Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, May 3, 2011 – After getting her first glimpse of the Cirque du Soleil at age 11, Anaïs Guimond was hooked on circus performing arts. Two decades later, Atlantic Cirque, her school of circus arts and talent agency, has become a Halifax-area fixture. Through it, she is bringing her passion to Nova Scotia and to a new generation of youngsters.
In recognition of her success in building a one-of-a-kind business in Atlantic Canada, Anaïs, 32, founder of Atlantic Cirque Agency and School, is Nova Scotia’s Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) 2011 Young Entrepreneur Award winner, and will be honoured tonight at a gala in Saskatoon. “I hear week after week how the self-esteem of the kids doing circus arts has gone through the roof. Some who have never excelled at anything are discovering for the first time that they have unique talents and abilities,” says Anaïs. “That’s what is rewarding to me.”
In a province where circus arts were relatively unknown when she started out, Anaïs has succeeded in building a popular brand. Atlantic Canada’s first and only school of circus arts and talent agency, Atlantic Cirque offers weekly classes to a clientele ranging from three-year-olds to adults, as well as summer and spring break camps, workshops, birthday parties and corporate team-building programs. She recently added professional development programs for ages nine and up. In addition, since 2003, the company’s artist agency has been providing talent for shows, such as the opening ceremonies of the Canada Games in Halifax, and supports local causes with performances at fundraisers.
The road to Nova Scotia
Anaïs was in her last year of high school when she took up circus arts, training and then performing professionally for six years as a bungee-trapeze artist in shows throughout Canada and the U.S.
In 2002, she saw a business opportunity and acted on it. While visiting a friend in Halifax, she was inspired by the city’s International Busker Festival, and immediately seized on the idea of opening a circus arts school. “I had never been to Nova Scotia before and spoke only French,” she says. “I prepared a business plan in French, had it translated and applied for a loan.” With that initial $30,000 loan, Anaïs opened her doors to 45 students. The business has grown steadily from there and, as Atlantic Cirque prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2012, it now has 150 weekly participants and a variety of services. Plans to open a second school in another part of the country are in the works.
Anaïs overcame a number of challenges along the way, including learning English, building awareness of circus arts, which were new to the Halifax region, and finding adequate space to house the school and qualified staff to teach at it. Her success at doing all this and more attracted the attention of the Canadian Youth Business Foundation, which presented her with an award last year as the female entrepreneur of the year.
“I have learned a lot, sometimes from the mistakes I made along the way, but I have always asked for help when I needed it,” says Anaïs. “I am very proud of the fact that I was able to open a very new business in a part of Canada where there was nothing like it and that it is still growing after 10 years.”
“Anaïs has built a thriving business in a province that was new to her and to circus arts,” says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde. “With determination, skill and love for what she does, she has overcome challenges, created a brand and inspired young people to develop their own passion for this unique art form.”
About BDC’s Young Entrepreneur Awards
Created by the Business Development Bank of Canada in 1988, the Young Entrepreneur Awards pay tribute to successful Canadian entrepreneurs between 19 and 35 years of age. YEA winners are recognized for their business prowess, creativity, innovative spirit and community involvement. The BDC 2011 Young Entrepreneur Awards are sponsored by Deloitte, Cisco, BLG, Sage and The Globe and Mail.
Canada’s business development bank, BDC, puts entrepreneurs first. With almost 1,900 employees and more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC offers financing, subordinate financing, venture capital and consulting services to 29,000 small and medium-sized companies. Their success is vital to Canada’s economic prosperity.