Showtime Circus founder Jessica Hill explains how she didn’t just run away to join the circus, but started her own circus school.
Jessica Hill of Showtime Circus
Website: Showtime Circus
Instagram: Showtime Circus
Originally from Liverpool, Jess moved to London aged 17 to study at the world renowned Bird College, Sidcup where she gained a BA(Hons) degree in Dance and Theatre Performance and studied towards her teaching qualifications.
Theatre Credits include: Tina Turner the Musical, Emerald Storm, Danny Foster and the Big Soul Corporation, Hairspray, 42nd Street, Paris Je T’aime – La Nouvelle Eve, Nostalgia – Benidorm Palace, Peter Pan, Rock the Opera, Cinderella, Aladdin, Celtic Journey, Alice in Wonderland and shows onboard Celebrity Cruises for QDos productions. Television appearances include Dancing on Ice, Alan Titchmarsh Show, John Carter of Mars, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Premier, BBC news for Peter Pan interview with The Fonz, the Lord Mayors Parade, and the St Georges Day Mayors’ introduction.
She fell in love with circus in 2011 and has been adding circus skills to her performance skills since then, working for Best Parties Ever for 5 years running and performing as solo aerialist onboard P&O Azura. She is now kept very busy working for many high end London based dance and circus companies including Divine Company, Big Soul Corporation, The Folly Mixtures and many more, which sees her performing at various high profile events in London and all over the world, as well as modelling for T.K Maxx and Harrods and occasionally appearing as a magician’s assistant!
Jessica has always loved teaching and now balances teaching with performing as she likes to pass on her passion and knowledge to inspire the younger generation and encourage them to enter the crazy world of show business as she knows what a tough, but incredible career it is! She has taught at colleges such as Bird College, LCPA and Jelli Studios under the direction of Jennifer Ellison where she taught the students from Dance Mums UK. She has also taught world champion Cheerleaders at Cheer Schools and other schools in London, the North West and as far away as Hong Kong. She has hosted dance workshops at London’s biggest dance convention, Move It! where she has also choreographed and performed in performances on the Main Stage. Choreography Credits include working alongside Deborah Norris on 42nd Street and Hairspray, both of which were nominated for Best Choreography in a Musical, 42nd winning the title as well as Best Musical, she now works as Resort Director for the Sensatori Shows in Tenerife. Events that have been organised by Jess include: West End Fest, held in St Paul’s Cathedral, Bam Bam’s Summer Circus and Cirque D’Amour, all raising money for Cardiac Risk in the Young.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- Why it’s worth continually adding to your skillset to improve your employability
- The value of listening to your customers to find out what they want
- How trying something different can reinforce that you were in fact doing the right thing in the first place
- How your existing contacts can help you out when you’re starting something new
- The challenges of moving into management when it takes you away from what you actually enjoy doing, but what doing so can do for your business
- How you can use courses to improve your network
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 35: How to join the circus - with Jessica Hill of Showtime Circus
Jeremy Cline 0:00
I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:17
Hello and welcome to Change Work Life, the show that's all about beating the Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. My guest on this episode is Jessica Hill who's the founder of Showtime Circus, a school where she teaches circus skills to children. We talk about Jessica's journey from a professional performer to teacher with an unexpected diversion through vet school. Here's the interview. Hi, Jessica, welcome to the show.
Jessica Hill 0:42
Hello. Thank you for having me.
Jeremy Cline 0:44
Jessica. Can you start by telling us a bit about what you do?
Jessica Hill 0:46
Yeah, of course. I run a circus school called Showtime Circus. We teach everything circus, so aerial, hoop, silk, trapeze - we do acro, acrobalance, tightrope-walking, stilt-walking, juggling, hula-hooping - basically everything circus. We have four venues, London Colney, St Albans, Hitchin, Harpenden, and we do weekly classes, we do holiday camps, summer camps, holiday clubs, we do birthday parties, we do workshops all over the country, and we do festivals and different events.
Jeremy Cline 1:13
Wow, so is it mainly kids that you teach? Or do you teach adults as well?
Jessica Hill 1:17
It's mainly children. We do have one or two adult classes running, but it's mainly children that we teach.
