Carman "Nimeera" Richardson, Cecil Richardson
<b>Short bio: </b>
Nimeera, of Indian and Scandinavian descent, began her dance training with her mother Nadia, also a former professional Middle Eastern dancer and teacher. Nimeera has been dancing since she was 2 years old, and comes from a family of Middle Eastern Dancers. Her styles include Egyptian, Turkish, Arabic, Moroccan, Central Asian, Persian and Indian, both in Classical Ethnic and Contemporary styles. She has had the opportunity to travel and perform at several prestigious venues, including in Egypt, Australia, Uzbekistan, the Warner Brothers in Hollywood, and several times on the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage. In May 2005, Nimeera took Second Place Grand Champion in the East Coast Bellydance Classic, the largest mid-Atlantic competition. As of Spring 2006, Nimeera is the only bellydancer to have performed in the Ronald Reagan Building, dancing Raqs al Shamadan with live flame for a very special event.
Nimeera founded Cleopatra's Closet (www.CleosCloset.com) in 1998, specializing in the import of dance costumes and accessories from countries such as Egypt, Turkey, and India. After operating successfully both online and at vending events for eight years, Cleopatra's Closet expanded into a walk-in store and studio in Van Dorn Plaza, Alexandria. The studio is used by several of the local prestigious dance instructors as well as visiting international dance stars, and is available for rent for classes, workshops, practices, and rehearsals. In addition, Cleopatra's Closet provides the local dance community with a comprehensive source of Middle Eastern Dance information and services and monthly free mini-workshops. Nimeera finds that her extensive experience as a professional performing artist, instructor, and vendor has helped immensely with the challenges of opening the only walk-in store of this nature on the entire East Coast.
<b>Why did you choose this particular business? </b>
Based on her years of experience as a Middle Eastern Dance teacher and performing artist, Nimeera saw the need for easy access to quality dance supplies for Middle Eastern dancers. She started the business as consignment only, and quickly progressed to direct import and retail. Her ongoing experience as a dancer and her strong networks within the dance community enables her to identify with her customers and select the best items to support their needs.
<b>Why did you choose to work for yourself rather than as an employee for someone else? </b>
Nimeera founded Cleopatra's Closet due to the difficulty of finding opportunities to develop more managerial skills in her primary career. Working on her own business has allowed her to develop these skills while pursuing interests that she loves.
<b>What have you learned from being in business? </b>
Sometimes the path you set out on is not the path you travel. Our business plan has evolved over the years to match the trends in the dance community. Such vision and flexibility is crucial.
<b>Share an anecdote of a challenging or humorous experience or biggest surprise learned from working your business: </b>
The biggest surprise we have experienced is the wide customer base we found. Our customers cover from the professional Middle Eastern dancers to high school girls looking for prom dresses, to traditional Islamic women looking for traditional headwear. We have learned to listen carefully to our customer needs and try to meet them.
<b>What have been the advantages and/or disadvantages of operating a business in Alexandria? </b>
A key advantage is the easy access to the Metro for our customers. Metro has truly "opened doors" for us. A disadvantage is the additional regulations and costs related to operating a business in Alexandria as opposed to our prior location in Springfield.
Nimeera is assisted in her daily operations by her husband Cecil, who is her greatest supporter, (just ask him). He is also "he who lifts heavy objects."
<b>Key staff: </b>
We truly could not do with out Nimeera's brother, Scott. He watches the store while Nimeera is teaching class. He also is a great short notice helper!
Our other two "little helpers" are Nimeera's daughters, Jessie and Jena. They are quick to greet the customers and do little things around the store. They are also good about entertaining customer's little ones while their parents shop.
<b>Description of services and/or products: </b>
We have everything that the true Middle Eastern dancer might need. All of our costumes are authentic and most are imported directly from the Middle East. We supply canes, jewelry, music, shoes and decorative face and body add-ons. We truly are the one-stop-shop for the beginner to advanced Dancer. Many of our products such as our shawls, rhinestones, bindis, chandelier earrings, anklets, and fun club-wear are loved by non-dancers as well. Our studio in the back offers lessons from some of the top instructors in the D.C. Metro area. We also have referrals for photographers that specialize in dancers.
<b>Professional affiliations/associations: </b>
Washington Area Middle Eastern Dance Association (WAMEDA).