Today we’d like to introduce you to Molly Dyer.
Molly, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My dad is a doctor, a family physician, in Missouri. I grew up with an excellent healthcare team. My father’s business partner was my doctor, and if I had any medical questions, I just asked my dad. We had a medicine cabinet with every medicine you can imagine – we always had whatever we needed. When I went to the doctor’s office, my doctor (my dad’s business partner) asked me questions about what I was up to, how school was going, etc. prior to examining and treating me. He looked me in the eyes and connected with my humanity prior to checking my throat or ears or anything else. He showed me that he cared about me. He never typed while talking to me or suggested a medication before I finished telling him what was going on in my world. I loved visiting my dad’s office, whether or not I was sick. It was like a big, caring family that I was part of.
And then, I became an adult…
When I entered the healthcare system as an adult, I was appalled at how I was treated. I admit that some of this was about going from being the doctor’s daughter to just another patient in the doctor’s office. But some of it was also a shift in the way the healthcare system works. Doctors were spending less time with their patients, more time tracking symptoms and looking at their computers. One of my doctors never even looked me in the eyes. I thought, “Don’t you have to look at me to know what’s wrong with me?” I felt isolated in my visits to the doctor. I felt like I was alone in my healthcare decisions. These feelings compelled me to get into a field of medicine where I could provide the kind of connective, attentive, individualized healthcare that I experienced in my dad’s office.
After getting my bachelor’s degree, I ran after-school programs for at-risk youth for five years, but I was so tired after working with them that each night I needed a little time to recover from the after-school program. I couldn’t hold a conversation or make dinner or do anything active – I just needed to sit in silence for a bit to recover.
One day, I decided to get an acupuncture treatment. It was not the first time I had done so, but I had not had many treatments in my life. As I was laying in the quiet, peaceful acupuncture room, listening to meditative music, I began to feel more relaxed than I had felt in years. Afterwards, I had more energy. I knew I wanted to go into a healing profession. As I laid there, I thought, “I need a quiet job. In a quiet place… like this.”
The idea of studying acupuncture fascinated me. After reading more about it, interviewing a few acupuncturists and visiting some acupuncture colleges, I decided that this was the field for me. I don’t think I’ll ever regret that decision. Acupuncture and Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) has changed my life for the better. Now, my job is to help others who are struggling and feeling stuck physically and emotionally, in the same way I was when I found acupuncture.
After graduating from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, I created Light & Dark Acupuncture with the vision of my dad’s family practice in the back of my mind. I wanted a space where individuals and families can feel connected with their healthcare practitioner. This means feeling safe enough to express concerns, frustrations, fears, and worries, and feeling inspired enough to celebrate successes together. It also means feeling supported in making large health-related decisions and feeling like you’re not alone in your healthcare journey.
I am continuing to work towards this vision every day at Light & Dark Acupuncture. In my journey to do so, I have found so many professionals (both in allopathic/”Western” medicine and in alternative healthcare fields) who are doing the same thing. I set myself up with a team of referral partners who make healthcare feel like a positive and supportive environment. I found that the reason that this supportive healing environment does not exist everywhere has nothing to do with the individuals at any particular clinic. It has more to do with the system they’re working under and the expectations placed on them.
One of the greatest connections I have made is with Dr. Brandon Davison-Tracy at Stapleton Pediatrics and other members of his team. He’s a phenomenal doctor and he really believes in Eastern medicine. He has referred clients to me many times when medications and Western medical options have been less helpful. This doctor’s dedication to doing whatever it takes to help his patients heal (both in his field via referrals) is the primary reason that I became a Pediatric Acupuncture Specialist.
I have worked with kids for years. It comes quite naturally to me and I love it. You would think that children would be afraid of acupuncture needles, but surprisingly, most of the children who come to me try them out. When I work with kids, I use many tools – in addition to acupuncture needles – which stimulate acupuncture points and create a similar clinical effect to acupuncture needles.
