blog: Catch Up With babyballet CEO Claire O’Connor On Her Global Adventure!

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun!
– written by Claire O’Connor

Claire O’Connor: I simply cannot believe that we will have been in Toronto for six whole weeks on Friday! People say that time flies when you’re having fun and I can guarantee from the amazing time we have had so far that it certainly does!

From a work perspective, the plan was to have a few days rest, get acclimatised, settle the family in and then knuckle down but I have to admit that things didn’t go to plan. For one, it was great to see Chris so we all wanted to spend as much time together as a family and we were having lots of fun, but above that, I think the main reason was that I hadn’t actually realised how stressed out and tired I was and I was in need of a total break.

On reflection, I realised it was the first time in thirteen years since I started the business that I actually had an opportunity unfolding in front of me to fully unwind and relax away from the day to day running of the business and family life back in Halifax.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been lucky in that time to have had holidays for a week or two but I always kept up with any work needed whilst away and by the time I had started to unwind it was time to go home again so not having a return date here has allowed me to fully relax and start to actually ‘live in the moment’. Bliss! Even when the girls were born, who are now 10 and 12, I only had a week of so called maternity leave and I’m sure that any mothers out there will agree that the first week after having a baby wouldn’t be classed as relaxing!

For the first three weeks here, although I kept in touch with the teams in the UK and Australia to check they were ok, I barely did any work at all and really did make the most of some quality time with the family.

In the past three weeks, with my energy levels and mojo restored, I have got back into work mode but in a very different way to back home. I am more relaxed and focusing purely on Brand Development and International Growth without splitting myself in a millions different directions like I did back home.

A relaxed farewell drink with the Head Office team the day before I left. I miss them all lots.

The reason I have been able to do this is because the team in the UK are doing an incredible job. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to have this opportunity to travel and work with my family, so I feel so incredibly fortunate that they are all so self sufficient to run everything without me being in the office every day. It has taken me a long time to get to this point but knowing they are so capable puts me totally at ease. Thanks team!

Although they are fully capable, that doesn’t mean I am not missing them all massively. We are a very close unit and as well as being work colleagues we are all great friends so it’s been very strange not seeing them for six weeks. The same goes for family and friends. I am trying not to think about the longevity of our trip too much because it makes me miss them but I know they will all be there when we get back and they are all  pleased for us that we are having this opportunity. Also, thanks to Skype and Messenger, we can be in contact within seconds, which is great.

We kept up with the home education until schools finished in the UK as we will be following the same term times whilst we are travelling and we have had lots of fantastic trips out.

I have posted lots of pictures below so you can see some of the places we have visited.

I have also really enjoyed going to the rugby matches and getting to know the game more. Chris works for Toronto Wolfpack who are an up and coming rugby league team. I have only ever managed to attend one game back in the UK so it has been brilliant being able to go to every match and get fully absorbed in the atmosphere. The games are so entertaining and they have won six games out of six! The fourth win saw them lift the league title so that was such a very special occasion to be part of.






With regards to accommodation, we are living together in the same student residence as the players and their families – it has been a lovely community feel. I had no expectations of what life would be like over here and really didn’t know what to expect of the players and their families either but we really couldn’t have asked for more. They are such lovely, down to earth, friendly people we feel privileged to have met and spent time with.

Working in the Dark Horse coffee shop

Work-wise, I have made a great start at making connections with dance studio owners here in Canada who could potentially be interested in becoming the first babyballet licensees and I am really looking forward to attending the Toronto Dance Teacher Expo on the 7th to the 9th of August where I am hoping to meet lots more studio owners and people in the dance industry face to face.

There is a lovely coffee shop next door to our accommodation where I have been spending time each day catching up on emails and social media, and I have also been having several telephone press interviews about the trip and global business development. I had a superb catch up with licensees in Australia and New Zealand last week and we all got excited about planning for my forthcoming visit there in December.

what's on for 4 kids awards 2018 claire oconnor babyballet

I was absolutely thrilled to find out the news yesterday that babyballet have reached the finals of the leading pre-school industry awards, ‘What’s On 4 Kids’ awards.

We are finalists in five different categories and I can’t believe I have made the final for ‘Industry Champion of the Year’. I am absolutely over the moon.

So, what’s next?

This Saturday, I am very excited to be flying to Las Vegas to attend another dance teacher event, the Dance Teacher Web Expo at The Red Rock Resort, Las Vegas. I briefly met the organiser Steve Sirico in London a few years ago and I have wanted to attend the event ever since but never had the opportunity so I can’t wait to be there this year.

BigBallet-web claire oconnor babyballet
The cast of Big Ballet with our mentors Wayne Sleep and Monica Loughman

It will be made even more special because my mentor Wayne Sleep from when I danced in Channel 4’s ‘Big Ballet’ will be there and I always look forward to being in his company so much. He is such a character and always such good fun. I have a lot to thank him for because along with my other mentor Monica Loughman, they really helped me to get a hold of my nerves and build my confidence up during the five months of training and rehearsing to get me ready for our live performance of Swan Lake. If you are interested in watching the three part series, it’s on Netflix under ‘Big Ballet’.

I will be meeting my cousin and niece in Vegas (I cannot wait to see them!!!!) – they are going to spend time with the children whilst I am working. Having visited Las Vegas once before, as well as working, there will be playing to be done too! Outside my working hours we are hoping to do the Zip Line, visit The Grand Canyon and see a Cirque Du Soleil show so it’s going to be a busy, fun packed six days!

After Las Vegas, we will fly back to Toronto until mid September. The best bit about that will be that Harry (my eldest) will be flying out to join us for two weeks. No doubt we will have lots of fun but one thing’s for sure….I hope times doesn’t fly too fast when he is here!

Here are some pictures of what we have been up to so far!

We have visited some amazing places and had some fun days out. We have also met such lovely people who have made us feel so welcome.