Rosie Mae: I started BurlesqueUni after teaching at various studios that were mainly for pole that had burlesque classes on the side. With only a couple burlesque classes offered, I wasn't able to dive as deep into the world of burlesque as I wanted so I created a program for the following I had gained called the BurlesqueUni Intensive. This was a 10 week program where students were able to learn about dance, costumes, performance, creating a persona, etc and after the 10 weeks they were able to perform in front of an audience which is exactly what burlesque is all about. As the program became more popular and our students were becoming more invested in how the burlesque world works and how they could be a part of it, I started drop in classes and brought on Pastel to create our school.
How did the idea for your business come about?
Rosie Mae: There really wasn't a program in Toronto that offered dance training along with burlesque training that led straight to stage performance. Burlesque is continuously becoming more popular in the city again and women need a place to go and feel sexy and silly with a like minded crew. Creating a room full of people who love burlesque, who want to dress up, perform, and live like showgirls seemed like the place to start.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Pastel Supernova: I feel like we're constantly jumping hurdles when it comes to the nitty gritty and logistics of actually running a specific business but we're lucky in that we don't doubt each other and go full steam ahead when we have a vision. We have great students and our following is growing. The stigma attached to what we do is a bit of a challenge but that's the least of our worries because what we teach is niche and although it has many benefits to the mind body connection, people who come to us must have an open mind first. Then we get silly and sweaty in the studio.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
Pastel Supernova: I'm reading the a poetic anthology (Reportario Poetico) by Luis Edgardo Ramirez. It's Spanish poetry and like all good poetry it slows me down to take in life in the most honest way using the fewest amount of perfect words. I encourage everyone to read anything they get their hands on; it's all beneficial.
Rosie Mae: At the moment I haven't been reading. In truth, my spare time is often spent looking through fashion magazines, scrolling the internet for new fashion, music, style trends. I often watch old movie dance clips or current choreography videos. Everything is completely related to my job - always looking for inspiration. I suppose I could throw in a book every now and again but at this time in my life, outside of sleep, I can't sit still for more than five minutes (or the time it takes to get my nails done) and I'm totally okay with that.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it?
Pastel Supernova: We both really play by our own tune and I think our families know that... My father still wishes I had gone into medicine because "I'm smart" but he's just being my sweet father.
Rosie Mae: And my mom wonders what I will do when "I'm old", but I've shown her the Legends performing at The Burlesque Hall of Fame (performers who helped burlesque become what it is today who still perform and are often 70 years plus) and I always dreamed of being that old lady smoking, eating a snack, and yelling at her students to point their toes...even though you can't smoke in studio anymore. She knows I'll come up with some crazy plan to make my showgirl life last forever.
What would you do differently in hindsight? What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Pastel Supernova: We're still learning but planning and having a solid vision broken down into steps are necessary. Having a mentor is also a blessing!
Rosie Mae: I would remind myself a bit more frequently that you can't please everyone and with that you need to know exactly what you are doing/offering. If someone doesn't like it, your business isn't for them and that's okay. Our business success grew when we started working together - I started this as a small part time job for myself. Having a business partner that you can be totally open and creative with has really helped us push forward.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Rosie Mae: As I mentioned above, you can't please everyone. Put the product into the world that you want to showcase, it's your vision, nobody else's. In the end, all press is good press.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Pastel Supernova: Always know the "why" behind everything you do.
Rosie Mae: Other people's advice is just that, advice. Always trust yourself first.