MOMpreneur: n. defined as a female business owner who is actively balancing the role of mom and the role of entrepreneur.
Happy Monday Modern Boca Moms! Welcome to our next installment of MOMpreneur Monday, highlighting Florida businesses and brands that were founded by female entrepreneurs and fellow Mommas.
We’re working to bring busi-moms across the state of Florida together to start a MOMpreneur Movement!
Meet South Florida MOMpreneur, Lily Ojea, principal dancer and instrumental builder of Ballet Palm Beach.
If you ever had big dreams of being a ballerina (or a princess) growing up like I did, then I’m excited to introduce you to real life dancer, teacher, mom and developer of professional ballet company, Ballet Palm Beach.
She calls it the “little company that could” and loves what she does so much that she was back in the studio just 9 days after having her first baby. Read on for her complete story…
Welcome to MBMom, Lily! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background…
I have been a ballet dancer for a little over ten years. I began my training when I was 3 years old and started my career at 18 in Birmingham, Alabama, with Alabama Ballet. After five years of moving up the ranks and doing a couple of dream roles, I moved to South Florida where I was born and raised to work for a brand new professional company which is now called Ballet Palm Beach.
The company happens to be affiliated with the ballet school I was trained in (and at which I also teach part-time), called The Esther Center. Both businesses also happen to be owned and operated by my mom, an ultimate MOMpreneur, Colleen Smith.
And then motherhood came calling…
When I married my husband, we had no specific plan for children, but God did!
I found out I was pregnant in May of 2012 and wondered what that would mean for my career?
We had just gotten our little “company that could” on its feet and I hated the idea of abandoning the dream. Before then, I had never dared to think that I would endure a pregnancy and all of its effects on my body and then go back to dancing. But it turned out to be a much smoother ride than I imagined!
The ballet company was gracious enough to keep me on payroll and in rehearsals until the moment I went into labor (I danced as well as I could in the later weeks of pregnancy, though it did become quite difficult). When my son, Wesley, was born, the entire company came to my house to see him. Nine days later, I was back in the studio, baby in tow, and Wesley and I have been clocking in every day since then! He is almost two now and I can’t imagine life without the support and involvement of the dancers and staff at Ballet Palm Beach.
How do you handle being a principal dancer and mom these days?
For my part, juggling mom-hood and ballet dancing in one building has had its challenges, but I love that Wesley is watching people do something creative, and simply that he can be by my side.
I never knew how quickly I could switch gears until I sprinted from a diaper change to a Juliet cue (in the ballet Romeo and Juliet), getting into character on the way! Those kinds of demands alone have driven me to greater things in my career.
Omigosh, that is crazy! Bravo! How did Ballet Palm Beach originally start?
Ballet Palm Beach’s director, Colleen Smith, began the company out of a desire to create quality ballet productions in our area and abroad, and to foster a healthy work environment for dancers and collaborators.
Just as we opened our doors, a local ballet company which had existed for over twenty years folded. This meant good things and bad things for us. If that company, which was highly reputable and had served the area for so long, couldn’t stay funded, why would we be able to?
We weren’t sure, so we had to hope. But their tragic closing did mean that we had no competition. Perhaps there would be ballet fans out there who would come to the theater and give us a chance, since their go-to brand was no longer performing?
What makes your company different from others?
The leadership of Ballet Palm Beach gives us an edge. Inside our four walls, our director and our coaches are careful, precise, informed, and talented. They are humble and therefore have open eyes. These qualities, I thank God, rub off. And from within the company you get your performance quality. I thank the leadership for the environment, which breeds unity and success.
Why should MBMoms and their kiddos check out a Ballet Palm Beach performance?
We love dance and want to share that with you! We are highly trained, and well rehearsed, and that’s cake. But mostly what you are going to get from a performance is the icing. The love, the artistry, the nuance, the story. That’s the life and breath that you experience at the theater. Come to the theater because you might feel more alive. You might find yourself dancing in your kitchen…
What’s coming up at Ballet Palm Beach?
This February we will be performing one piece on our mixed bill with the Fog City Guitar Duo from San Francisco, CA. We are also scheduled to return to Europe this summer for our seventh trip over seas. Budapest or bust! I am excited about that as well.
And I always ask- why do you LOVE living and working in South Florida?
It is warm, and people are friendly (but not fake), and all of my family is here. I love Floridians because they don’t have a seasonal dress code but tend to be stylish. I love raising my little boy here because he can go outside anytime of year. This is my home!
Learn more about Ballet Palm Beach, click here: www.balletpalmbeach.com
SUBSCRIBE to Modern Boca Mom here!
The season heats up with a burst of new and original works with Simple Symphony & Other Works.
Ballet Palm Beach performs this mixed repertoire program with music by Benjamin Britten on February 27 -28, 2015.
Enter to win 2 tickets below!