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Michelle Shimmy: from boardroom to pole dance academy

Michelle Shimmy - Co-founder, Pole Dance Academy

Michelle Shimmy - Co-founder, Pole Dance Academy

It’s not every day you hear that someone has quit their day job in corporate law to pursue a passion for pole dancing! Which is why we are so drawn to this story.

Meet the Co-founder of the Pole Dance Academy, Michelle Shimmy – epic girl boss and pole dance extraordinaire! 

Pole Dance Academy is leading the pole dancing phenomenon in Sydney, pushing fitness fanatics in a different direction by offering them an exciting opportunity to increase their fitness, feel sexy and see what they’re capable of; all through pole dancing.

Launched 7 years ago, Michelle Shimmy and Maddie Sparkle are the amazing sister duo behind Pole Dance Academy and opened their first studio to share their passion for pole with the rest of the world. As their favourite form of fitness and self-expression, these two passionate performers were so inspired by the art of pole dancing that they left their corporate careers to start Pole Dance Academy and ignite other people’s interest in this phenomenon.

We throw all the REAL questions at Michelle and here she tells her story. You can find out more about her business here.

1. Please tell us a bit about your company and your background

Pole Dance Academy opened in 2009. We have 3 studios in Sydney, Bondi Junction, Crows Nest and Redfern, offering pole dance, flexibility, handstands, and choreography classes for levels beginner to advanced. My business partner is my sister, Maddie. We run the studios together, teach, compete, train, perform and tour internationally. It’s a very busy and hectic life and we love it! Before we opened the studios, I was a corporate lawyer and Maddie was studying fashion design. We were both taking pole dancing classes, and we loved it so much we decided to make pole dancing our career. 

2. What are some epic achievement highlights in your career?

I’ve won or placed in quite a few pole competitions, but for me the biggest highlight has been watching the competition that we organise, Pole Theatre, grow in to a massive global pole dance phenomenon. Pole Theatre is a competition format that we created here in Sydney four years ago. Now it’s in over 15 countries worldwide and we have an international final, which was held in Prague in October 2016. It’s been amazing to see it spread across the world. We have Pole Theatres in Australia, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia. I’ve had some pretty exciting performance opportunities along the way as well, including performing on a float at the Mardi Gras, being featured on the Voice, and performing at events all over the world.

 3. Who do you look up to in the business world?

I don’t really have any particular business world role models, but I’m always interested in hearing about people who follow their passion and create their own jobs, as Maddie and I did. Our careers didn’t really exist when we started out in pole, and we have had to carve out our own way as we go. It’s exciting. It’s like a choose your own adventure story!

4. What is your business REAL moment? Because, let’s face it, business is not glamorous all the time – we want to know your real stores and how you overcame your struggles.

Negotiating leases is the most stressful thing for sure! This task always falls to me because I have a background in law. Overall, I actually think that the hardest thing about running your own business is being able to take a step back and prioritise what the really important tasks are. It's so easy to get bogged down in the details, and to lose sight of the bigger picture. When I get stressed, I meditate. I only started meditating about 6 months ago, but it's helped me manage my stress levels and anxiety so much. I used to get overwhelmed quite easily, and now whenever I feel that way, I meditate. It helps me to keep perspective. And to remain calm when people are testing my patience.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received and how do you apply this every day, month or year?

Never respond to an email or phone call when you’re angry. Draft a response, leave it overnight and come back to it in the morning. It’s so much better to defuse a situation when you’re calm than it is to react in anger. Similarly, never make passive aggressive posts on social media. You just end up looking bad. If you have something to say to someone, just say it to them. If you can’t bring yourself to confront them directly, question how important it is to you to make that Facebook post. If making the post is more important to you than knowing that it will affect how people view you, maybe don’t post it.

6. What is the one mobile app you can’t live without?

I love Instagram so much! For pole dancers, it’s the perfect medium to share our work and connect with pole dancers from around the world. Follow me! @michelleshimmy

7. What is your best tip for time management?

Make lists and tick them off as you get things done. It makes you feel so productive!

8. What are your favourite things on your work desk RIGHT now and WHY?

I actually work from my laptop on the couch at home, so my favourite things on my “desk” would be my cat and dog, who always sit next to me while I’m working!

9. What are your growth plans for your business?

I’d love to grow our range of pole wear/active wear, Shimmy & Sparkle. We just launched it earlier this year. So far it’s had a great response, and I’m excited to build it more.

10. How do you find ‘work-life balance’?

Ummm… That’s tricky. When we first opened, for the first 4 years, there was no such thing as work life balance. I worked a full time job as a lawyer during the day, then taught classes at the studio on the weekend and in the evenings during the week. Somehow we squeezed in admin time as well. It was non-stop. Nowadays, we have a studio manager, Nettie, who is amazing and such a big help to us. We still teach, perform and tour internationally a lot, which means that when we are away it’s pretty exhausting. I always come back from a tour feeling completely shattered. I made a promise to myself this year that 2017 would be the year when I put more time into my personal life. So maybe come back and ask me this time next year!

11. Let’s future gaze – if you could see yourself in the next 10 years, what would your life look like?

I’ll still be pole dancing, hopefully! I would love to see the pole industry grow and develop, and I would love to continue to play a role in building this pole community of ours.

12. Lastly, what is your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

Walk my dog and go to the beach. I love my dog so much! And my cat too, but he’s not as keen on the beach as much as my dog haha.