Jeremy Cline 1:23
How did you get into circus skills in the first place?
Jessica Hill 1:27
I was a professional dancer, and I worked all over the place as a dancer and I worked for a particular agency who basically said if I could stilt walk then I'd get more money and more gigs. So I learnt how to do that, which was terrifying at first - but then, I obviously got into it, and so then stilt walking became part of my usual skill set. And then it was a case of 'Can you do hula hooping?' So it was 'Yeah of course I can, I'll go away and I'll teach myself or I'll go to a few lessons'. And then there was an aerial school around the corner from where I live, and I didn't really like going to the gym, so I went to the aerial school and completely fell in love with hanging upside down - worked quite hard on that, did a few intense courses and then a different agency took a risk and gave me a job and basically said you know, we like you, if you work really hard we'll give you this job performing as an aerialist at some Christmas events. So I worked really hard and was an aerialist then, and from then it just kind of between the two different agencies - they were like, can you learn this? Yeah, of course. Can you learn this? Yeah of course. So then I added fire into the mix, doing fire, doing hula hoop, and doing poi, added all these various different circus skills into the mix, so that sort of took over my dancing and so I did less and less dancing and more and more circus skills. And then that's how I ended up learning all of the skills really.
Jeremy Cline 2:47
Going back to dancing - when did you start dancing professionally, and how did you get into that? It's one of those things that clearly there are professional dancers, but it's one of those things where when you're at school and you tell the teacher that you want to be a professional dancer they kind of look at you and go, 'Well, you know, it's difficult to get into and you'd need to have a backup as well'. So tell me a bit about how you got into dancing in the first place.
Jessica Hill 3:09
I went to the local dance school and absolutely loved it, and decided I wanted to be a dancer. And it was only really when I went to A-level college and saw other people going off to do dance at dance colleges that I was really dead set on that's what I wanted to do. I did A-level maths, biology and chemistry as a backup, because my parents told me I had to have a decent backup. So I chose those subjects. When I auditioned for dance college, it was a full time dance college in London that I got a full scholarship for to do a degree course. And so I told my parents and it was kind of like, well, you kind of have to go you know, you've got a scholarship for it, and you're going to do a degree so it's ticked all the boxes. Off I went down to dance College in Sidcup in Kent, and then studied there for three years. Once I graduated there, you just have to go to auditions and you get your job or you don't get jobs based on what you look like and whether you're good enough!
Jeremy Cline 4:03
When you were thinking about becoming a professional dancer, what was the reaction of your parents? I mean, before you got the scholarship and the place at the college?
Jessica Hill 4:10
it was fine. They were happy for me to do it. They tried to put every measure in place for me not to - 'Well, you've got to do really well in your GCSEs' - and then I did, and then 'You've got to do A-levels' - and then I did, and then 'You can't go to dance college unless you get a scholarship' - and then I did! So they were very supportive, definitely, but I think they were a bit nervous, because it's not a normal career. They were very nervous so they put the restrictions in place, but then when I managed to hit all of their restrictions, they were a bit like, 'Oh, okay, fine. We're going to have to let you go and at least try it out.' So I did.
Jeremy Cline 4:43
From their perspective, was this something that was completely out of the ordinary that they just didn't kind of have any experience of?
Jessica Hill 4:49
Yeah definitely. None of my family are performers. They've all got very normal jobs. Yeah, it was definitely out of the ordinary for them to do that.
Jeremy Cline 4:58
What made you go down this path? Why did you decide that you were going to do this professionally rather than do it as a hobby?
Jessica Hill 5:04
I just really loved it. And I couldn't think of anything else that I wanted to do. There's other things I could have done, but I just saw the glamour and fabulousness of it and wanted to do it.
Jeremy Cline 5:13
And where did you think it might take you when you started college? If in fact, you did think when you started college where it might take you?
Jessica Hill 5:19
Well, I don't think I knew the avenues that I could take. So I thought it was going to lead me to the West End every night and having a jolly old time, I didn't realise it was going to take me around the world and teach me so many amazing skills. So I'm very lucky to have gone around the world doing dancing and performing and doing the circus skills.
Jeremy Cline 5:39
And you said that one of the agencies was saying you should add stilt walking, and then another thing, and then another thing - is this normal for dancers to be told that they should add circus skills to their portfolio?
