Spring is finally upon us and that makes us want to twirl and leap for joy! Super mom and ballerina, Genevieve Weeks, channels those good vibes on a daily basis to youngsters in the Bay Area with her Tutu School. Any business model and family philosophy that includes imagination, enchantment, and play as inspiration for learning and growth gets two thumbs WAY up in our book! As her franchise and three beautiful boys grow, we can tell Genevieve will tackle her bright future with absolute grace, and she’ll probably do it in point shoes with a frappuccino in hand.
SS: Tell us a bit about your family and where are you originally from.
GW: My husband, Andrew, and I live in San Francisco with our crew – Sullivan (nearly six), Thatcher and Hudson (both 16 months). Andrew is a photographer, and we both grew up in the Midwest and met in Chicago, but he was brave enough to relocate to California with me in my performing years when I got a contract with Oakland Ballet. We’ve lived in San Francisco for twelve years now!
GW: Seven years ago I had been lucky enough to get put in charge of the pre-ballet program at a wonderful ballet school when I wasn’t performing, but I quickly discovered that many of the specific needs of preschool-aged children were not being met at traditional dance schools. Very young dancers, I realized, would really thrive in an environment that was tailored to them – a sweet, cozy boutique-style school with a curriculum specifically crafted to give children the best possible introduction to ballet. In my head I started formulating a dream project to someday open a school like the one I envisioned. I told Andrew I wanted to do it whenever I retired from performing, and he said, “Why wait?” So we didn’t. We launched Tutu School in San Francisco in early 2008, and opened our Larkspur location a year and a half later. We’ve since started franchising and have now grown to nine locations, something I still can’t quite believe. When we first opened, it was just me in a room with some fairy wands and a few pink ballet barres!
SS: You have a lot going on – how do you tackle family time while simultaneously running your business? Do you have any advice for moms trying to find the work/life balance?
GW: It’s no accident that many of our Tutu School franchise owners are also moms. I set up the business model very specifically (and very selfishly) so that a Tutu School can be seamlessly managed remotely whenever necessary. In the Age of the Internet nothing is impossible, and we are very lucky to have our own studio software that gives all of us the freedom to process registrations and update class lists in between school pick-ups and swim lessons (or, as I have, from bed while trying to survive terrible twin-induced morning sickness). So, on a logistical level, I am thankful every day for that level of flexibility when I am trying to balance work against the needs of my family.
On an emotional level, I think it can be much trickier. I try every day to do the best that I can, and then to trust that it is enough. That I am enough.
SS: It’s ironic that you own a Ballet School and have three boys at home. Tell us about what happens when tutus & trucks collide.
GW: It’s kind of hilarious, actually. I’m not sure any of our boys will be the next Baryshnikov, but our eldest, Sullivan, definitely understands that Tutu School is one of our family businesses (his dad’s photography studio, Andrew Weeks Photography, being the other). He takes pride in it, he helps me with things at the studios when he can (he’s even been known to touch up some purple paint here and there), and I love that he is getting that peek into what it means to take ownership of something and to invest so much of yourself in it.
SS: Having twins must be a handful. Do you have any advice for the mom expecting twins? Any helpful organizational twins? It can be daunting for some!
GW: Hudson and Thatcher are most certainly a handful, but they are also pretty simply incredible. Honestly, the only thing I say to expecting twin moms I meet these days is this: Don’t let anyone scare you (even the well-intentioned will). Yes, having twins means embracing a certain amount of chaos in your life, but it also means that you get to experience the heart-exploding joy of meeting two of the great loves of your life at once. You won’t ever be the same, and you won’t want to be.
SS: You have used a long list of Sensible Sitters in San Francisco! What do you love most about Sensible Sitters?
GW: I feel like our family must be a daunting scenario for any sitter to face. Typically childcare handoffs at our house involve two screaming toddlers who don’t want their parents to leave, an almost six year-old offering rapid-fire questions about his screen time allowance for the day and the sitter’s approximate knowledge level of basic ninja skills, and an over-excited beagle running laps around the living room. In the face of all of this insanity, every single Sensible Sitter we’ve had has remained remarkably calm, cool, and collected, absorbed our instructions, seen to each child’s needs, and somehow managed to do the dishes and tidy up the playroom by the time we come back home. It’s amazing.
SS: We hear that Tutu School is expanding rapidly, congratulations! Where can we expect to see you next?
GW: Thank you! This past year has definitely been one of expansion for us. We have begun franchising in earnest, and by the end of the spring will have a total of eight locations in Northern and Southern California, as well as our first out-of-state location opening in Raleigh, North Carolina. It has been so gratifying to see all of our new owners –an incredible collection of entrepreneurial women- embark on their own Tutu School adventures.
SS: Favorite Bay Area restaurant:
GW: Chouquet’s on Fillmore. My husband and I consider it a sentimental favorite, but I can’t think of a better place to tuck into a corner and a good bottle of wine.
SS: On a Saturday morning, you will find us…
GW: We live in the Presidio, a former military base in San Francisco that has been transformed into a beautiful national park filled to the brim with nature, lucky residents, a few businesses, and, you know, our own Starbucks. So many Saturday mornings I throw the littles into a wagon, tell the big to grab his scooter and we set out in search of fresh air and a frappuccino.
SS: Favorite museum with the kids:
GW: Bay Area Discovery Museum. I mean, when your kids are playing in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge…
SS: Can’t leave home without…
GW: Caffeine. Can I say caffeine? Definitely caffeine.