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If Street Performers Can Form a Business, Can’t You?

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You may not have heard of Guy Laliberté but he’s an entrepreneur whose story is relevant for every small business owner looking for a reason to say that their entrepreneurial dream is possible. It’s a story of somebody who went from next to nothing to an empire and it was done in the same way that will work for your business.

Guy Laliberté was a street performer who organized festivals. He didn’t know much about business but he knew that he could get other talented street performers together and pay them with food and they would be happy to perform circus style acts in these small festivals on the streets of Canada. Guy would keep the donations that appeared in the hat and use those profits to fund the next festival.

This idea grew to the point where Canada offered Guy’s troupe $1 million to put together a more organized act for a cultural festival. The act was unique although still on a shoestring budget relative to the amount of people that the contract required the troupe to entertain.

This became a touring show but with an outdoor act only able to operate six months out of the year Guy took his act to the United States where it began touring there. He says that in the early days of his business, he did everything from setting up the big top that held 800 spectators, the marketing, the accounting, and the contract negotiations. This was a small business and he had to wear a variety of hats.

Although his business was growing he was still using the same street performers as he was with the original act. Instead of pocketing the profits that were beginning to pour in, he had to convince his performers that this one act could only last so long so money needed to be saved for future investment. That didn’t go over well and some of his performers left.

He was right. Today, this motley crew of street performers who started a small business have 5,000 employees all over the world. In 2010 they sold 10 million tickets to their numerous shows at an average price of $75. What’s the name of this business? Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du Soleil had a unique product along with a vision of taking it all over the world. Guy knew that as a small business owner he had to do just about everything and he knew that looking to where the business is going tomorrow is better than taking profits today.

How does your business line up with this story? This is a story of a street performer who turned a bunch of carnies in to an international phenomenon. Would you agree that his barriers to success were every bit as real as yours? Let’s remember this story and remind ourselves that as small business owners we can have the business we dreamt about regardless of the headwinds.