Jessica Hill 5:52
I think more nowadays. So this was 10 years ago, but nowadays dancers have to be able to do everything in order to be employable. You have to be to be able to sing, dance, act, flip, do random skills - just so the employers have a choice so they can add these things in if they want to. There's a lot of pressure on dancers now to not just be able to dance but to be able to do everything. It's changed quite a lot in just 10 years, I would day.
Jeremy Cline 6:19
Okay, so 10 years ago, that expectation wasn't there?
Jessica Hill 6:23
Not as much I don't think. We were still expected to be able to be a triple threat. So if you wanted to be in the West End, you had to be able to sing, dance and act, but there wasn't as much out there in the way of corporate events wanting different skills. I think back then they would have an aerialist and then they would have a dancer, and then they would have stilt walker, whereas it very much turns into well, if I can get one person to do all three skills, then that would obviously save me money. So that is kind of how it's developed, I think - and that's where it's become more and more important to be able to know more skills and be able to do more things.
Jeremy Cline 6:58
So what made you say yes at the time then if the expectation wasn't there then as it is now - what made you say yes to 'okay I'll have a go at all these additional things'?
Jessica Hill 7:08
I just really enjoyed dancing for that company. I liked the person who ran it, and every time I did a job for her it was a lot of fun and it was quite well paid and I knew I would do more jobs which meant having more fun and being paid more - so it was kind of a no brainer really. Yeah, okay, I'll learn more things so I can have more fun - that's fine!
Jeremy Cline 7:28
You mentioned that you'd been around the world - what sort of stuff were you doing and who were you performing to?
Jessica Hill 7:33
So I have been on cruise ships - that was more as a dancer and an aerialist - so I've been all over the world on cruise ships, but also I've done a lot of corporate events out in the Middle East. I've been to Doha, Kuwait, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, just going out to stilt walk around festivals there. When they have sales - you know, like we have the after Christmas sales - they have big shopping events in January, so they have a lot of entertainment that goes over just to wander around the shopping centres as everyone's doing their shopping. That was me quite a few years, you know, getting dressed up in amazing costumes and saying hello to all of the people, which was great.
Jeremy Cline 8:07
So talk a little bit about how that transitioned into having your own circus school. Presumably, there was a bit in the middle where you were doing teaching alongside or instead of the actual performing?
Jessica Hill 8:21
Yeah. So always, as a performer, you've always got downtime in between. So unless you're very, very lucky to go from contract to contract, you'd always have a little bit in the middle where you wouldn't be working as a performer, so you would do something else. And I've always taught children because I've always loved them. So I have a lot of experience in teaching children. And then as I started getting older, I was going away on these amazing contracts, which was great, and then I was coming back to England and teaching somebody for very little money. And I didn't feel fulfilled by it. So I would go away on these amazing contracts, come back here, and I would feel like I had nothing so then I would go away again and have an amazing time and then come back to England and have absolutely nothing. And I was just getting really sick of that feeling like constant cycle of amazing-amazing-coming home's nothing-amazing-coming home's nothing! My last abroad job was Tina Turner the musical, touring around Germany. And when I was there, I started putting the plans in place to open my own school and came back, settled with my partner in Harpenden so Hertfordshire. And he just said, Look, you know, I noticed there's a lot of dance schools around, there's nothing like circus around - why don't you add that to it? And I was just like, yeah, I've learnt all these skills for a reason. It would be silly to just start a dance school even though dance is my background. I've learned all of these circus skills, why not put that into it as well? So I started with just doing a holiday camp. And The Greatest Showman had actually come out at the same time that I did that holiday camp, so I think that was a huge benefit. Everybody wanted to learn all the circus skills. So I did the holiday camp and then from that people were begging me to do a weekly school which I wasn't that interested in at first because I still wanted to go off and do these amazing contracts and then just come home and do the holiday camp. But actually, the more I thought about it, the more I was like, Yeah, I do want to do this. And so I set it up and it was pretty much an instant success. So that's where it started. And it's built from there really.
Jeremy Cline 10:14
The teaching side of things - you mentioned that you had some downtime between contracts. Was it inevitable that you would end up spending that time at least initially teaching, or were there other things that you considered doing during that downtime?
