Amanda Ellis has an anticipatory twinkle in her eyes, like a ballet dancer one count before a pirouette.
Now a manager of marketing and communications at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Ellis grew up training in dance at Ballet Tennessee and still teaches children's ballet as a "side hustle."
"I started dancing at 4 years old," Ellis says. "It was my only extracurricular. Five [after-school classes] a week and all-day Saturday."
Now, Ellis teaches 4- to 6-year-olds at Bella Ballerina, a dance studio on the North Shore.
"I think that's my age sweet spot," she says. "With my little ones, it's just giving them the foundation to love dance."
Attending Belmont University in Nashville, Ellis minored in dance but majored in corporate communications, deciding that job prospects were better for her in business than in performing arts.
"I essentially put myself through school," she says. "I needed to graduate in four years."
Ellis, 29, says dance taught her the value of preparation, balance and organization, skills she puts to good use in her Chamber position, which involves publications and event marketing along with media relations.
The first in her family to earn a college degree, Ellis was hired at the Chamber out of college, having stacked several impressive internships to strengthen her resume.
One of her big challenges as a young adult, she says, was absorbing the death of her father during her senior year at Belmont.
"That was a challenge in all the ways you'd expect," she says. "It informed my perspective on what's important, which is people."
At age 21, in 2013, Ellis moved back to Chattanooga, partly to regroup after college and partly to be near family after her father's death.
She landed the job at the Chamber, where she has been allowed to grow and gather responsibilities for the last seven years, she says.
"I think the work we do is important," Ellis says. "The team is great."
Ellis directs and edits the Chamber's Business Trend editorial product, which appears in print as an element of Edge magazine and online at ChattanoogaTrend.com.
* Age: 29
* Hometown: Chattanooga
* Education: Soddy-Daisy High School, Belmont University
* Job: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, manager of marketing and communications
She also manages a yearly recruiting publication called Greater Chattanooga Economic Development aimed at attracting new businesses to the Scenic City, and works to bring visiting journalists to Chattanooga to help attract national media in publications such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
During COVID-19, the Chamber has been laser-focused on keeping Chattanooga's jobs outlook as healthy as possible, she says.
For example, the Chamber team recently created ChattanoogaCalling.com, a new job-matching website designed to connect local job seekers to opportunities, and to attract talented workers to the Scenic City.
"Jobs are life-changing for people," Ellis says. "Being stable, making money can drastically improve their quality of life."