon the fourth generation of Grangers entering the workforce. “The challenge is keeping the kids coming back and wanting to take part,” said Keith. To engage the next generations, the company established a family counsel, which plans family retreats and takes this challenge head-on. Through it all, Ron and Keith Granger provide support, counsel and help to the next generation in order to see the company continue to thrive. “It’s all about balance,” said Keith, “doing what needs to get done, but remembering that in the end, we’re still family.” – Anna Daugherty
Emily Caswell is the Managing Editor of CAWLM. She has a passion for fun, family, friends, shopping sprees, cold drinks and Lansing.