Jessica Hill 10:26
To be honest with you I had a complete career change at one point because the downtime was so down, and I decided to go off and study veterinary medicine. I already had my A-levels, so I did an access course - I did a year of doing A-level maths, chemistry, biology all over again, which was amazing, and I taught during that time - so taught dance and drama whilst I was studying - and then I very luckily got into veterinary school, which is very difficult to do, to study veterinary medicine. And then as I was waiting for that to come around, I decided to get myself some more experience in the surgical side of it and the medical side of it. And so I went and I worked at a tissue bank in Liverpool because I was living up in Liverpool at the time with my parents. So I worked at a tissue bank, which is where humans donate their tissue - so it's bones, skin, muscles, eyes, tendons - and I actually got the donations, cleaned them all up and then packaged them up to sell off to surgeons to use in surgery in humans. So that was a little bit of an interim job as well whilst I was waiting for my place at university, and then September came around and I went to veterinary school. I absolutely loved it. I was doing really well, but because of financial reasons, because it was my second degree, I had to fund it myself. And I found it really hard to fund myself and do well at college. And then I got offered another amazing job away doing circus and I thought as much as I love vet school, as much as I'm doing well at it, realistically doing this for five years I'm not gonna be able to fund it, I was finding a lot harder than I thought. So I decided to leave veterinary school and went off and did my circus job, and it's from there that I went on to do Tina Turner, which is from there, I went on to open the school. So yeah, a very big career change.
Jeremy Cline 12:05
Yeah, quite a commitment to turn your back on. Tell me a bit about your thought process there. You know, when did it become apparent vet school was going to be difficult? Was it really just the funding? Or was it something else that made you think 'not sure it's for me?'
Jessica Hill 12:23
I think funding was a massive issue, but also I had all of this life experience. I have been through quite a lot of tough times and I had all this life experience - and I was in university, you know, with 18 year olds being told that I wasn't allowed to drive my car to university because I had to get on the bus with everybody, even though I had to go straight to work. So I had to have my car there. And so being treated like a child, again, when I had all of these responsibilities that these other people didn't have, that was also a big factor of it for me because I had to drive, because I had to go straight to work and I had to go straight to work to fund my university place. But if you told me I had to get on the bus, that meant I couldn't go to work that night, which meant I couldn't pay for it. And also, it didn't give me the freedom that I was used to having. So I've been travelling the world for years. So I don't need telling by you that I have to get on a bus, thank you, you know! So that was a big part of it as well, I didn't have the freedom and I didn't enjoy the lifestyle as much. And at the time, it was 'five years of this, I don't know if I can do it'. And so that little glimmer of, well here's a little glamorous circus contract, you know - dangling it like a carrot - and I was like, Oh, yeah, okay, I'll take it. So yeah, I it was a difficult decision at the time, because I'd worked so hard to get there. But I think realistically, it was the right decision to make, was to not continue with this course yet.
Jeremy Cline 13:42
There must have been part of you that thought, okay, I'm not really enjoying this, but it is only five years and yeah, five years is a long time, but in the context of the rest of my career it's not that long.
Jessica Hill 13:52
Yeah, there was definitely part of me where I was like, No, Jess come on, you can do this. You've worked so hard. I think if I'd have gone straight out of college I definitely could have done it, no query at all. It was just that I was older than all of them. I think I was about 28 at the time, I was 10 years older than all of them and yeah, the lifestyle was very difficult to get used to. And I think, you know, maybe if I'd have given it a few more months I'd have got used to it more, and I'd still be there now. And I'd have completed it and done really well - but I was also used to do whatever I wanted. And it was a real, real hard lifestyle shift I think. So yeah, when I got the chance to run off I took it.
Jeremy Cline 14:29
Was there an element of going back to familiarity? The reassurance of going back to something which you already knew, and already were very good at?
Jessica Hill 14:36
Yeah, probably as well, actually, because it was very different to what I was used to at vet school. So yeah, probably the 'Oh I get to wear glitter and prance around' was my safe place, I guess. Because I found the vet school so tough, when I was offered to go back to the safe place I was like, Yeah, okay, I'll come, that's fine!
