Matthew Garfinkle | Crain's Tampa Bay

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Matthew Garfinkle


The Hip Room is a Tampa dance studio that opened in July 2016. Matthew Garfinkle, a dance instructor since 2006, initially launched the business in Boca Raton, Fla., in 2013 before moving it to Tampa, where he partnered with Rita Bauer, the studio’s other co-founder. The Hip Room offers instruction in styles of dance ranging from ballroom and ballet to hip-hop, as well as dance fitness classes.

The Mistake:

I didn't go with my gut feeling.

The partnership of the Hip Room changed in the past couple months because I didn’t go with my gut feeling. I knew how I felt, but I knew what needed to happen at the same time and I made sacrifices against my gut feeling to get what I want now versus waiting for it later.

Unfortunately, our partnership suffered a little bit. There used to be three of us. Now there’s two, and you know, God bless the broken road because all three of us are in better places because of it, but the drain, the negativity of it was hard for months. We only opened in July and the turmoil that was going on started prior to July. So up until early December, when we figured out how we were going to separate, there was a lot of compartmentalizing … just to get through the day.

I knew from the beginning what my gut said about the whole situation because I had a firm idea about the direction I wanted to go in with the Hip Room. And then due to capital needs, I had to make sacrifices. And some of those sacrifices included going against my gut feeling and developing this partnership, but I needed that partnership; it had to happen. The Hip Room wouldn’t have happened without it. It was a stepping stone, but I didn’t know how to take that step and, you know, damage-control it the entire time.

I just didn’t think of the negative side of it, really. I was like, “I can deal with it.” But when it came down to it, we ended up splitting ways because it turned into a daily occurrence where we had to have these hard conversations that turned personal. I think when you’re starting a business, your personal life, your personal decisions in your personal life, can truly affect your business.

If you have a passion for what you're doing, you already know deep down what’s best for it.

The Lesson:

The biggest lesson I learned was going more with my gut. I fully believe if you have a passion for what you’re doing, you already know, deep down inside, what’s best for it. In my case, if this partnership isn’t made, the capital isn’t there and I’m going back to work as a dance instructor – I’m just staying where I am.

What I learned is that even though I knew this partnership was just a stepping stone, and even though my gut feeling told me it was going to be rough, I didn’t safeguard myself enough. I didn’t think down the line enough. I didn’t think, “OK, I know certain things could go wrong along the way. How am I going to safeguard myself and the studio from negative back drafts and repercussions?”

I didn’t think about what it would be like getting to that point. And that getting to that point, like I said, it was a lot of compartmentalizing and a lot of negative conversations, and not the kind of positive energy that sits well at a dance studio.

Dancing is supposed to enrich your life. That's it. The business side of it is the business side of it and that's OK. But when you have to force yourself to put on a smile when you dance, that’s not right; smiling should be the easy part.  

Follow The Hip Room on Twitter at @TheHipRoom.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Garfinkle

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