People Who Inspire: Debra Giunta

People Who Inspire: Debra Giunta

Debra Giunta is one of the most inspiring women I've ever met. A little over a year ago, I started an internship with Design Dance, Ms. Giunta's primary organization which focuses on youth education and self expression through the lens of dance. During this time, I saw first hand how hard and tirelessly Deb works not only for herself but for the passions she strives to spread throughout the Chicago community and beyond. I've loved working with her not solely because of the nature of my work but mostly because of the way she manages. Deb has a "what do you want to do?" approach when assigning roles and tasks to all of her employees. What I mean is, she's recognized that when you ask people what they want to do and give them the option to do it, the results will more often than not be better than expected. 

A few weeks back, I asked her to sit down with me to discuss how she's come to where she is now and what she's doing to keep moving forward.

First, how many organizations are you involved in?

I own two, Design Dance and Prismatic, but I'm also on the Ambassador team for Ladies Get Paid and am a Starting Block Fellow. 

Why did you start your own company?

If there was one concise reason there was not one job that felt attractive to me and being an entrepreneur I really looked at it as a way to be who I really was all together. I switched my major five times. Once I started my own business, I was able to to figure out what I wanted to do. 

How did you arrive at dance after such a variety of school studies?

All the way through college I was teaching dance and after I graduated high school I wasn't sure what I'd do with dance. I danced all throughout high school. I was so submerged in dance that once I wasn’t so deeply involved it was weird, like a culture shock. I was performing and teaching and I really loved teaching. I taught 26 classes a week and coached competitive teams. I went to school all day and taught all night.

I arrived at dance because I was already dancing and teaching all the time. I started a dance studio and I really wanted to have my own business so I signed a 5 year contract and we found out later it was infested with mold. I had to get a call job - it was not the best time.

I had to do something, so I started reaching out to preschools and had to work as a vendor as “Design Dance”. After a while, I had booked a lot of classes and had many clients, still teaching 26 classes a week. I started hiring and researching school curriculum and I became passionate about how we teach people to dance. It’s all about movement and kids connecting to themselves. I wanted to bring it to kids who didn’t have much money or less than I did. I do love dance, but I love running a business more than anything

Do you think you'll own Design Dance forever or start a new company?

I do not foresee giving up Design Dance. I can't imagine I would, but there are a lot of things I’m interested in. I love writing and I’d love to incorporate it more into my life. I care a lot about child psych. I want to bring more psych service to kids, especially those with special needs. But I can’t imagine leaving. I do envision that my job will change as Design Dance keeps going, but the nice thing about a business is you get to decide what kind of work you do.

What's your favorite book? Why?

Mmm, what about food? Have you been to Hopleaf? They have a duck reuben and it’s so delicious. I’d also eat panang curry for the rest of my life and become 700 lbs.

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