Jeremy Cline 14:54
And then your first downtime after that contract. How did that make you feel? I mean, did that kind of make you think, Oh no, I've made a mistake, I should have stuck with it - or how did you react when you were back to doing what you were doing and you had your first bit of downtime?
Jessica Hill 15:12
I think that's where I realised that I wanted something of my own. So that's where the determination to create something that I was proud of and love came from that downtime because I had realised that changing what I did wasn't making me happy, so I want to create something that I'm proud of and want to be a big part of and that will fulfil me - and it definitely does. So I'm happy that I made that decision.
Jeremy Cline 15:37
And how did that desire - that spark - translate into starting the holiday camps? What was the process for that?
Jessica Hill 15:44
It was quite an easy process because I have so much experience teaching for other people, but my partner definitely helped me as well because he is very good at web design, graphic design, and basically giving me confidence. So he helped me with the branding of it all, and the website - which I think was amazing for the business, to have such a good website. That's how it kind of all came about - his help with pushing me into 'yes, it is a great idea Jess', my knowledge already, my excitement for it, and also his ability to be able to do the website - so it all kind of married really well together. And the first holiday camp was full quite quickly. So it kind of was assurance that it was a good thing.
Jeremy Cline 16:23
Where were you holding these, was this in part of the existing holiday facility, or did you have to find a venue and it was entirely a freestanding thing?
Jessica Hill 16:32
Yes, I held it at Roundwood Park School. I still do hold them at Roundwood Park School in Harpenden. So I just hire out the halls for the week and I take my whole circus to the hall and set it all up and leave it and we're there from the Monday to Friday. And that's kind of what we do.
Jeremy Cline 16:45
And how did you know - well I suppose you couldn't know - but why did you think there was going to be demand for it?
Jessica Hill 16:50
I was very lucky that The Greatest Showman had come out, so lots of children want to be Zendaya and go on the hoop, which is amazing for me - great timing. But also just a desire for having something that is fully inclusive. So some children just don't get on in ballet, they don't like the discipline. Some children don't particularly do well at football, and I wanted to open a school that was fully inclusive for all abilities, all ages and all personalities could come, and that's why circus is so good because there's so many different elements of circus that they appeal to different personalities and different children and some will love going upside down and flipping around. Whereas some would love the more manipulation so poi, juggling, things like that, some children really take to, some take to stilt walking or tightrope walking or you know, the magic. So the logical brains, all of the magic side of it. So it really does appeal to all of the different children and it was something that - my family are very inclusive and that's how I've been brought up. And so it was very important for me to have an inclusive school and that kind of went very hand in hand with having a circus school so works really well. Yeah, I think that's where it came from as well.
Jeremy Cline 17:59
Had The Greatest Showman already come out when you made the decision to start this, or was it just a sort of happy accident that it came out just when you were starting to advertise it and everything?
Jessica Hill 18:08
Yeah, it was a happy accident, really. I remember it coming out, and I was like, Oh, I'm doing a circus camp, and then I watched it. And I was like, oh, my goodness, all of the kids are gonna want to do this now! So it was very, very good timing, a very happy accident. I'd already decided this is something I wanted to do, and then the timing was just absolutely perfect. So it's great for me.
Jeremy Cline 18:29
I'm curious if it hadn't come out would you have had the demand? Did you have any other indications as you were thinking about it, as you were planning it that it was likely to be successful - so market research and stuff?
Jessica Hill 18:41
Yeah, so I'd already taught in Liverpool when I lived there. I'd already taught silks and the children had loved it - so I knew that it was a hit with children anyway, this is way before The Greatest Showman. So already taught them aerial hoop and silks. My classes were all full, and there was great demand for it. I was very busy in Liverpool as I said earlier, studying for my access course all over again. I was teaching nearly every night, teaching aerial hoop and silk, so I already knew that it was very popular amongst children. I don't know quite how I would have marketed it had it not been in The Greatest Showman because I very much used that in my marketing, but I knew that it would be popular anyway. So it's kind of a case of you know, if it hadn't have come out, I knew the children that had have come and taken a risk and tried it anyway, I knew that they would have loved it and carried on doing it and spread the word for me regardless, so yeah, I already it would work, it's just that The Greatest Showman helped me fill it up, which was great.
