When I was seven a teacher asked me to make a picture depicting a grown up me in my dream profession. I carefully painted a scantily clad "future me" surrounded by cameras next to a statement saying I was going be a dancer/ designer/ model/ choreographer and writer. The teacher told me I could only pick one of those jobs. Later that day, when I told my mother about the project, she said "You forgot acting". That's pretty much how it all began. My love for dance kept me strong through professional training and into the beginning of a very competitive career path that seemed to demand a new skill set each day. Like any good fight there have been both personal and professional obstacles testing my willpower and personal focus along the way. I've had to face injuries, eating disorders and many failures. Relationships have suffered because of the time I chose to invest on training and work over time spent with partners. Some of the most difficult times of my life occurred right smack in the middle of some of my biggest career highlights which made both experiences bittersweet.
Through loads of perseverance, some good luck and a firm stance on seeing my vision come true I have been able to check off some of those original dreams. Six years ago I created Love Letters Cabaret, an ensemble of uninhibited and beautiful performers who have grown to be my loyal friends. Not long ago a fellow performer and I joined forces to brand custom costumes and flashy street wear under the name Hunty Swag. Last year one my dancers wrote and directed a movie, Becoming Burlesque based on how a Toronto Burlesque company changes the life of one particular young woman. I got to play the choreographer both on and off camera, checking off that wishful actor addition my mother made to the original vision. Throughout every challenge and hurdle I remind myself that it's a test to see how much I'm willing to push and fulfill my artistic endeavours... There's much still to accomplish. Toronto still needs a Cabaret house for all the world to see and I have yet to check 'writer' off my list.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
I wasn't getting any work. Performer life is difficult at best and at one point I was just not booking the auditions. The work drought went on so long that I questioned my every life choice but I sought refuge in projects to keep busy. I took my love for 50s pinup memorabilia and began posing in vintage style photo shoots. I got into burlesque and ignored people when they warned that it was "too much" and that it would hurt my career. The more I started fully listening to myself, the more I booked shows and the more other dancers wanted to join me.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them? Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Sadly a few personal relationships had to end because of my passion for embodying a bold and sexually aware public persona. I was judged for picking a more 'scandalous' path in life. It was very difficult to walk a away from some of those people but I continued to believed in myself, focused on the work and flocked risk takers I admire. There are no regrets.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Success as a performer is never guaranteed, not even when one is doing well should one ever get comfortable. Feeling slightly uncertain about the future keeps me open and curious to new ideas and adventures. It fuels my motivation.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Ask me again a few years from now. I feel I'm still a novice!
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Know exactly why you make every choice you do to see your dream through. In the dance world we say, Make it happen.