Maraj Charlton is all about creative, positive movement. With help from Access Florida Finance Corporation, she recently celebrated her first year in business as owner of Jus Hip Hop, a dance studio located in Pembroke Pines. A classically trained dancer who has studied her craft since age four, Maraj is not teaching her students to become video vixens. At Jus Hip Hop, Maraj is giving students of all ages lessons in the authentic hip hop— the style of dance that she did with street dance crews while growing up in New York City neighborhoods.
Charlton wasn’t sure she’d be able to realize her dreams, though. She had been all around the physical and virtual worlds, approaching banks from Florida to California, and even applying for financing through online companies. Despite her impressive resume— which includes training in a college dance program developed by dance icon Alvin Ailey, choreographing a workout video for Elle Magazine, and extensive work with students at public schools, libraries and a performing arts center— most lenders just didn’t want to invest in a start-up dance studio.
In addition to being in top physical form from years of dancing, Maraj is also financially fit. A homeowner with a great credit score and a stable employment history, having worked as a paralegal at the same law firm for the past decade— it wasn’t a stretch for her to convince a few some banks to offer her a small business loan. Even with a solid business plan and a great location, lending agents were skeptical about a new studio’s chances of surviving the recession.
Maraj’s dance training gave her the discipline to keep moving toward her goal, so she continued to search for funding sources, knowing that there had to be another way to finance her lifelong dream. After exploring countless traditional lending agencies, she set appointments with counselors at her local Small Business Administration (SBA) and SCORE offices. Maraj left inspired after learning about a place that could provide her with assistance to open her dance studio. She finally found help at Access Florida Finance Corporation, where the team worked with her to create loan terms that made good sense and worked for both parties. Maraj invested some of her personal funds, and did a lot of number crunching. The loan from Access Florida made up the difference.
After a year in business, her staff and student roster has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, Jus Hip Hop is a full performing arts studio, employs eight staffers and has 74 students who come to the studio at least once a week. Jus Hip Hop offers much more than just hip hop— her diverse pool of part-time instructors has allowed her to expand course offerings to include everything from ballet, break dancing and belly dancing, to salsa, stepping and singing lessons, as well as acting and adult fitness classes. Maraj loves the automatic deductions that Access Florida Finance set up for her loan payments; knowing that the funds are paid on time each month leaves her free to use her energy to do what she always dreamed of— just dance.