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Blog by Editorial Contributor: Crystal Dunn
Positive Vibes Only
Ashley Kohl is a lover of all things happy. She believes in always doing the right thing, supporting others’, making a positive impact and bringing more love & light into the world. Ashley loves to laugh, eat, snuggle her two kids and be around people who lift her up.
Kohl's business stands for spreading love, unapologetic self-expression, & inclusion.
Ohana School of Performing Arts has a mission to spread peace and positivity through performance. The concept is simple: people come to dance class, they fuel their passion and feed their joy. When they are around each other, there’s positive energy & uplifting support. Students find their forever friends and parents grow life-long friendships with each other. When dancers perform, they feel free and they invite the audience to feel something, too. They pass on their joy and inspire everyone to find their passion & share it.
Dance brings joy. And the more dance & joy there is in this world, the better off we all are!
How did you get started on the path to Ohana School of Performing Arts?
I danced my entire life, quickly realizing at a young age that it was my passion. My mom, Darlene Sattler, opened a dance studio in 1997, Technique Studio of Dance, where I grew up dancing and teaching. After high school I worked in NYC for two years, and moved back home.
I eventually landed a job at WWLP hosting their lifestyle TV show Mass Appeal for six years. During my time there, I did a story on a dance class for all abilities. I was so moved by the experience, I wanted to open my own studio.
My mom passed down her studio to me, and wanted me to make it my own. I knew that I wanted it to be more community-based rather than competition-dance focused, and I wanted the name to reflect that. Since it started as a family business, and I really wanted it to feel like a “family”, I decided the name “Ohana” was the perfect fit.
Ohana means family. And, in my logo, the word Ohana is written in my mom’s handwriting.
Can you share with us a bit about your childhood and how performing at a young age may have influenced your decision to open and lead your own dance studio one day?
It’s kind of funny -- I never wanted to have my own studio. I started dancing when I was two years old at New England Dance Conservatory. I moved on to dance competitively at The Dance Shop, which eventually changed its name to Northeast Dance Academy. In 1997, my mom opened her studio in Chicopee. I learned so much from her - as a dancer and an instructor. Little did I know, I was also learning how to run a dance studio! She owned it for 19 years, and I never had a thought of taking over. After working for Disney and auditioning for music videos in NYC and after a 6 year career in television … I realized why I was put on this earth. To not just have a dance studio, but to inspire people to chase their dreams and to live a life fueled by love, acceptance & joy.
Do you remember the exact moment when you wanted to be your own boss?
Yes, I do. My marriage was falling apart and I knew that I did not want to go through a difficult life transition in the public eye. I don’t have a college degree; although the education I received on Mass Appeal was comparable! I knew it would be difficult to change my career without a degree in higher ed. I was inspired by the story I did on an all-abilities dance class, and figured - that’s it! I got in my car after shooting the story and knew in that moment. I want to share my love of dance with EVERYONE - regardless of their background, age, ability or status. I want to have my own business with a mission that is a direct reflection of who I am and what I believe in.
Tell us about what joy through dance means to you!
We all have our own outlets for finding and fueling joy. Whether it’s sports, painting, playing an instrument, cooking, etc. If there’s one thing that I can say ALL humans can do, it’s dance. Whether at a wedding, in a dance class or in your kitchen - everyone can do it. And, it always puts a smile on your face. Finding joy through dance is what many people have done at Ohana. Maybe it’s their dream to be a ballerina, or perhaps their life just needed something else, or maybe their home environment isn’t the most positive space, or maybe they sit at a desk and just needed to get their bodies moving more. Whatever the reason, Ohana has provided the opportunity for so many people to discover joy through dance.
What do you feel is important for other women and young girls to know about your business?
I want women and young girls to know that everyone is invited to come as they are. You will be celebrated for the gifts you bring to the world. Quick story - Growing up, I didn’t really feel like I fit in in school. When I went to Pioneer Valley Performing Arts High School, I found my people. I discovered that I could be WHO I AM and still be loved! I didn’t have to wear labels or be a certain size to be accepted. I want that same message to be shared and that same vibe to be felt at Ohana. Be who you are, don’t compromise, don’t change. And you will be loved and accepted for it, just the way you are!
How would you describe your leadership style?
Carefree & positive. I am not a “control freak” - I love suggestions, collaborations and team efforts. I want everyone to feel valued and heard. As a leader, my mantra is “choose love.” No matter what the circumstance, I always tell myself to CHOOSE LOVE.
Would you say that the art of dance has been a thriving generational passion and influence throughout your family?
Absolutely! My Memere, Lorraine Lavigne, never took dance classes, so it really started with my mom. My mom took classes as a child and grew up to perform with The Springfield Ballet Company and the Massachusetts Ballet Company. My sister, Christy Sattler and I definitely “caught the bug” from her...and now my daughter Summer, who is sever years old, is just as passionate. She already told me she is going to take over Ohana when she grows up! I hope she keeps chasing that dream - nothing would make me happier!
What is your ultimate dream job – or are you living it?
No doubt, I am living it. I am surrounded by the greatest people with the biggest hearts. I am constantly given opportunities to grow as a person & as a leader. I get to share my love for dance with others and influence children in a positive way. I watch others’ discover their light and shine so brightly in the world. I preach and live good vibes always, and I watch others’ do the same. I don’t have thousands, but I have enough money to care for my kids and afford a roof over my head, go on a vacation every now and then and celebrate the good times... and that’s all I need. My heart is so beyond full.
Every business owner can face challenges, how are you empowered to overcome yours?
I listen to Kirk Nugent’s “Pursue your Passion” speech on YouTube. I listened to him perform this live about eight years ago and was so moved. Whenever I am thrown a curveball or have a mountain to climb, I listen to it. It’s empowering and uplifting -- SO MANY inspirational people have failed, yet they never gave up. And that made all the difference. I remind myself of my WHY. It’s not what I do , but WHY I do it. I will fail and I will grow. So long as I never give up.
To end, please tell our readers (in one word) how you would describe your boss-chik business? Life-enriching!
Be sure to follow this chik-tastic SHERO and stay connected via social media!
Facebook and Instagram: @OhanaPerformingArts.
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