A Dublin business owner took up dancing as a hobby, and ended up a competitor - and author

Three years ago, when Jessika Ferm's life coach told her to get a hobby, she laughed. But the founder of J.Ferm, a Columbus-based leadership-development company, knew her work had taken over her life. "It pains me to even say this, but I was working probably 60 to 70 hours a week," she said. "I never really stopped working."

Ferm's coach pushed, saying if she didn't find something to do outside of work, she would implode. "You don't understand," Ferm told her. "I'm so busy I can't have a hobby." So for two years, the 37-year-old single business owner continued traveling the globe, immersed in her work.

Then one day, she walked past Dance Plus Ballroom in Grandview Heights and decided to take a lesson-solely to prove her coach wrong.

She's been dancing ever since.

"It just evoked something in me," Ferm said. "I came alive."

Now, Ferm is not only a competitive amateur ballroom champion, criss-crossing the country to compete, but she's also written a book about dancing. In "The Ballroom Dance Coach: Expert Strategies to Take Your Dancing to the Next Level," Ferm combines her years of experience as an executive coach with her new dancing passion in an effort to help others succeed.

"During my initial learning curve, I noticed a lack of easy-to-follow directions on how to be successful," she said. "So I undertook this project to help others fulfill their dreams on the dance floor."

Today, Ferm works about 30 hours a week, makes just as much money as when she was working twice that, and has balance in her life.

"I am totally free when I dance. I don't think about anything else. I get a reprieve from everything else," she said. "I have to do nothing but be a good follower. I don't have to lead or take charge of anything else."

Her clients have noticed the change, too.

"She's mellow," said Jane Juergens, vice president of human resources and talent management at American Municipal Power. "There is something very calming about her, and the dancing has instilled a different kind of confidence."

The transformation was so remarkable that Juergens acted on Ferm's suggestion and took up the sport herself.

"She has introduced a lot of great concepts and helped us with our internal coaching with the company, but also helped me personally," Juergens said. "She has made a significant difference in my life."

Before ballroom dancing waltzed into her life, Ferm referred to herself as tightly wound, aggressive and intense. Now, she is no less driven to helping her clients succeed, but she is leading more by example. "They're looking at me, saying, 'If she can have work-life balance, maybe I can.' "

Dance with me?

Central Ohio offers plenty of lessons for beginner ballroom dancers. These local studios generally offer a broad mix of dance styles-from cha cha to waltz-and accommodate both singles and couples. Heather Weekley

Columbus Dance Centre

1000-B Morrison Rd., Gahanna

614-759-0502

ColumbusDanceCentre.com

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First session is free

Dance Plus Ballroom

1255 Grandview Ave., Grandview

614-486-0471

Dance-Plus.com

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$59 for two private lessons and two Friday night dance parties

Emerald City Ballroom

6759 Dublin Center Dr., Dublin

614-946-3120

EmeraldCityBallroom.com

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$15 for two group classes or $25 for one private lesson

Fred Astaire Dance Studios

Locations in Columbus, Canal Winchester, Delaware & Westerville

FredAstaire.com

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Varies by location

Invitation to Dance

3880 Lattimer St., Hilliard

614-777-6234

InvitationToDance.com

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$20 for four, 25-minute private sessions

Watch Andrea Cambern's "Female Focus" weekdays at 5 p.m. on 10TV News HD.