After spending the last few years working overseas – touring and travelling with ballet companies across the globe, professional ballet dancers-turned-entrepreneurs Stephanie Lee Goldhahn and husband Daniil Kolmin returned to Australia. But despite making a name for themselves in the international ballet industry, the couple’s future was at a crosspath upon their return.
With a belief they were being taken advantage of as artists, and with payment for the hours slogged out in their pointes just not viable for a sustainable future – the couple began to look at what was on offer outside the world of dance.
Leaning on their self-made social media presence and experience in the world of digital marketing and media, Stephanie and Daniil began to steer their career in a completely new direction – launching online boutique Something Luxe earlier this year. And while they’ve not yet fully closed the door on dance – the dabble in retail is already proving to pay dividends for the duo.
Here, we speak to Stephanie about life beyond the barre.
What made you decide to leave the world of ballet to run an online boutique?
A few different factors nudged us into this direction. We had both been pretty successful in the ballet world, yet didn’t feel we were working in the right environment (which is an extremely important factor for dancers to learn and grow as artists). For us to progress not just in ballet but to prepare for our futures, we believed we had to leave the current situation we had found ourselves in. It was a hard choice not to return to Europe, but a fresh start seemed crucial for us rather than falling into the trap of the same old routine.
What is the ballet industry like in Australia?
It has always been a dream of mine to work in a ballet company in Australia. I like to set goals and as a child I wrote on, decorated with my favourite ballerinas of the time, and laminated a piece of paper that one day I’d be working in the Australian Ballet. I went overseas to work and study believing that seeking the training and experience from abroad performing soloist and corps de ballet roles would assist me in achieving that dream. Unfortunately each year of my return I have requested the possibility of simply taking company class and have yet to be granted permission to do so. I believe Australia has extremely talented dancers and companies, it’s just the amount of talent outweighs the opportunities that can be given to them. It’s a shame as a lot of talent gets lost and discouraged due to the lack of places available for these dancers.
It’s so sad to hear as we absolutely love dance. It looks such a glamorous sport! But I guess as with most things, being a ballet dancer must be incredibly challenging. Do you think the tenacity from your sport is what will make you a successful business owner?
I think as ballet dancers, it’s fun to play up the glamour – it’s our job to present ourselves highly and not let the cracks show if we’re having a bad day. I believe the commitment, passion and patience we have learnt from being in the ballet world has given us a resilience to certain roadblocks one can have when changing paths and starting something new. My husband and I always knew it wasn’t going to be easy launching an online boutique, but thought it would be worth the risk rather than living with the “what if’s?”.
How long have you been doing Something Luxe?
Something Luxe has been thrown around as an idea for maybe two years now. We’d go back and forth bouncing our ideas between each other to try and figure out how we’d make it happen. We had done a bit of research online, and each time we came back to visit Australia. We began four months ago and launched two months ago.
Will you juggle ballet dancing and the boutique?
We both still don’t believe it’s the end of ballet for us, but just a little diversion to more interesting projects in the future. Keeping in shape on the side of what we’re doing now is in both of our best interests. You never know when your next project will pop up – so it’s always best to be prepared and ready to go, nurturing our years of training.
What has been your experience with going into retail?
Our experience in retail originated from my Mum having her own gift shop. We saw this and thought, ‘why not online?!’ We had sold many things online through different platforms and thought ‘why not start something ourselves’.
Has having a following on Instagram helped with the launch of the store?
Not only has our online following helped us with the launch of Something Luxe, the exercise of learning how to manage and create an online following has greatly helped. Our online profiles began as an experiment, we never started on social media with the mindset of becoming “#instafamous” – but the navigation of the online world grew our interest, knowledge and experience of the online world. We began writing blog posts and creating giveaways, then selling my secondhand dance wear and signed pairs of used pointe shoes. I think it was an eye-opener for us of what the possibilities are of the online world. That little taste we had prompted us to think of fresh ways to implement our skills… and Something Luxe was born.
What can we expect from Something Luxe?
Something Luxe in its early stages is an open book. We wanted for our online store to not focus on one particular category of products, yet rather focus on the quality of a curated range of interesting Australian-designed pieces. Something Luxe really has the calibre and flexibility to head in several different directions – with our online collection giving potential customers the opportunity to find something different each time they visit.