Jeremy Cline 19:34
And what about the logistics of putting all this together? Before we even talk about the school, I'm guessing that a week long holiday camp where your teaching circus skills - presumably did you have other teachers as well that you needed to bring along and then you needed to make sure that the venue was suitable? Presumably there's all sorts of insurances and disclaimers and all that sort of stuff. So talk me through all of that and the organisational side.
Jessica Hill 19:59
I'm very lucky In that one of the agencies I mentioned earlier that I work for - a lot of girls are very similar to me in that they've also learned all of these skills. I was very lucky that I could ring them and say, Look, this is happening, I've got this many children, can you please come and teach for me? They've all got DBS checks and all of their insurance anyway, because in their downtime they already teach. So that was already in place. I'm part of Equity Actors unions, I have been for a long time - so just a simple phone call to them to say, look, what does my insurance cover? If I'm going to do this, what do I need to do? And they were very good at sending me over all of the correct forms, which it was really simple for me to do. This is what I want to teach this. This is what I'll be doing, this as my experience. And they sent it all over, got me insured quite easily, really, because it's through the same insurance I've had for 12 years, only obviously now it's for a company rather than just for myself. And with regards to the safeguarding DBS checks - we've all done that anyway, because we've been teaching for other schools so I've always had to have that in check anyway. The equipment that I use I buy from reputable sources so you know, I always make a log of how long I use it for, chat to them, you know, can I do this? Can I do that? Yes, fine. So yeah, it's kind of my path. I've drawn a lot on all of my past experiences in order to be able to run it successfully. And yeah, I've been very lucky to have had all of these connections at my fingertips really, to help me put it in place.
Jeremy Cline 21:22
When you started the summer camp, were you just expecting that you would do these summer camps during your downtimes to the extent that they coincided with school holidays, or did you at that stage think it was going to be something bigger?
Jessica Hill 21:33
At first, I definitely thought it would just be during the downtime and I was actually organising the first one during a very, very busy contract. So I was directing resort shows out in Tenerife and choreographing, and just really crazy busy and I was coming home and then doing the Easter camp in my week rest, but as I was doing that, and I was getting more and more busy, getting more and more children signing on, it started to make me think actually this isn't just going to be a week's rest this is going to be a full time job. I sort of had already come around to the idea before I'd even done the first camp that it was going to be a big thing and that it perhaps would overtake because I felt more passionate about the holiday camp than I did about the amazing jobs that I was doing abroad just because it was my thing. So I was very passionate about it, very worked very hard on it. So before I'd even done the first one I realised it was something I really love doing and really loved organising and that it could be bigger. And then by the time I'd done the first one, it was such a huge success. And the children were begging me and I absolutely adore children. So when they asked me, please Jess, we want to see you every day, every week! Please start a weekly school and then I'm like, oh Okay, fine. Can't say no to them kids. So then, yeah, just very shortly after doing the first one, I realised it was going to be more than just in my downtime, it was going to be my time. It was going to be my thing.
Jeremy Cline 22:54
Were any of the parents saying that as well? I mean kids might be enthusiastic one minute and then not very enthusiastic a bit later on. Were you getting messages from parents that they wanted you to do as well?
Jessica Hill 23:03
Yeah, the feedback from the parents was that this is so different. This is the first time anything like this has been in this area. It's so great. Thank you, you know, for all of your hard work. So it was very positive feedback from the get go. So it kind of made sense, you know, to build it into more than just the holiday camps and to make a school and I absolutely adore the school now. So I'm glad that I did.
Jeremy Cline 23:23
And the transition from just doing the week long camps to having a school running full time, what was that like? What additional things did you have to think about, what additional hurdles did you have to overcome?
Jessica Hill 23:35
I think it was hard at first because the holiday camp was so busy and then my weekly school was so quiet to begin with, so it's difficult to build it all up. But with regards to additional things to think about, I had to make sure I always had a teacher that was willing to commit to every Saturday and then when I opened more schools it was finding more and more teachers who were committed to it and had the DBS and were trained and to find more and more teachers - and but other than that, it was kind of a natural progression really. So it's just the teachers being able to rely on more and more people was the hardest thing I would say. And now I've got a whole pool of amazing teachers - I've got about 10 different teachers that I use regularly who are all incredibly talented and very good at getting the children to improve. So, yes, now I've got loads of people I can draw on really, so yeah, it's good.
