Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Amiya Alexander, 10-year-old entrepreneur

Link of the day - I will pay you $25, if you come up with a cool domain name for me.

Amiya Alexander bounds in front of a parked school bus at Bloomfield Hills Montessori Center, her smile so wide it shows off the red and black bands around her braces.

Those braces, her brown Baby Phat high tops and the poof of pink feathers affixed to her hair speak to the accoutrements of any 10-year-old girl.

Except Amiya owns another accessory: the school bus.

At age 10, Amiya Alexander is an entrepreneur -- owner, founder and creator of Amiya's Mobile Dance Academy, which travels around metro Detroit teaching kids hip-hop, ballet, tap, merengue and more.

Painted a searing shade of hot pink, Amiya's bus has all but four seats ripped out, a dance floor installed and ballet barres and mirrors affixed to the walls. On the ceiling, glitter glimmers.

Since January, it has rolled around metro Detroit, driven by her great-uncle, Sundiata Abdul-Mateen, who was lured out of retirement to help.

Aside from Bloomfield Hills Montessori, Amiya also teaches classes at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit and has instructed toddlers in ballet and salsa at Island Kiddie Kampus Child Development Center in Grosse Ile.

A dancer since age 2 and a member of the Detroit Pistons Junior Automation, Amiya moves as fluidly as a dancer on MTV.

"The kids just loved her," says Shirley Mohney, owner of Island Kiddie Kampus. "The way she relates to them, she's just so natural at it. For such a young little thing, she's just got this whole charisma about her."

The idea for the bus, Amiya says, came to her as she played with her dolls at "1:02 in the morning" at her Southfield home. She woke up her mother, Teberah Alexander, 30, who asked her daughter if it could wait until the next day.

Of course it couldn't. And out tumbled Amiya's plans for not just a bus but a business, one that would bring a space to teach ballet and tap and hip-hop from school to school, party to party, child to child.

Teberah, a registered nurse who owns a business called Compassionate Home Care, recalls her daughter saying, "Mommy, you're a single mother, and I need to help you. I have to go to Harvard Medical School."

Proceeds from running the business go toward Amiya's education fund; she wants to study for a career in obstetrics because "I like babies, and blood is cool."

So for Christmas, when other kids got Nintendo Wii games and systems, Amiya got the school bus.

"I think, it's like, awesome," says Amiya. "I didn't think my mom would actually do it."

It cost Teberah about $11,000 to buy the bus and rehab it to match Amiya's vision.

Back at Bloomfield Hills Montessori, Amiya's clients were seven girls, ages 2 to 7.

Inside the bus, they formed a line around Amiya, who stood a foot taller than the girls.

"Five, Six. Five, Six, Seven, Eight!," she shouted, raising her arms.

Kids performing on the Nas track "I Can" start shouting "I know I can/ Be what I wanna be," and Amiya moves, leading the kids left and right, through straddle jumps and arm pumps that end with a confident nod of the head.

"I like when she teaches, because she shows us a lot of moves!" says Grace Knapke, 6, of Rochester Hills, whose sisters, Kate, 5, and Jade, 4, also take Amiya's class.

Parents like Tom Langlas of Bloomfield Hills, whose 2-year-old daughter, Kitty, dances in Amiya's bus classes, call what she's doing remarkable.

Says Langlas: "She's a role model for all girls, all kids, really."

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