How To Start A Company When Passion Is Your Only Capital

This is a post written by Avishai Shuter, and up-and-coming zoologist who lives in his parents house while on the cusp of getting a job with the Bronx Zoo.

I few weeks ago I got a chance to catch up with an old high school friend of mine who I hadn’t spoken to in years. When I asked Dena what she was up to these days, I was expecting one of the usual responses (I’m finishing up school, or I’m serving hard time for stealing my friend’s grandfather). But instead she told me, in a matter-of-fact way, I started a circus company. Yes, I thought the same thing: huh? I was fascinated by the tale of how one goes about starting a circus company from scratch.

It turns out that less than a year ago Dena had gotten together with her friend, Lisa Apatini, and created The Secret Circus. They started out as two friends with a mutual passion for the aerial and circus performance arts, but decided in 2010 to turn
what they thought was just a hobby into an entertainment company. So how? Well, Dena told me that The Secret Circus started with only three things: a name, short silks (for aerial performances), and a DBA (Doing Business As- the most painless type of company registration). Now, that’s all well and good, but now you that have a circus company, what do you do?

Because they had no money for an ad campaign, or even all the equipment they’d need for a performance, The Secret Circus had to negotiate with a party planner they knew. They came up with a deal: the planner would hire the company for a number of performances, and in return, he would buy their equipment and insurance in lieu of payment. After a few gigs with the same planner, the owners of venues began taking notice and hiring them for events. One thing led to another, and their company now employs (on a by-performance-basis) four aerialists, belly dancers, jugglers, a pole dancer, a DJ, fire spinners, and a contortionist for various events and parties.

So what have I learned from Dena’s adventure? Do what you love doing, and if you’re really passionate, you can find a way to make it work.

As you read this, The Secret Circus is fundraising in order to pay back a backer for a portable aerial rig (a $3,000 investment). When I asked how much Dena and Lisa considered the business end of this project, and if it was something they wanted to eventually live off of, I was simply told that they hadn’t really thought about it. They loved what they were doing, so they decided to try to get paid to do it; what it may eventually become, they’re not really sure this early on. So, for all of you out there with a hobby, you can turn it into something more if you really set your mind to it.

All you need is the passion to push forward and dive in head first, even if you have to do it without looking.

3 Responses to How To Start A Company When Passion Is Your Only Capital

  1. Lbergs says:

    thats amazing!! Can I join the circus? I can juggle oranges for about 3 seconds…

  2. That’s a great story.

    What I’ve learned in marketing is that sometimes your passion won’t generate wealth.

    Learn what works first. Then, find the balance between your passion and what works.

  3. I believe it is possible to build a company with passion as the only capital. A friend started his face painting and balloon decoration business without spending a single centavo. Although he has his own set of face paint, which he uses when he bonds with his kids, he used his first client’s downpayment to purchase a new set of face paint, which he used for the party.

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