Monta Vista High has had its headlines in recent months with the news of young successful entrepreneurs. I had the opportunity to speak to one of it's "offspring," Audrey Lo. Audrey's roots are from the bay area and since then has been riding high on her ambitions to form a company called Ballerinies, a company that focuses on hand-crafted ballet shoes for aspiring ballerinas.
This up-and-coming entrepreneur has always had a passion for dance and has realized her dreams of incorporating it into an expanding company. Here's a transcript of our interview with this talented individual from the Bay Area. We talk about how the bay has influenced her aspirations and goals for her company as well as what style means to her.
Q: You have a company called Ballerinies that focuses on hand-crafted ballet shoes for aspiring ballerinas. Can you tell me how this idea came about? What was your inspiration? Main focus?
A: I have been a dancer my entire life. I started teaching dance all over Los Angeles for about 4 years. It's interesting, the shoes (for Ballerinies) are specifically for children ages one to ten years old.
The reason why I came up with the product is because a lot of times when I get new students in classes parents always ask me what other types of shoes you should get. Current students' parents ask me why my kids grow out of these shoes so quickly. There's all these different materials for shoes, whether it's canvas or leather. I noticed that parents have to switch out shoes every 3-4 months because kids feel grow so rapidly. A lot of times, parents don't know that the shoes are actually too tight for the child and they end up hurting themselves.
The product is the first ever stretch satin ballet shoes.
I have a love for shoes and dance, so that is one of my biggest inspirations for this.
I went to downtown LA. I looked at all these fabrics and materials to see what would be a feasible new type of material to create this product. I found this gorgeous pink stretch satin that reminded me of point-toe shoes. I decided on the product and tested it out.
To this day, my shoes usually last at least 3-4 times longer than other children's ballet shoes out there.
Q: What target market is your company geared towards?
A: Youth for 1-10 years old Ballerinies ballet shoes. Currently, because of the many requests, we're coming out with a small collection of dance clothing for adults. Right now we have released the Ballerinies work out tank. This is geared towards adults and moms shopping in our store that want to buy a product as well.
Q: Why the name Ballerinies? What is a Ballerinie?
A: Because its direct and straight to the point. As soon as someone hears Ballerinies they know it has to do with ballet. It's a really catchy name and an easy name to rememeber.
When I hold my Ballerinie workshops, the little girls are basically a ballerinie. A younger version of a ballerina.
Q: You grew up in the bay area? Has the bay area influenced you in any way in forming the company and products?
A: Yes, I grew up in bay area. I trained as a dancer up north. My inspiration evolved out of my love for dancing. I gained my love for dancing at school or at the dance studios in which I was trained. Definitely, something developed from the bay area. We started the company in LA, but we're rapidly expanding up north. We have an online site where we can sell products all over California.
Q: You took classes around the Bay? Any you would recommend?
A: Dance academy USA in Cupertino
Q: After all we are SfBayStyle, so I'd like to ask what does 'style' mean to you?
A: Style is a form, an extension of myself, an extension of my self-expression. Depending on how I feel a certain day I dress according to how I feel inside. Definitely an outward extension of how feel internally.
Q: What is your personal style?
A: I love everything. Right now, at least, I am currently into rompers.
Q: What do you think about the trends and fashion that are in the bay? What makes it the bay area since you have travelled the world and have a great perspective on the various styles around the world.
A: It varies if you're talking about South Bay or SF. SF reminds me of New York. The style there is more urban classy. In terms of the South Bay, Silicon Valley is definitely casual. Casual is super cool in the south bay. Pretty much whatever is comfortable and casual.
Q: Will you be taking the company to the next level or expanding?
A: Small adult collection.
Q: The silicon valley and bay area in general are known for having a lot of innovative ideas and successful entrepreneurs in the making. I'm sure a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs will read this, so what advice would you give them?
A: My biggest advice to you young entrepreneurs is... (especially in the bay area because there isn't as strong of a support system for non-tech related entrepreneurship) to not give up. I always urge young entrepreneurs to find mentors. It is extremely hard to start a company without someone to guide a young entrepreneur. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for my team. Find the right dedicated people that are as passionate about the mission you are trying to do.
Biggest advice. Find mentor. Find a good team. Really love what they do. Not to be in it for the money because the money will come later.
Ballerinies is not all that Audrey Lo is doing, she also is a freelance business plan writer as well as a mentor/ consultant for startups. Currently, Audrey was also selected as one of the five entrepreneurs by the New scholars program to fly out to Africa this December to coach 50 young African Entrepreneurs how to start up businesses in their village. For this cause, she will need to raise the money. If you would like to donate or speak to her, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you're interested in placing an order for the Ballerinies products, you can find them here.