Ive Jones' closet is full. The long-time dancer, now a 13-year-old who travels the country to perform, has more than a decade's worth of costumes.
That makes for a lot of tulle, lace and sparkle. And mom Catherine Woyee Jones has come up with a way to get rid of it ... and make some money in the process.
Along with son Jason Lockamy, Woyee Jones has launched TutuandLeo.com, a kind of eBay or Etsy designed exclusively for the dance, cheer and performance crowds. Here, dancers, studios and dance parents can set up their own online shop to sell gently used costumes, accessories and other items. They also can browse other shops on the site when they're looking for items that they need for the next performance or competition.
Woyee Jones' dreams are two-fold: She hopes to help dance families earn back some of the money they've spent on costumes, which can cost $100 or more. She also hopes to create an online community for dancers where they can find advice, support and new friendships.
"I don't know what it will do," Woyee Jones tells me. "But I know someone needs it."
Ive started dancing at age 2 and hasn't stopped. She's done it all - classical, musical theater, jazz, tap, pointe, hip hop, lyrical, contemporary and pageant dance. And they've traveled across the country, including Georgia, New York, Florida and California. She's had the opportunity to meet famous dancers and choreographers, including Misty Copeland, the first African American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.
As the mom-daughter pair flitted across the country, Woyee Jones says she has met countless parents who are facing similar struggles - paying high prices for dance lessons, choreography and costumes and having piles of tutus, worn only once, laying around at home.
The idea for Tutu and Leo began about three years ago as Woyee Jones, who has a rare lung disorder, lay in a hospital bed. Her mom took over at home. She helped Ive get ready for performances, but kept confusing which of the many costumes to bring. That's when Woyee Jones decided she needed to figure something out. A year later, living in an apartment as she separated from her husband, she also was looking for ways to make money to support Ive's passion.
With the help of her son, a student at Case Western Reserve, they teamed up with two of his friends - both Apex High School graduates who are part of Deference Design - to build the site. TutuandLeo.com launched in February.
Now, Woyee Jones, who also is the current president of the Apex High School PTSA, is working to get the word out as she travels to events and dance performances with her daughter. She's hoping the site will empower moms like her and dancers like Ive to find a way to not only empty their closets, but earn some money to pay for the next performance or costume.
"It's like your own business right there in that space," she says. "Everything is figured out for you. We're as focused on customer service as we are on merchant service."
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