First of all, I don’t consider myself to be an entrepreneur - I am a passionate person above all. It was my love for dancing that made me become an entrepreneur. My passion for dancing led me to open my school after 10 years of teaching for the recreational sector.
How did your business start?
There was a small specialty shop in Terrebonne called La Pirouette; it was like Alibaba’s cave to me. Shopping there was always a moment of pure happiness. Then one day, the owner, Mrs. Lévesque, decided to retire and close shop. We found ourselves without services in the region and we had to go to Montreal to get our equipment. Two years later, I decided to open my own store. I had the opportunity to do so in a shopping centre in Terrebonne, where there was a vacant space just below my dance school. I opened the Virevolte boutique in 2000.
With Virevolte, I started to build a different niche, and then I was asked by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens to work with them for The Nutcracker Market. We had a great relationship for 10 years. It allowed me to evolve and expand my offer with everything pertaining to dance and gymnastics. The dance enthusiasts who came to my store could find all sorts of things, including decorations, jewellery, toys and birthday cards.
One thing led to another and my store started to stand out, even at the provincial level. People recognized our name, we had become a reference. Then, I had the opportunity to buy the Orya boutique in Centre Laval. It was a golden opportunity that allowed me to have two locations and to be closer to my Montreal clientele, which I had developed by doing the Nutcracker Market and by attending several conventions and dance competitions. At the same time, I set up my online store with the help of the Virage numérique program. So it was through a combination of all these opportunities and life in general that I became an entrepreneur.
► Interview on CNV Radio Numérique on Thursday March 24 at 1:45 p.m.
First, it’s our expertise, our customer service, our selection and the quality of our products that define us. As an added bonus, we carry merchandise that you can’t find in traditional dance shops. We also stand out by offering brands and certain items that are only available in a limited number of dance shops. I don’t hesitate to import certain products that would otherwise not be available in Canada, and we give priority to products of superior quality. As well, we make sure to include a large number of Quebec brands.
How does your independent banner differentiate itself from large chain stores?
There aren’t that many of us in this business and we are a tightly knit group. The ultimate name in dance in Quebec is Rossetti, located in Montreal, which offers classic and timeless products. As a dancer myself and above all, I have this boutique tattooed on my heart. Even though it is a competitor, it is also a colleague. The variety of our products and our expertise, especially in ballet shoes, sets us apart from other boutiques. In the past, the only place known to get ballet pointe shoes fitted was Rossetti, but now there are my stores too. Being a ballet teacher allows me to see how the shoe ages, and gives me some expertise and skill in selecting and fitting the shoe. I like my customers to be well advised for their purchases.
My team is made up entirely of people from the dance and gymnastics world. They are very similar to me: passionate and dynamic, we feed off each other. They always welcome our customers with a beautiful smile and they love the store as if it were their own. I feel privileged to have them, because I know that it’s not always easy to keep employees in retail; there’s a lot of turnover. But that’s not the case in my stores. When someone joins the team, I know they will stay for a long time. Their happiness reflects on my customers, which creates a pleasant working environment. They also always want to do better, thanks to their thoroughness and their shared passion for dancing.
What is the biggest lesson that business ownership has taught you?
My biggest lesson is to renew myself every day. I always try to temper my passion, without shutting it down, of course, so that I don’t make bad choices that could affect my business. I have to constantly think about my next important goals without letting my passion get the better of me.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in your career as an entrepreneur?
The pandemic has been the greatest challenge. Dance schools have been closed for the last two years, so even though the store was open at certain times, there were no customers, as people could no longer practice their art. Slowly, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this has been the hardest period. Today, I believe this experience has provided an opportunity to bounce back further and higher for what the future holds.
The first year when I did the Nutcracker Market for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, I was very excited to be a part of this event. During the VIP evening, I made my first sale: a small tutu. I asked the customer who was the tutu for. To my surprise, he answered that it was for his dog! It’s a funny anecdote that I will always remember.
What keeps you passionate about your field?
First of all, it is my team who really drives me. My customers too, as they are passionate about dancing, some of them being teachers and directors of dance schools. It is very rewarding and above all a great honour to have them visit my boutique to ask for advice.
What advice would you give to a future entrepreneur?
Follow your heart, but try to "ride the wave", so to speak, so that you don’t go over the edge. This is a daily struggle for me.
What do you hope that people know, and remember, about your company?
I think that my customers especially appreciate the friendly and always smiling welcome from my passionate team when they visit my stores. Our customers are always warmly welcomed and they know that they will receive personal service from competent people.
Basic dance and gymnastics equipment are our best sellers. The more niche brands that you can’t find everywhere, such as Bloch, Só Dança, Sansha and Grishko, are also very popular.
What is your best-kept secret?
What’s coming ahead!
What do you wish for yourself in the future?
I wish that all my projects live up to my expectations, which are high and bright.