When I do use acupuncture needles with kids, I don’t call them needles. I call them “taps.” This is because the acupuncture needle is so tiny and flimsy that it doesn’t hurt like the needles we are used to seeing at the doctor’s office. If I say the word “needle” to a child that’s what they think of – a shot or a blood draw. But the needles used for those are very large compared to “taps.” Receiving a “tap” feels like a quick tap on their skin. There is no crying or screaming. That’s why there is no need to refer to a “tap” like a needle. If kids ask if the “tap” is actually a needle, I tell them, “yes, it is,” and then I explain the difference between the needles they’re used to and a “tap.” If a child does not want to use the “taps” because they’re nervous, we just move on to the other non-invasive, acupressure tools, which kids love to use.
I also treat adults. Many times, I treat the parents of the children who come in. Other times, adults find me on their own. I love the energy of going back and forth between kids and adults. My absolute favorite days are ones where 50% of my clients are kids and 50% are adults.
I wrote a blog about why I became an acupuncturist which recounts much of what I’ve explained above.
It can be found at http://lightanddarkacu.com/2016/03/why-i-became-an-acupuncturist-the-man-who-inspired-my-compassion/.
Now, let me back up a bit so that I can explain how tap dance has anything to do with anything and where my side hustle, Tappy Feet, came from…
The three things that drive all of my business pursuits and personal pursuits are as follows:
1. Feeling connected (with each other, with our own bodies and minds, with our environment, with our seasons, with our health goals, etc)
2. Feeling accepted (by one another)
3. Creative Expression (this is why I am an entrepreneur.)
I was a percussionist in high school and I have always loved finding the beat… the pulse that makes us all feel connected. Rhythm feels sacred to me. Syncing myself to a beat and creating rhythms has this primal, ritualistic way of bringing people together. I’m all about bringing people together – to laugh together, to cry together, to celebrate or heal – I believe that life is meant to be shared and that we can handle all things better together.
So, rhythm was my passion and thus, in college, tap dance became my hobby. In undergrad, I spent long nights tap dancing through all the feelings and emotions around becoming whole and uncovering my identity. I found beats that expressed my anger, my sadness, and my joy. I loved tap dance so much and spent so much time doing it that the arts center where I took classes eventually asked me to teach tap classes. I started teaching kids’ tap classes in 2003 at the Gunnison Arts Center and I loved it.
After graduation, I moved to St. Louis where I worked at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA). It just so happens that when you work in a multidisciplinary arts center, you get to take a ton of arts/dance classes. I had such amazing tap teachers at COCA – teachers who further solidified my love of rhythm through drumming and dance.
I left COCA in 2008 to move to Ghana, West Africa for a few months. In Ghana, I taught dance, music, theatre and art classes through the volunteer organization, Global Host Project. It turns out that tap dance is an amazing thing to teach African kids for a couple of reasons: 1. It is a descendant of African dance, 2. It is a combination of two of Africa’s favorite past times: dancing and drumming.
The kids in Ghana LOVED tap dance. I did not get to stay for their Christmas performance, but I taught them the tap dance for it and they had memorized it by the time I left. They did not have tap shoes – we used their tennis shoe (which do still make some sounds). When I left, they were planning on putting metal lids or quarters on the bottoms of their shoes so that they could hear the tap sounds.
After Africa, I decided to move back to Colorado. There, I toured tap classes until I found one that I loved at Cherry Creek Dance. I took this class on and off for years while I ran after-school programs and went to graduate school to become an acupuncturist.
During graduate school, I was under a lot of stress – you have to learn to view the world in a whole new way (an Eastern perspective) when you’re learning to become an acupuncturist. You have to completely break down your old way of perceiving information, question everything you think you know and build a new way of deciding what is the truth and what is possible. This is an exhausting process. There were times when I felt that I couldn’t talk because my brain was so tired and my paradigm was so scrambled. So… I tap danced. It was my “Get-Out-Of-My-Head-And-Into-My-Feet Therapy.” Graduate school broke my brain for a while. But I could still tap. So, that’s what I did.
This very long story has one major point: tap dance has been my greatest therapy through so many trials and successes, for so many years. In my adult tap class at Cherry Creek Dance, I met my business partner, Kristen Jorden. While neither of us claims to be a professional tap dancer, both of us can claim that our passion for tap is insurmountable. Both of us have used tap dance as therapy to become better, more courageous individuals. Kristen’s sense of humor automatically linked us in friendship. Funny enough, in all the years I had been tap dancing, I had never really made a “tap dance friend” until I met Kristen.
When our tap teacher, Jacob, joined the military and left, we were devastated. We considered teaching the class.
