In her freshman year of high school, Shadi Amirieh volunteered for a nonprofit organization, the Friendship Circle, where she mentored and guided children with autism.
Inspired by her experience, she wanted to start a company so that parents and their kids could enjoy themselves while improving the children’s motor skills and development, the UCLA alumna said. She then started her most recent business, Backseat Beats, a dance, fitness and music company in Los Angeles.
Amirieh developed the idea for Backseat Beats after selling her running shoe store Happy Feet. She set her sights on starting another business despite juggling classes at UCLA, an internship and work.
“I kept thinking, ‘What do I do next?’ I love business, I love managing, I love music and I love kids,” Amirieh said. “I thought to myself that a business that works on development through the use of music would be the best.”
Growing up, Amirieh was placed in classes for tap, ballet, jazz, ballroom and salsa dance as well as music. Through Backseat Beats, Amirieh said she wanted to provide opportunities for future generations to learn how to dance and play music just as she did. Amirieh said the music lessons she took as a child helped her memorization skills and the dance lessons helped build her confidence.
For that reason, Amirieh said she wanted to create classes that kids would enjoy and boost their self-esteem.
“All the music and dance classes my parents enrolled me in as a child made me who I am today – a confident and hard-working woman,” Amirieh said. “If it weren’t for my confidence, I would never have had the ability to take a risk and start a business at such a young age.”
Amirieh worked on her idea of Backseat Beats for more than a year with UCLA alumnus Arash Beral, aiming to provide classes that were engaging and fun for both parents and their children.
“It’s been a work in progress and (Amirieh) has worked really hard on making sure to develop the best programs for the kids – something that the kids will love, the parents will love and something that helps develop the children’s minds,” Beral said.
Amirieh said that the most difficult part about starting a business is that owning a company requires attention day and night, having to respond to every message and question about her business and give advice to parents.
However, after transforming the classes from an idea to an established business, Amirieh said she is grateful to start a business despite all the hard work.
“I started (Backseat Beats) from scratch,” Amirieh said. “Just watching the business grow from notes written on a piece of scratch paper to actually seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and seeing the improvement and growth, that’s the most rewarding feeling.”
During the development of Backseat Beats, Amirieh said she used her previous experience as a tutor at her own tutoring company to help choose the instructors at Backseat Beats.
Amirieh said the classes offered are taught by instructors who are qualified as dance and music teachers and can give the kids advice about school and growing up, and guide them through their development.
“I work a lot on making the children in the class feel like a superstar and increasing their self-esteem,” Amirieh said. “For example, I’ll pick a couple kids every class and have them teach the class for a couple of minutes. That way they learn to be a leader rather than a follower.”
Lisa Casalino, a professional singer and instructor at Backseat Beats, said she believes in the importance of music in a child’s life.
Casalino and the other instructors at Backseat Beats teach parents and babies in the “Music and Movement” class to appreciate music through the body’s movement, which Casalino said helps early development and fine motor skills for babies.
“A lot of people don’t understand that (music) is just as important as any of the academics, especially when you’re a newborn and you have limited abilities,” Casalino said. “Music is something we can all enjoy.”