‘Yes, I am living the dream – I’m my own boss and earn a living doing something I love,’ says young entrepreneur Jessica Elliott proudly when asked if the good days in her career outweigh the bad. At only 23, she is the managing director of Dancing After School, a company that provides dance clubs and workshops for schools, as well as producing and facilitating dance training for school staff. If that’s not enough, she also has a Saturday dance school, J’s Dance Factory.
She continues, ‘Everyone has down days, and with the late nights and early mornings it can be exhausting and extremely lonely when first embarking on a business career. But on the down days, the children and young people for whom my business caters are an awesome motivation.’
It is a breath of fresh air chatting with Jessica and getting an insight into the mind of a 21st Century career-driven woman. But does she think there are any barriers in her career because of her gender? She believes there are none in terms of success. ‘It’s all about surrounding yourself with good people! I have been blessed with the best mother a child could wish for. You need support from family and friends on a personal level to allow you to grow as a businessperson and have a healthy balance of work and play in your life. My dad has always been quite the entrepreneur… so I guess it’s in my genes.’ Who said you couldn’t walk in your parents’ footsteps with joy?
Jessica points out that her upbringing and the business insight gained from her parents may have influenced her, but at the same time the characteristics and the personality of any businesswoman are down to you. She provides key points on the hidden thoughts of a business woman. ‘You have to be extremely passionate about your service or product because if you’re not, no one else will be. You have got to have big dreams and aim really high. Try and remain positive, even when things go wrong. Be determined, disciplined and persistent.’
This sort of enthusiasm is rare, but almost addictive and captivating to see in the heart of a young woman. Her success is pretty awe-inspiring when you look at the awards she has already collected, including winner of Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2009 Precious Awards; winner of the London Metropolitan University Business Plan 2009; winner of Spirit of London’s Community Business Entrepreneur 2010…
Gobsmacked? Well, she doesn’t stop there and more lies ahead for Jessica. ‘What’s next for me?’ she asks herself out loud. ‘I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m really excited about in the pipeline, but I guess time will tell. Watch this space! It is an honour and great to get appreciated for your hard work, but also nerve-racking – plus, I wear really high heels, which I have to practise walking in a week beforehand [laughs].’
Not just a pretty face, not just a talented businesswoman, this southeast Londoner also has a sense of humour. When asked where she will be in five years’ time she giggles as she says, ‘Still trying to walk around in ridiculously high heels,’ – every woman’s beautiful nightmare. ‘Having a good sense of humour is a key to a businesswoman’s heart, as this way you can have fun and not allow the work to consume your whole life.’
A blind man could spot her passion and never-give-up attitude, which is why she is so successful. ‘The sky is but my visual limit,’ she says. ‘When people ask me how I have achieved a lot in 23 years, I simply answer that it’s the hard work.
She concludes, ‘I have a lot of projects coming up and I have started a blog called Running in dance shoes, which will be officially launched soon.’ A true role model, Jessica Elliott has the kind of footsteps that any budding entrepreneur would want to follow in.
Words by Yvonne Eba