We began to envision what our lesson plans would look like if we co-taught the tap class together. But what happened next tends to happen every time Kristen and I get together to do something – we got just a little too creative… we took things a couple of notches past normal. Kristen and I tend to (accidentally) fire up the creative side of one another, and for that reason, we don’t do anything in a “normal” way. All of our ideas are either: 1. hilarious, 2. ridiculous or 3. completely crazy. So, that is pretty much the foundation on which we built our business, Tappy Feet (hilarious, ridiculous and completely crazy). Rather than taking over Jacob’s class, we created an entire business to teach tap our way.
We noticed that tap dance is intimidating for adults to start for the first time because it’s HARD. It requires rhythm, balance, coordination, memory – all of which get more challenging as we age. Since Kristen and I had both found a tap to be so therapeutic (emotionally, mentally and physically), we decided to create a class that specifically addresses and overcomes the challenges adults feel when they consider trying a tap class. Here’s how we do it:
1. 1. Judge-free zone: People are encouraged at whatever level they are at. We also repeatedly remind people not to judge themselves. Sometimes our reminders work, and sometimes they don’t, because this is an personal battle over which we have little control. Occasionally, we see our reminders pay off as our students begin to soften their perspective around making mistakes. This makes learning the most challenging skills easier.
2. Team Work: We get adults together at all levels of tap dance. Some of our exercises are built to help tap dancers support each other at any level.
3. Split levels: Kristen and I co-teach every tap class, so we split into a couple of groups in order to teach newer students a more basic lesson and more advanced students a more complicated lesson. In the end, we come together and dance together as a multi-leveled team.
4. Tap Games: We make sure not to take ourselves too seriously, so we created a bunch of tap dance games that make people laugh but also teach a specific skill needed in tap dance. Some games build your vocabulary of tap steps, others work on your ability to stay on the beat, while still others build your ability to tap dance in a group, etc.
5. Non-Traditional Lesson Plans: All of our lessons and class activities are focused on six main goals:
A. Brain health (coordination, memory, focus, balance, muscle control, etc.),
B. Skill-building (i.e. building skills that you need specifically for tap dance, such as learning tap terminology, learning new tap steps, putting tap steps together seamlessly, etc.),
C. Creativity – opportunities to use your creativity
D. Courage-building – to make us better humans
E. Connection/Community-building – to feel connected to others who are learning to tap dance or growing their tap dance skills.
F. Increasing Joy – Lots of opportunities for laughter and fun through tap games and community connection.
Most classes have a bit of each of these things, but an overall focus on becoming precise, skilled tap dancers. Our classes are non-traditional because we don’t sweat the small stuff, and our focus is on having fun, growing courage and connecting, and less on being an amazing tap dancers. This is hard for legit tap dancers to hear… it’s kind of like tap treachery to care less about dancing perfectly on the beat and more about laughing together, but we find that decreased pressure helps people fall more in love with tap dance, and as a result, they apply more dedication and receive more long term growth.
Because we created classes that were non-traditional, we decided to take it one step further… well, actually two steps further… to create non-traditional tap dance products and events as well. Now, we offer a couple of tap products, such as our Tappy Feet Tap Step Card Deck – a set of cards with various tap steps on them used to play games and learn tap vocabulary. We also offer adult tap dance events, including team bonding for corporate teams and adult birthday parties. We have an event called Tipsy Tappy Feet, during which we meet and (responsibly) indulge in adult beverages prior to a Tappy Feet tap class. This event helps people who are feeling nervous to try tap dance build up a little liquid courage before their first class.
Tappy Feet has become one of my favorite hobbies. I love writing tap choreography, coming up with wacky games and exercises, and helping people fall in love with a tap, as I did.
Between doing “taps” on kids and “tapping” with Tappy Feet, I guess you could call me a Tap Master. I like to think of myself as The Tap Dancing Acupuncturist – helping people heal through rhythm and connection.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Opening a business is never a completely smooth road. As one of my graduate school teachers says, “It’s the timeless principle of yin and yang… when shit gets really bad, don’t worry, it will get good again… and when shit gets really good, don’t worry, it’ll suck again really soon.” I get a kick out of the realism in this statement. I see myself as a realist – providing comfort when there’s pain and celebration when there’s a success, but never pretending like pain is not there or “shouldn’t” exist. I love this statement because it’s life. It’s my truth. For that reason, it comforts me to know that I will always persevere through a challenge, but that challenge will always persist.
