In 2006, after being offered a place at the National Youth Theatre, and realising that she couldn’t afford to pay the high fees, Zoe set up the Living the Dream Performing Arts Company at the age of just 16.
While she was growing up, Zoe struggled to afford the expensive performing arts training in her area, so removing the financial barrier for other young people is something that she is really passionate about.
Living The Dream focus is producing shows in order to provide a spotlight for young people to showcase their talent, and also make performing arts training as affordable and accessible as possible. We managed to catch up with Zoe to ask her about her experiences as a young entrepreneur in the following interview:
BB: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business, Living The Dream?
Zoe: I run the Living the Dream Performing Arts Company. I set it up when I was 16 in 2006 and now we have a school of performing arts, a professional dance company, media company, dancewear shop and our charity, the Dream Foundation. We are now working with Virgin Media and have launched the Living the Dream Dance App for their TiVo service.
BB: When did you first know that you wanted to run your own business?
Zoe: got into the National Youth Theatre and couldn’t afford the course fees so put on a showcase as a fundraiser and realised I had a viable business idea that I put into action.
BB: What led you to come up with the idea for your Living the Dream?
Zoe: Young people in my area (including me) couldn’t afford the expensive performing arts training. I wanted to create something affordable but also youth led so young people could express themselves and feel empowered.
BB: You started your first business when you were just 16. Did you ever find your age to be an issue when dealing with people who were much older and more experienced?
Zoe: At the beginning yes. Some people believed in me and took me seriously and others didn’t.
BB: You already have a long list of pretty impressive awards and achievements under your belt; could you tell us a little about some of them?
Zoe: Last year I won the Woman of the Future in the Arts, Media and Culture Award and also the Future 100 social entrepreneurs award. This year I was a finalist in the Lloyds TSB Enterprise Awards and won the Youth Achievement Award from the Universal Federation for Peace. After being instrumental in Sir Richard Branson’s Control Shift campaign, I am now an ambassador for the Start Up Loans project with James Caan from Dragon’s Den.
BB: What’s the biggest obstacle that you’ve had to overcome in business so far?
Zoe: After receiving three years of funding from our local council in 2008-2010, the Government decided to cut funding for the arts and our support was gone. It was tough, but made me look at things differently on how to move forward.
BB: What’s your favourite part of owning your own business?
Zoe: Being my own boss, working with and inspiring young people and knowing that I am making a difference.
BB: Do you manage to get much of a work/life balance? What is your average day like?
Zoe: Average day could include anything from meeting new people, organizing showcases and events, choreographing flash-mobs, interviewing people for our dance app, keeping up to date with the dance and performing arts world, the list goes on. I do try very hard to keep up a good work/life balance and ensure I relax when I can!
BB: What’s the best piece of business advice that you’ve ever been given.
Zoe: DO SOME GOOD – I’ve learned from Richard Branson’s business philosophy, Have fun, do good and the business will come. I sincerely endorse his view that every business has a moral obligation to make a significant positive difference in today’s world. The key is to help others selflessly in any way you can, and the karma will return to you when you need it most.
BB: Do you have any business role models or mentors?
Zoe: I have lots of role models, Richard Branson to start and people in all industries like Will Smith, Arlene Phillips and Oprah Winfrey. I also have a couple of mentors yes, one of them being my Mum!
BB: What would you say to any young people thinking of starting out in business?
Zoe: Keep believing and dreaming because if you put your mind to it you can make it happen. Stay passionate and inspired and remember that out of a crisis comes an opportunity.