Grace Under Pressure

Angela Murray '22, senior finance major at the Island University, grew up expressing herself on a maple sprung floor before becoming a competitive ballroom dancer at the age of 17. From the age of 3, the Corpus Christi native trained in ballet, tap, modern, contemporary, and jazz, before discovering ballroom dancing when she was 12.

“I did everything I was offered basically,” Murray said. “As a member of Corpus Christi Ballet, I was in ‘The Nutcracker’ every single year from age 6 to 16; I was Clara in 2012. Also, I was an amateur ballroom dancer for four years —what we call ‘pro-am’ because you’re an amateur dancing with a professional —and then I turned professional when I was 17.”

Today, Murray, now 22 years old, is an award-winning ballroom dancer, choreographer, and instructor who runs Ballroom by the Bay, which she launched with the help of seven independent contractors in fall 2019. As a business owner, Murray said she applies the knowledge she learns in the classroom to day-to-day bookkeeping activities at her studio.

“Owning a business and being a full-time student is challenging,” Murray said. “It’s time-consuming doing both, but I always say that it’s good because I can contribute what I’m learning directly to my business instead of just saying, ‘OK, I need to memorize this information so I can pass a test.’”

Murray was only a few months settled into life as a business owner when Texas officials ordered a lockdown in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis in March 2020. The lockdown forced Murray to close Ballroom by the Bay for three months, which required her to rethink her business plans for what was set to be a key year for market growth.

Angela Murray '22, Ballroom by the Bay owner

Islander Angela Murray runs Ballroom by the Bay, which she launched in fall 2019. On the cusp of graduation, Murray’s business is thriving once again, despite a challenging first year as a result of COVID-19.

“I was able to get a little bit of help; my landlord worked with me so I didn’t have to pay my full rent for those three months. I still paid my independent contractors—I got financial assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Administration, but it was still hard,” Murray said. “Any sort of capital we had set aside for advertising went to keeping the doors open. Not being able to generate any revenue for three months was rough, but luckily, we survived and reopened in June 2020.”

Murray said she is grateful for the support of the local ballroom dance community in helping Ballroom by the Bay, located on the southside of Corpus Christi, get back on its feet. She expects her business to enjoy significant growth as social distancing protocols are lifted.

“A lot of our most serious clients started with us last summer, and they are there for every class,” Murray said. “But still, some people don’t want to come in —they don’t want to dance with a mask; they don’t want to get out in general. You have different comfort levels, so that’s a big factor in terms of our traffic.”

Accounting adjunct professor Richard Bell said it is common for Islander business students to be involved in or help create a new business enterprise, but they typically pair off with another person, a subject matter expert, in a certain field. He says Murray is unique because she brought those two skill sets together to fulfill a big dream.

Bell describes Murray as a committed student who demonstrated her dedication to academic success early on in his classroom.

“Angela was in my 9 a.m. accounting class,” Bell said. “A very small number of students are willing to come in three times a week at that early hour (for college students) to engage in a subject some would call less-than-exciting, but Angela sat in the front—she was engaged and prepared. I am sure she puts the same principles into practice at her business.”

Murray said while she is looking forward to graduating in 2022, she has enjoyed her time in the classroom and made lifelong friends along the way.

“I met two of my best friends at the university and other good friends I still keep in touch with whether they’ve graduated or moved,” she said. “The university allows me to meet people that I look up to from a professional standpoint, like the professors, as well as be a part of a creative social group filled with so many wonderfully awesome people.”