Many business success stories start with an individual who spotted an emerging trend before most people and found a way to turn it into a dollar.
Jac Bowie’s story sits at the meeting point of two waves, which both made a splash around the same time: the mid-noughties burlesque revival and the phenomenal success of MySpace, which grew from a startup in mid-2003 to being acquired for $US580 million in July 2005 by News Corporation.
Bowie’s previous career choices included flight attendant and drama teacher, but in 2004 she started thinking about running a business based around burlesque – a performance art form that includes song, dance, comedy, and acts of daring, with lush costumes, dramatic music, and lighting, and a saucy and satirical edge.
She came up with the idea of the Burlesque Ball – a showcase of high-end performers, costumes, and props, and “an opportunity for the audience to step up their dress for the occasion and enjoy a night out in old-world Paris.”
Rapid growth and expansions
Working with husband Jon Wright, Bowie grew the company rapidly following the success of the first Burlesque Ball. A Ball is now an annual event that will tour Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney in 2010. Bowie’s business encompasses event and artist management for burlesque performers, regular events such as the Ruby Revue and Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, and a school for burlesque and cabaret performers. The next project on the cards is a reality TV show based on the school.
These new ventures have helped the business grow, but are also a reaction to changing tastes and a maturing burlesque industry.
Content keeps them coming back
The crucial piece of the online puzzle is the Jac Bowie Worldwide website, which Bowie and her colleagues keep constantly ticking over with new information.
“I had a friend tell me the other day, ‘It’s like a Westfield, there’s just a menagerie of information – you could spend all day there!’,” she says. “I like to give people fresh content so they find they can come back and use us as a general resource on what’s going on in burlesque, not only in Australia but around the world.
“I have relationships with other promoters and different performers around the world; they send me their information and I post it. All that content is great for search engine optimization.
“We’ve enlisted some writers who are going to be reporting on the scenes in Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, and Brisbane, and one about to start in London.”
Turn your passions into businesses
As Bowie’s experience shows, whether you’re into burlesque, knitting, or outdoor rock climbing (or all three), there’s money to be made from cultivating a community and then giving them something they value. Just be very careful not to overstep the boundaries and turn on the hard sell too quickly or blatantly. And do your homework, Bowie says, falling back into drama teacher mode.
“Never underestimate the importance of a business plan and really researching your SWOT,” she says. “And sit down with a business coach to give yourself a streamlined plan for the next five years. That way, you can really work out if the business is viable and if it’s got room to grow.
“That’s something we do quite regularly, work with a business coach. I have to because so many ideas come into my brain that doesn’t necessarily make it to reality because they’re not smart business decisions. Working with a coach helps you adjust your ideas into fully formed concepts; it’s always good to have someone who understands how things work financially, who your competition is, and so on.
“And keep thinking of ideas. Be innovative. There are so many people at the moment just copying things, but there is always room to create something new.” #
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