Becoming a Prima Ballerina Taught Me This about Entrepreneurship

Consider the lessons every prima ballerina has mastered, and you’ll be “en pointe” in no time.

Photo: , Emily Egbert, Co-founder of HitUp
Photo: , Emily Egbert, Co-founder of HitUp

Ballet dancers have mastered the art of presentation. Picture a ballerina: She’s light and graceful as she leaps across the stage with apparent ease. Her partner lifts her into the air, as if she weighs nothing, and the audience erupts into applause.

While a ballerina’s performance may look effortless, ballet is extremely difficult to master and takes relentless mental commitment. Most people never see the sweat, blisters, and 12-hour rehearsals behind every performance or the ten years of training it takes to become a professional ballerina.

The intensity of ballet closely mirrors the dedication and ambition required to start and run a successful business. You must have an innate drive to succeed and a fierce commitment to your craft, but you also need passion.

Consider the lessons every prima ballerina has mastered, and you’ll be “en pointe” in no time:


  1. Get Ready to Make Sacrifices

    Many want to go pro in the ballet world, but few have the work ethic to make it big. The same is true of entrepreneurship. People often think a great business idea alone will fuel a startup, but running your own business is hard work! You’ll have late nights. You’ll miss parties and experience self-doubt. But if you can make it over the initial hurdles, your hard work will pay off.

  2. Develop Depth Perception

    The ballet world, like business, is an extremely competitive environment. You don’t always get the best role, and you sometimes have to work for free. It’s disheartening, but you have to channel that competitiveness into your practice to improve. As an entrepreneur, you can’t forget about the external forces that exist outside your business. Learn everything you can about your competitors. Know where they advertise, who their key employees are, and what obstacles they’ve overcome. Take a note from Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, who visited his competitors’ stores and studied everything about them, increasing his ability to maintain a competitive advantage.

  3. Embrace Self-Awareness

    As, Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu said in his book, “The Art of War,” “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Successful dancers must be very in tune with their minds and bodies to avoid injury and prevent burnout. They know when to stretch. They know when they’re overextended. They know when to push harder and when to stop. Although working 100 hours a week on your business may look good on paper, not getting enough sleep will drain your energy levels and compromise your mental sharpness. Don’t risk falling out of love with your dream because of exhaustion. Get sufficient rest, and you’ll work harder and smarter.

  4. Never Stop Learning

    Even if a ballerina practices relentlessly and has perfect technique, she cannot succeed unless she’s constantly learning and advancing. Successful ballet dancers will talk to other dancers outside of class and strive to learn from every instructor they work with. Likewise, to succeed as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to live and breathe your business. Seek out mentors, attend conferences, and read up on your industry so you’re always one step ahead of the competition.

  5. Partner Up

    Dancing is all about a give and take between partners. When both partners are in sync and can anticipate each other’s every move, they become a captivating duo. For your startup to really take off, you have to understand your users’ needs and wants. Spend time getting to know your customers and what makes them tick. Listen to their feedback. If you can relate to your customers on a personal level and appeal to them directly, you’ll dramatically increase your potential for success.

  6. Fail Gracefully

    “Fail fast” is a well-known mantra in the startup world, but I also embrace the dancer’s motto: Fail gracefully. Fail without skipping a beat, and keep the dance going. The worst thing you can do after a misstep is stop and dwell on your mistake. Give yourself a minute to reflect, learn, and move forward. With a startup, failing gracefully means immediately telling your partners or investors what you tried didn’t work and how you’re changing course to fix it. It means seeing past poor results instead of letting them consume you. Most importantly, it means eliminating what isn’t working and quickly moving on to something new.

Yes, ballet and business both take extraordinary dedication and hard work, but the most important factor is a love of the art. When a ballerina loves to dance, she transfers a little of her magic to the audience. When you truly love what your business does, you’ll pass that on to your customers. Best of all, you’ll experience the deep satisfaction that only comes with fulfilling your true calling.


A professional ballerina-turned-entrepreneur, Emily Egbert is the co-founder of HitUp, an app that allows customers to purchase and send business gifts to clients or employees in an efficient and personalized way. Sending and receiving gifts should be as easy as sending an email or updating a social media status, yet it still takes a long time to wade through the process of purchasing a gift and sending it. HitUp is designed to change that by making it incredibly easy to send gifts and establish or build relationships offline. Connect with @emilyegbert on Twitter.


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