I entered the entrepreneurial world with a dream and oodles of debt. After years of graduate school debt, I was desperate to earn an income. The financial pressures on my family were great at that time. However, it was over a year before I was able to take a paycheck. I had to work other part-time jobs to make up the income that we needed.
I have had at least three jobs at all times since graduating and up to five at one time. Opening one business right after graduate school was not the smartest financial move, but opening two was financially devastating. However, I don’t regret it. I have had the support of my amazing partner as I have worked to grow both businesses. It has been very challenging at times to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods, get enough exercise, outdoor activity, and family-time – all of which lead to a balanced lifestyle. The first thing to go is self-care when we have Tappy Feet events to promote and there is a full month of appointments booked at Light & Dark Acupuncture. It’s easy to give in to hours of work, but I have to fight for balance in my life. I ask all of my clients to try to do this and I have to hold myself accountable to these standards too. I have to make decisions that will lead to a better work/life balance, and sometimes that’s really hard to do.
Being patient with how the business grows and progresses is the most common struggle I deal with. At Light & Dark Acupuncture, I have wanted to purchase and open a full herbal apothecary for years. This process has taken time, strategic planning, financial backing, and soooo much patience.
In graduate school, I studied acupuncture and Chinese herbology. Surprisingly, it was the Chinese herbs that took the most dedication and persistence and that became my greatest passion. I love prescribing herbal formulas, studying ancient formulations and figuring out which formulas are best for my clients. I love herbs more than everything other tools I use to treat clients. They allow me to provide a non-pharmaceutical option to my clients that work so well to relieve discomfort both internally and externally. They’re powerful.
However, it costs a lot of money to purchase an herbal inventory. Once you purchase herbs, you need the space to store them and the space to prepare your formulas. The cost of rent plus the cost of herbs makes a business’ overhead very high. A large portion of people who graduate with a degree and Board Certification in Chinese Herbalism cannot afford to start carrying a full herbal inventory for quite a while. Eastern medicine school (acupuncture school) has very few business-related classes, so learning how to run a store, manage inventory and pay sales taxes takes time, and again, patience. Deciding to take out loans or go further into debt vs. growing slowly is a personal decision that each business owner takes. There are risks and benefits to all business decisions. Successful business owners weigh these risks and benefits carefully before making each business decision. I have been working on this for a long time and I am almost there. Light & Dark Apothecary is coming soon.
Learning to run a business was no easy feat. As I mentioned, I started these businesses with no training in how to run a business, how to manage finances, how to make cash flow projections or what way to best market my business. I learned all of these things and so many more business lessons slowly – one step at a time.
Tappy Feet has taken patience too. We only charge $15 per class. We opened as a services (classes) only business, so you can imagine that if we’re receiving $15 per person in a new business where we have 3 – 5 people per class, we don’t make much money each week.
When we opened Tappy Feet, we were shocked to find that the set up that it takes to run our business costed more than what we made in the business each month. We had many canceled classes in the beginning due to low participation. During those classes, we occasionally still had to pay the rental fee for the dance studio we held class in, so we lost money. Sometimes, it costs more to pay for business insurance and studio rentals than what we make teaching class. We are still in a place where most of our money goes back into our business and we are not taking home large paychecks. We’re okay with this because to us, that is the cost of bringing joy to our community. However, slowly and steadily, we have grown.
Luckily, Kristen and I are creative enough to troubleshoot these issues and find ways to cover our costs. We hold events with a larger turnout to offset business expenses and we are slowly growing our income through quirky tap dance products in addition to classes. The Tappy Feet empire is very slow-growing, but every second of it is chock full of creativity and joy, so we are gaining wealth in joy instead of dollars. We’ve learned so much about how to make enough money to get by. As a very small side hustle, we never expect Tappy Feet to make us rich – we do it because we love it. What we do hope for is that one day Tappy Feet can pay our way to some tap festivals or performances and that it can buy our weekly coffee at Amethyst Coffee Co., where we plan classes and events. Those are our epic Tappy Feet goals.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Light & Dark Acupuncture and Tappy Feet story. Tell us more about the business.
