According to entrepreneur.com, the number one common characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is: do what you enjoy. This is certainly true of Saline County entrepreneur Brooke Chumley, who has grown her dream of being a cheerleader into an empire. She calls it Empire Cheerleading. “As a little girl growing up in Bryant, I had one dream – to be a Razorback cheerleader. From as young as I could remember, I wanted to be a cheerleader. My mom let me pick out my first Halloween costume at 2 years old and it was a red and white cheer outfit.” Fueling that dream with 20 years of experience cheerleading, coaching, choreographing, and judging both competitions and tryouts statewide, Empire Cheerleading was built with a mission to empower young athletes to become better than they were yesterday.
Brooke grew up cheering for the Bryant Oilers, Bryant Mustangs, Bryant Hornets, Cheer Central Brave, and went on to cheer for the Arkansas Razorbacks during Houston Nutt’s tenure as head hog. “My best cheer memory was defeating Auburn at Auburn when Houston Nutt was coach. We were supposed to lose that game. You have never seen a coach and team so excited and proud. It was truly amazing to be a part of.”
Prior to opening Empire Cheerleading, Brooke was following an altogether different path for her life, but was soon left feeling disappointed. “I majored in business and had no intention of working with children. When an unfulfilling corporate job left me longing for more, God led to me to education.” After gaining experience through teaching at Bryant Middle School for 4 years and serving as the cheer coach for the 7th and 8th graders, Brooke realized her true calling was to teach young athletes and start a business doing what she loved. “Through the years I have always helped athletes with private lessons. In 2014, I had so many requests I bought a mat for $250 and borrowed a propane heater from my dad to start teaching lessons out of my garage. I couldn’t keep up with the demand so I started weekend clinics during tryout season hoping to make enough money to go on vacation. Those clinics quickly led to classes, which led to hiring staff, which led to more classes.” With a dream, a passion, $250 and a little help from dad, Empire Cheerleading began.
Brooke’s strong background in curriculum and instruction, along with educational leadership training, has allowed her to bridge the two fields together and truly lead her staff in a way that impacts children every week. “At Empire we don’t teach tumbling and cheer, we teach courage and pride, steadfastness and confidence. We just use tumbling and cheer to do it. Anytime you can build self-confidence in a young woman or young man, it’s a win.”
Empire Cheerleading operates with two basic philosophies in mind: one that teaches patience and persistence, and the other love and teamwork. “We have two driving philosophies at Empire: “perfection before progression,” which is important to emphasize safety and proper development, and “treat them like your own.” We love our families and our athletes like they are an extension of our real family. We call them our gym family.” Currently the Empire Cheerleading athlete family is 650 strong.
When asked what advice Brooke would give to others who want to pursue their dream as an entrepreneur, she answered, “Start small. Pray hard. And be willing to work the hours no one else will to get it done. As an entrepreneur, there is nothing glamorous in the beginning. You do it all. But if you’re heart is in it, it will grow and develop beyond anything you every imagined. Like Dave Ramsey says, ‘Live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.’ I gave up my personal life, my family life, and everything the first year we were open. It was totally worth it but I couldn’t have done it without the love and support of those around me.”
Brooke’s basic business principle is simple – do right all the time and never look back. “Decisions have to be made daily as a business owner. It’s impossible to be perfect. But if I do the right thing by my staff, my families, and our athletes, they will have my back no matter what.”
Empire Cheerleading classes are available for those as young as toddlers all the way through seasoned athletes who are perfecting tumbling skills. The program for the youngest group of athletes is called “Mini & Me” and is designed to introduce a little one to the world of tumbling while working on fine and gross motor skills, body awareness and how to interact with others. For more information about Empire Cheerleading class, events and promotions, visit the empirecheerleading.com website or like them on Facebook.