Leading with a Grateful Heart

Kristines headshot

Kristine Smith of InSpira Performing Arts & Cultural Center

When Kristine Smith was 23 years old, she underwent major surgery—brain surgery—to remove a pituitary tumor. Before she went under anesthesia, she asked God to let her live and if He did, she promised to use her life to make a difference in the lives of others.

Fast forward more than twenty-five years later, and Kristine is not only making a difference in other people’s lives, she is transforming them. As a wife, mother, business owner, coach, and lifelong learner, Kristine is fulfilling the promise she made, and she’s doing it with a fierce kind of commitment.

In 2002, Kristine opened InSpira Performing Arts and Cultural Center in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and as a new mom, balanced the growth of her business and her twin girls, Kiara and Kiana, with the help of her husband Leon. In just two years, the studio grew from 14 students to over 100, eventually expanding to 275. In the fall of 2019, Kristine added InSpira’s community-driven mission and positive influence to a second location in Newark, which is part of a unique development called Teacher’s Village.

“The expansion to Teacher’s Village was a huge opportunity,” says Kristine. “There are three charter schools there, a daycare, and universities in the surrounding area. I’m excited about making an impact in Newark just like we’ve made in New Brunswick.”

It’s this powerful, passionate mindset about making an impact that has fueled Kristine’s personal life too, particularly through the tough transition she has been in with her aging parents. In 2014, they moved in with her family so she could help with their care and organize their next steps in life. Her mom, who passed away in 2020, had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and Kristine, her dad, and her family were reeling from the news.

“It was hard, let me tell you,” says Kristine. “All our lives changed. Our girls were sophomores in high school and had gone through their own transitions, attending separate schools for the first time and one adjusting to boarding school. Leon and I were opening up our home. We were searching for the right thing to do. There were days where I don’t know how we did it.”

Running InSpira, teaching dance classes, supporting her dad, becoming the full-time caretaker of her mom, and being a long-distance mom herself, Kristine was operating at full capacity. But she never once saw herself as anything but a champion and a cheerleader for her family and her business.

“InSpira had its ups and downs, but I was learning how to delegate more and bring new people onto the team,” explains Kristine. “I made sure I went to SOU, and I created an office at the studio to make sure I had a place to focus there. During that time it helped me to be at the studio surrounded by youth.”

“I was blessed with parents who did their best for me and taught me so much, even though they did not have much formal education themselves,” says Kristine. “That motivated me too, and so going to school and working hard and stepping out in faith to fulfill God’s goals for me became my way of making them proud.”

Working hard is an understatement when it comes to Kristine. She not only juggles her family responsibilities and business ownership with grace, she continues to invest in herself and her personal growth. She says there’s something innate about finding joy in learning, networking, and building her skills.

True to that work ethic, Kristine has participated in numerous continuing education opportunities over the years, even while dividing her time between her family and business. She says the programs she joins are specially chosen, and that she selects them in order to gain the knowledge and experience that she can then translate to her work at InSpira.

A few years ago, for example, Kristine participated in the Entrepreneurship Pioneers Initiative program at Rutgers University, a competitive nine-month program for a small cohort of first-generation entrepreneurs. She also became a John Maxwell Certified Team Member and a MTJGD Certified CoachTM, all within 18 months.

“My new mentality has been all about moving forward with better systems in all areas of life,” Kristine says. “I am ready!”

That’s one thing for sure about Kristine: There’s no stopping her. Whether she’s all-in with her family or her business, she’s grounded in her commitment and will move mountains to make things happen.

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