Light & Dark Acupuncture
Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.)
Board-Certified Chinese Herbalist
I specialize in pediatric acupuncture, but I also love treating adults.
In adults, I tend to work with these conditions: migraines, Bell’s palsy, stroke recovery, and other neurological issues, as well as prenatal care, fertility, insomnia, menopause, anxiety, and depression.
I see kids for anxiety and frustration, digestive disorders, insomnia/sleep challenges, ADD/ADHD, headaches/migraines, menstrual disorders (teens), urinary disorders and many other pediatric conditions in kids.
In this business, I am most proud of my
1. My ability to relate to kids and make them feel comfortable when they’re very nervous to try something new.
2. My creative health challenges and activities.
3. My skills in using Chinese herbs and acupuncture or acupressure to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.
4. The many times I have helped women who are struggling with fertility balance their bodies and then conceive.
5. The many times I have used the pulse to correctly predict a baby’s sex in prenatal clients.
I am known for:
-My great passion for herbalism.
-Making kids laugh and helping kids feel comfortable with acupuncture/acupressure.
-My creativity: creating fun, gentle health-related activities and challenges for children that help them learn to listen to their bodies and connect with their environment so that they can create more balance in their lives.
-Being sensitive, authentic and easy to talk to.
-Helping people who are nervous by using empathy in situations where they have needle sensitivity or are scared to share something with me.
-Being compassionate and encouraging with my clients.
-Encouraging individuals to be themselves and to love themselves exactly as they are.
I teach several classes per week, during which I specialize in using unique and quirky teaching tools and games to help adults grow their tap skills, their courage, their creativity, and their overall joy.
At Tappy Feet, we’re known for playing funny, quirky tap games and for being encouraging to every student at every level. This is what our tap students tell us they notice about us.
I am most proud of our product, the Tappy Feet Tap Step Card Deck. This is the first time either of us has conceived an idea, put it through production and put it up for sale to the public. We are working to grow the resources available for how to use these cards to make tap classes more quirky and fun. There was nothing wrong with the traditional way of teaching tap dance, but as both Kristen and I were previously teachers, we noticed that not everyone learns in the traditional way. We were losing potential tap dancers through the cracks because that style of teaching did not fit everyone. The Tappy Feet Tap Step Card Deck offers a solution for those tappers who struggle to pick up tap dance in a traditional manner.
I am also most proud of our tap dance game “Tappy Feet Insanity,” which originated as a knock-off of Cards Against Humanity and which features adults behaving oddly… in tap shoes.
Tappy Feet is different than other tap classes because we provide solutions for people who struggle to learn tap dance, in addition to those who learn quickly by watching. Additionally, we get all levels of tap dancers together and encourage them to support one another at their various levels. With two teachers, it’s easy to split into various levels and make sure that each person feels like their receiving tap instruction that matches their needs.
Tappy Feet is also different from other tap classes because while we do hope that people become great tap dancers, we’re more invested in making them great people by increasing their joy and helping them feel connected with their community. That’s our number one focus. Learning tap dance is just the added benefit of being part of our group.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I feel incredibly lucky to have found my Tappy Feet business partner. We work creatively together in a way that makes this business a lot of fun.
- Tappy Feet class: $15 Drop-In
- Tappy Feet 10 class punch card: $120 ($12 per class)
- Tappy Feet 20 class punch card: $220 ($11 per class)
- Tappy Feet 30 class punch card: $300 ($10 per class)
- Light & Dark Acupuncture pricing can be found at: http://lightanddarkacu.com/pricing/
- Address: Light & Dark Acupuncture
Inside the Community Care Collective
3405 N. Downing St. Ste. D
Denver, CO, 80205
- Website: www.lightanddarkacu.com and www.mytappyfeet.com
- Phone: 720-441-4382 (Light & Dark Acupuncture); 720-201-9465 (Tappy Feet)
- Email: email@example.com (Light & Dark Acupuncture); firstname.lastname@example.org (Tappy Feet)
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mytappyfeet/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LightandDarkAcu/ (Light & Dark Acupuncture); https://www.facebook.com/MyTappyFeet/ (Tappy Feet)
Kristen Jorden, Brandy Haskins, JoAllan Gehde