Business Name: Blackbird Academy of Arts, Inc.

Location: 1058 Front St., Suite 102

Telephone: 501-336-8200

Website: www.blackbirdacademy.org

Date opened: Our new location opened Sept. 4; we originally opened in July of 2009.

Number of employees: 24

What type of business is it? Non-profit arts education organization

What specifically does your business do? We provide quality arts education and opportunities in music, dance, theatre, creative writing, visual arts, film, and sewing.

Owner OR Manager Name: Executive Director Jennie Strange

Why did you decide to open this business/location? We needed a bigger space for our growing programs and love the creative energy of the downtown area. We wanted our students and faculty to be a part of that.

What is the best part about owning/operating this business? Every day I am surrounded by people of all ages doing what they love — dancing, singing, acting, creating, making music and art. It’s never a dull (or quiet) moment!

What has been the biggest surprise that has happened since opening this business? The overwhelming response from the community – when we opened in 2009 I wouldn’t have imagined that three years later we would be in a new location with more than double our original space and triple the number of students.

What is the best piece of advice you received before going into this business? Do your research — get advice from experts, talk to the community, look at the needs in your area.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in business? Make sure you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Starting a business or organization of any kind is tough and takes a lot of time — if I didn’t believe in Blackbird whole-heartedly, I wouldn’t be here.

What makes your business unique to Conway and Faulkner County? The people — I work with the most innovative and talented group of artists and teachers, all whom have an amazing passion for the arts that spills over into their students. We come together for the same purpose — to give budding artists in this community education, support, and a platform for their voices.