Debra Giunta #TakeHeartTribe

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“Professionally, I’m constantly afraid of being behind.”Debra Giunta

Debra Giunta is the Founder and Director of Design Dance. Debra grew up dancing in the south suburbs of Chicago and has over 25 yearsDebra Giunta of dance experience.  She became director of her first dance education program in her hometown at the age of 16 and has been teaching, choreographing, directing and mentoring ever since.

As a dance educator for over 16 years, Debra has trained students ages 2-70 in a variety of dance disciplines including tap, jazz, ballet, hip hop and creative movement.  In 2008, Debra founded Design Dance as a way to bring dance education to children in all communities regardless of age, experience level, background and income through partnership with schools and community centers.

Debra, what is your greatest fear?

I have countless fears I deal with in all aspects of life! Professionally, I’m constantly afraid of being behind. And sometimes that’s good! That fear motivates me to try new things and keep working. But there’s a dark side to that fear – where I often feel like an imposter, never making space to celebrate success, and falling into the trap of comparison and perfectionism.

Why have you chosen your professional path?

When I was in college, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I changed my major 5 different times and bounced around exploring all of my different interests. My friends and family (and myself!) thought I was directionless but when I decided to take a break from school to start my business in 2008, I was amazed at how dedicated I became to the entrepreneurship career path! The first few years were incredibly difficult, but the feeling of being able to explore new ideas on my own terms, create a life that looked different every day, and work with people who share my passions, made the trying times feel totally worth it. After being in business for about a year, I became passionate about using my desire to build my own company to increase access to arts education for as many students as I could in Chicago. I was lucky to grow up in an environment where my family was able to provide me with dance classes – an experience that taught me confidence, creativity and social skills. Once I began to see the opportunity gap for Chicago kids, I knew I wanted to find a way to build a business that used partnerships to make dance more affordable.

What drives you?

People and ideas – and when I can combine the two there’s no stopping me 🙂 I love the very beginning phase any new idea. I often stay up super late for many nights in a row when I’m excited about something – imagining possibilities and structuring my plan of action! As I’ve had the opportunity to grow my team over the last few years, my most inspired and motivating moments are when I get to share in that early excitement with them, learn from their experiences, and collaborate on something great.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken professionally?

Definitely starting my business when I was 24 with no savings and no more than a part time job was risky! I was young, excited and impatient to start what I thought would be an easy road to running a company.

“Often, we spend so much time planning (to help calm our fears, no doubt!) that we lose sight of what we’re doing and why!”

How did that risk serve you?
These days, if I meet someone who is interested in taking the leap to entrepreneurship, I definitely don’t recommend this strategy 🙂 Saving money, doing research, and making a solid plan would have made that road quite a bit less bumpy, but looking back it did serve me in many ways. Being young means you have nothing to lose! Starting out with no money in the bank made me scrappy. It forced me to get out in the community and promote on foot, develop strong community partnerships that would build my visibility and, probably most importantly, get me in front of my client! Often, we spend so much time planning (to help calm our fears, no doubt!) that we lose sight of what we’re doing and why! Once I’d committed myself to a huge risk, I had no choice but to get out and just do it. I also learned to fail fast, over and over again. This taught me how normal “fear” is in the game of risk taking and since I had no time to waste, I learned to do what I needed to despite that. There’s a lot to be said for being prepared, but the real value comes when you’re solving problems you never expected to have. That’s how you build resilience!
What excites you the most about attending/participating in the Fear Paradox Summit?
So many female focused events center around empowerment. And, while I’m all about all people feeling empowered to achieve their potential, I believe we often don’t discuss the factors that really stand in our way. I recently held an event where a therapist sitting in the audience said the most significant hindrance to the emotional health of her clients was their inability to just sit with their difficult emotions. That’s it, just sitting with it! That really resonated with me because when I look around I can see that myself and most of the people I’m around are constantly looking for ways to get rid of negative emotions. But really, once we sit with them we can learn to accept them and ourselves in a healthier way. I love the concept around The Fear Paradox because it’s not about getting rid of fear as a path towards empowerment, it’s about accepting it as part of the process, and continuing to be our true selves despite it.
What do you hope to leave with or hope to share with others as part of your participation?
I’m looking forward to sharing stories and experiences with other women who share my desire to live in acceptance of themselves and their own journey – fear included!

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