Jeremy Cline 24:22
Do you run the schools out of your own premises or do you use school halls that sort of thing?
Jessica Hill 24:26
Well, that would be the dream. The dream would be to have our own premises. We are looking - we are crossing our fingers - and that would be the absolute dream to have our own premises because at the moment we have four, I hire from 6 different venues. It would be fantastic to have my own because obviously the equipment's very heavy to set up. It's takes a long time to set up and I have to drive it around in a van to each venue to set it all up. So it can be quite a logistical nightmare sometimes to make sure everyone has the right things and it's all set up correctly. And it would be just a dream to just be able to have it all permanently set up and walk in and it be there, and then just have to teach rather than set it all up every time, take it all down every time. That would be the absolute dream. But it's working really well at the moment, and it does mean that we can get to lots of different places. So we have like four different schools in four different venues, which means obviously, four times the amount of children can come and enjoy circus. So it is working at the momentbut as I said it would be a dream to have our own place.
Jeremy Cline 25:29
Do you still do a lot of the teaching yourself? Or do you mainly do the management side and leave that to other people?
Jessica Hill 25:36
I am very much in the middle of that one at the moment. So I teach nearly every single day myself, obviously doing all of the managing of it all as well. So it's a bit crazy at the moment. If we get any bigger, I think I'm going to have to take a bit of a step down from the teachimg, but that's the part that I really enjoy. That's the bit that I really love doing. So it's really hard to get the balance right between managing the school and getting to do what I actually love which is connecting with the children and seeing them improve not just their skills, but also their confidence and seeing the bonds that they make with the other children in class. I really love things like that, so I don't want to lose that side of it. So I do still want to teach lots but yeah, it's getting to a point now where maybe I should take little step back. My teachers are amazing - the teacher I have are from national circus centre, they've performed all over the place. They're very, very, very talented. So yeah, I should trust in them more and give them more teaching so I can step back and take more of a managerial role, but I think I'd miss it.
Jeremy Cline 26:32
I was gonna ask me how does the idea of taking a step back and doing more of the managerial role, rather than the teaching make you feel? It's an interesting subjects, the extent to which a business expands and what that means for the person who's founded it, whether the business is to enable them to do what they love doing in the first place, or whether it is to have a sort of more of the CEO mentality where you recognise that you can't keep on doing everything, you can't do all the stuff that you're doing, and you've got to kind of take a step back and start pulling the strings. Have you thought about that as you go through what you're doing.
Jessica Hill 27:09
I think it's been a huge learning curve. I definitely didn't realise that I would enjoy the managing side of it as much as I do. I started it because I adore teaching, I love children and I love circus so it was started from that - from my love for teaching the children. It turns out, I'm quite good at managing stuff. I've been on a lot of courses and learnt loads and been around like-minded people, and I actually really now do enjoy that side of it as well. So that's a bit of a surprise, I didn't realise I would enjoy it as much as I do. So I think it would be nice to have a balance between the both of them to be able to step back but still be able to teach. But I did take that step back. I think it would be make me better as a manager as well. So it is just getting that balance really.
Jeremy Cline 27:51
And is that something that you want to do? I'm just curious, do you actually want to do a mixture of managing and teaching or if someone said to you, you can do whatever you'd like. Would you prefer to do more of the teaching? Or would you do more of the management?
Jessica Hill 28:03
I think long term, I know that this school is amazing. And I know it's fantastic for the children and I know long term, it could be a huge success - and I think my passion for it to be a long term thing makes me want to take a step back and do more of the managing so that I can ensure that it does last a long time. And lots and lots of children get the joy of circus. If I was selfish, I would just prefer to just prance around with the kids and have fun and just teach. But I think because that's more fun, you know, it's more fun, but I have to think long term, this is a business I'd like it to be my future. I think I do have to be sensible, take more of a managerial role in order for it to be part of my future and for it to not just be a short term thing.
