Class of 2012
In 2012, nominators commended Melinda Tamm for her impact on youth. She also was a Sertoma leader and a volunteer at Quiet Oaks Hospice House.
What are you doing now?
Owner of Ms. Melinda's Dance Studio, Waite Park.
How did the 5 Under 40 award affect your life?
The 5 Under 40 award brought awareness to our community of my studio and its vision and culture.
Other big changes since you received the award?
We are now celebrating our 10th year in business. I am also in the development stages for the future site and building for Ms. Melinda's, which will open in the summer of 2017. This future site will be able to provide space for more of our youth in the community.
What will make the St. Cloud area greater in coming years?
I am excited to see the community's future so bright because of the work ethic, self-confidence and achievement of the students of Ms. Melinda's Dance Studio and their willingness to pass it forward to others with kindness and leadership skills.
Originally ran: January 6, 2013
Melinda Tamm got a late start in organized dance. She was 6.
That's about twice the average age of beginners today, and even then — in the late 1980s — her motivation was largely to follow her sister. Now 32, Tamm (formerly Melinda Brockopp) is still choreographing her way through life.
Originally from Sartell, she danced in high school and then in college tried out with the Minnesota Vikings cheerleading squad. She beat out hundreds of hopefuls and made the team for the 2000 and 2001 seasons. She later went on to work as a choreographer for the NFL. She launched her own studio in 2006 and now has 19 employees. Her curriculum is focused on etiquette and education and includes the motto "Dreams begin with a dance."
What influential factor led you to your current career?
"The passion of dance was No. 1. But I grew up with family members who owned businesses and I saw their joys and heartaches and learned what that feeling of growth and pride was like, to say, 'I did this myself.' I look at how my grandfather ran his hardware business in Alexandria and that taught me to say, 'I can do this.' I have that entrepreneurial soul ... but the passion for the kids and for dance is what it is. You get to be with them a big part of your life — once a week, some of the girls are here 3-4 hours a week – you get to see them grow year after year. I want to be involved and help build that small part of their life and prepare them for the future ... I have a mindset for choreography. When I listen to a song, some people might just hear the words, but I'm seeing colors and movement. That's how my brain works."
What's the best part of your work day?
"The best part is working with the kids and seeing their accomplishments. You'll go into a classroom and I'll see girls — and some guys, too, but mostly girls — that you want to push. You see them come in and maybe they're having a bad day. Then they just nail the dance and that look on their face or the hugs after class are the No. 1 thing ... some of these kids who are younger and they do a really hard move, the excitement on their faces is so pure. I was in a business before where it was all adult interaction and people would be like 'Oh, cool, I did it.' At a young age, though, you can see that light in their eyes that's so rewarding ... They're just adorable ... this is a small part of their life but hopefully it's something they can look back on and say, 'Wow, I learned a lot about myself.' That helps me, because it's a business and it's a long day. I don't just work 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. I get here at 9 or 10 in the morning and do the whole business aspect. Then at 3, I have to change and put on my dance shoes and be a teacher and choreographer on top of being a business owner."
What is your most important extra-curricular activity and why?
"Sertoma is a service club, and what I've learned from it over the past eight years, and the friendships and how doing something little for something else goes such a long way, it's been fantastic ... It's where I met my husband, and I'm incoming president at the end of next summer, so it has worked out well. The people involved are so helpful and outgoing, it just gets you revved up."
How do you continue to learn new skills that will keep you on the cutting edge of your business?
"I go to conferences and conventions and I sit and listen to podcasts all the time. What's new in the industry? What's coming out? A lot of those podcasts are from professional choreographers in either L.A. or New York. ... I follow all different choreographers on Twitter to find what's going on, who's in town, what's the new 'in' for shoes. With social media, some people say it can mean the demise of a business, but a business like mine with so many young kids — you need to be on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook ... since I started dancing, entering a single competition used to mean all sorts of stacks of paper, entering each name by hand. Now it's all clicking on the computer. At competitions, it's huge to find the right music. It's so great to have that at my fingertips now instead of buying one CD for a song or using tapes and cutting music ... now I can download it to my phone and bring it with or bring an iPod to a competition ... I also use Skype to have meetings with our staff if they can't be here, or Facetime because most of our teachers have iPhones."
How do you see the greater St. Cloud area in 20 years and what would be your role in it?
"You hope that some of these girls will come up to you later on and say they want to keep going in this. Maybe they can dance in college or after. I'd love to have students tell me they want to open more Ms. Melinda's. I'd make it a franchise, built for them. I can help them build their dreams ... I'd like our reach to get more broad, because we're already bringing people in from Sauk Centre, Maple Lake, Maple Grove, Milaca, and that helps our community, too, because those people are going shopping here and doing other things ... I don't want to be just a business owner, either. I want to speak to students at the schools and colleges about being an entrepreneur and having a business.
Maybe then we can get a few more kids who, instead of graduating and going to Minneapolis, they stay here and start something ... I'm a believer that if you write down goals, they'll come true. So I'm constantly writing things I'd like to see in the next five years. It's like a vision plan for my business and my personal life. Looking back at when I started the studio, I was thinking, 'Wow, in 10 years I'm going to (reach) 250 kids. Well, it's Year 7 and I'm at 370. It always helps to know from where you've come and that you can always exceed it."
Family: Husband, Derek Tamm.
Education: St. Cloud State University.
FYI: Her students have won more than 200 awards for outstanding choreography and creative concepts and have been invited to perform at Disneyland on two occasions. Tamm was named Sertoman of the Year in 2011 and chairs the local organization's fundraising efforts. She also volunteers at the Anna Marie House and the Quiet Oaks Hospice House.