Jeremy Cline 28:48
So when you say long term, you want it to be your future - what at the moment do you think that looks like? What are your sort of long term ambitions for the business?
Jessica Hill 28:55
I already have four different venues I'd absolutely love to franchise, we're looking into it. That would be a huge goal of mine just for other people that I trust to open branches elsewhere, even if it's alongside a dance school, or even if it's just them running holiday camps - that would be, you know, I have a lot of visions for the business, but it's whether I can make it work. I don't know. It's really hard! I've got a lot of ideas, but I just don't know which ones will work. And it's really hard because I do very keep things very close to my chest because I've been burned quite a few times, a few of my teachers have gone off and done the same thing. And so I'm very careful to keep my ideas to myself before they are stolen again. Yeah it's tricky, but yeah, I have got good plans, big plans for the business, but we'll just have to see.
Jeremy Cline 29:50
What's the toughest thing at the moment about what you do? If someone had a magic wand and said I can make this disappear? What would that be?
Jessica Hill 29:59
Oh, I think if someone had a magic wand, please can I have more time! It's just time. Because obviously you want to be very present when you're teaching the children. So you don't want to be bogged down by all of the admin side of it. But I find it really difficult. I struggle so much to have the time to fit everything in for all of the amazing ideas that I had. So I have all of these amazing things going on, but I struggle to fit the time in to do everything and be present to teach the children and shape the ideas for the future as well. So I think I'd like an eighth day in a week please, if you do have the magic wand!
Jeremy Cline 30:35
I suspect a lot of business owners would probably like that. I also suspect that they'd discover that eight days isn't sufficient though.
Jessica Hill 30:40
Yeah, fair. I think I'd be greedy and want ten! Yeah, I can imagine we're all the same. Please give me another day. More time!
Jeremy Cline 30:51
In terms of the process you've been through, are there any resources, people who've helped you, books, courses, something which really stands out as this has really helped me in doing what I do?
Jessica Hill 31:03
I went on a flexibility course, it's called Alixa Flexibility. It's for teaching contortion or flexibility safely for children. And I really connected with the lady who'd come up with that course, and she's given me lots of resources. And as you research more and more - the internet's an amazing thing, you can meet so many like-minded people on the internet and bounce your ideas off them. And I think through going onto these courses and meeting these people who then put you in touch with other people who put you in touch with other people, you get like an online community of people that you really trust and can bounce ideas off. And that's been really, really helpful for me. l've been very grateful for the help that I get from a group of people who I've never met which is crazy, but yeah, they're all very like-minded individuals so it's really nice to chat to them sometimes and just have nice healthy debates about training children and our opinions on it. So it's really good. I'm grateful that have those people to talk to.
Jeremy Cline 31:57
And where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you and find out a bit more about what you do?
Jessica Hill 32:01
They're welcome to get in touch with me. All of my contact details are on the website so just showtimecircus.co.uk if you email then I do get it directly and the phone number is my direct phone number as well, so feel free to drop me a text or call or email if you want to chat anything through because I love chatting to people about everything as you can probably tell. I love talking. So yeah, feel free to give me a call. It's fine.
Jeremy Cline 32:24
Brilliant. Well, Jessica it's certainly not anything I ever knew about before. It's been really, really interesting chatting to you. So thanks so much for your time and best of luck with it.
Jessica Hill 32:34
Thank you so much.
Jeremy Cline 32:36
Okay, well, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Jessica Hill of Showtime Circus. I've got to say that by the end of the interview, I was getting really quite excited for Jessica by what she'd done and what she might turn this business into. I mean she was talking about franchising. You could really see her turning this into a business of really quite some substance and reach. It was really interesting hearing Jessica say how she was paying attention to what she enjoyed, the fact that she was really enjoying teaching and the realisation that was what she wanted to do. It just shows the value of thinking 'Yeah, actually, I'm enjoying this - now how can I do it as my living?' Show notes on the website at changeworklife.com/35. And I'd absolutely love it if you would share this episode to your contacts on social media. You can find on the show notes page a few links there so you can share this episode, and it would be great if you can do so just so that more people can hear Jessica's story. As always. We've got more to come next week and I can't wait to see you there. Cheers. Bye
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