LET'S TALK ABOUT

W I T H   J I S E L L E   H E N D E R K O T T   C A L A Z A N S  ( U S A )

My name is Jiselle Henderkott Calazans. I am 24 years old, and I am originally from Davenport, Iowa. However, I have lived in France for the past three years. I have danced my whole life from the age of three until now. I am currently a professional dancer, ballet teacher and the CEO and Founder of Aurora x Sky (pronounced Aurora and Sky.)

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, Dance and French from Iowa State University in 2017. Then I pursued a Masters 1 at L’Institut Supérieur des Arts
Appliqués in Paris, France from 2018-2019 where I studied Management of Fashion and Luxury.

When I was studying fashion in Paris, I had an idea to launch a beautifully curated and fashionable ballet-wear boutique. However, I had no idea how to make it happen back then and believed it to be a far-future goal instead of a near-future possibility.

That all changed when I found myself without a job as a professional dancer living in Los Angeles during COVID-19. I knew I had to take a leap of faith and start my business now. During this time, I dedicated myself to learning more about e-commerce, Shopify and the whole supply chain management process of a dancewear store.

Model/Dancer: Darya Ustyuzhanina in the Aurora Leotard
Photographer: Tonya Ekimova

Aurora x Sky was born out of my two loves: beautiful, feminine fashion and ballet dance. It was also super important to me to bring a human aspect and connection to my brand. It’s not enough to sell beautiful ballet clothing; the message behind my brand must be one of authenticity, kindness and transparency. This is what I strive for every day in my personal life and my business.

I believe that the United States values hard-work and determination above all else, and it’s funny because I learned the most about the country I am from by travelling and meeting others from all over the world. During my travels, I realized that while every country may have their differences, the one string that connects us all is our need to be valued, loved and seen. That is how we are all the same.

How does your country impact International business?
I believe that the United States has definitely been the pioneer in specific industries, but I can also acknowledge the outstanding work many other countries are doing too. I’ve worked in two cultures: the French and the American. I’ve seen how the fast-paced American business style for growth, profit and capitalism has impacted the way business is done in other countries.

I’ve also seen how the French value of social responsibility and meticulousness has influenced a movement in the United States as well. 

I believe that international business is fluid, and what works for one country or area may not be the same for every country or area. However, the one key connector international business has pushed. It should keep pushing, in my opinion, is social justice, social responsibility, transparency and lessening the ecological footprint we are leaving on our planet.

What are the key advantages and disadvantages of international trade & cooperation? What are the key advantages and disadvantages of entrepreneurship in your country?
To me, the key advantages of international trade and cooperation are greater variety in goods offered at lower prices that are made available to a broader audience, a sharing of monetary goods and services that benefits people all over the globe and a greater sense of connectedness that helps us to surmount our differences. 

And the key disadvantages would be unequal sharing of profit among players in the supply chain, looser or nonexistent regulations in different countries/states, greater use of fossil fuels to transport goods across a more considerable distance, and larger quantities of product waste due to the higher demand of an international market.

One of the critical advantages of entrepreneurship in the United States is the idea of the American dream and how we can do anything if we put our mind to it. In the United States, it is widely accepted that one can work hard and eventually maybe even work for themselves (that’s seen as the dream…), but it is often seen as a significant risk, too. So, I guess that would be one disadvantage. Because so many people try and sometimes fail to launch a business here in the United States, the ones who have great ideas are maybe too scared to risk it all and fail.

Describe the political situation in your country
I can only speak for how I view the political situation in my country right now, and all I can say is that we are very divided. However, I hope that we will all come together and use our voices to vote in the November election in November.

Model: Jiselle Henderkott Calazans
in the Aurora Leotard and Titania Skirt

Describe the economic situation and the perspective of your country & benefits of international cooperation with entrepreneurs from your country
I believe the economic situation in our country is teetering on edge. We were doing “okay” before COVID-19, but this situation has shown the cracks and divides in our country that we didn’t want to deal with. It’s almost like a festering wound. It became infected after decades and decades of pushing others feelings and concerns aside. It was almost like we didn’t want to see our shadows, or where we were failing others, but now we do. There is a substantial economic in-equality here in our country (and in the world in general), and we need to do better to support those who need help. I hope that our country will band together to fight for change and equality for all.

Furthermore, because we have social media and the internet, we can connect with businesses, people and ideas from all over the world like never before. This is the beauty and power of the internet. I would have never been able to launch my company if it wasn’t for the visual power of connection that Instagram provides. I understand the power a message can have, and this is why creating a community of entrepreneurs who uplift and support one another is so important and needed right now during these turbulent and uncertain times.

Describe the people and entrepreneurs in your country…
I believe we (Americans) are diverse, strong-willed, passionate and caring. The entrepreneurs in our country reflect this, I believe.

Many young entrepreneurs in the United States see an issue or change they want to make in our society, and go out and do it. Over the past couple of years, I have seen more and more support for women entrepreneurs, and I think this is beautiful. However, I would like to see more entrepreneurial support in the United States for women, people of colour and marginalized groups.

Which business culture do you like?
I can only speak from what I know, and I like the European way of business. Specifically, the way the French conduct their workdays. It was a massive change for me because I was going from the fast-paced American workday to the well-thought-out French one. I want to think I took the best of both worlds and fused that into how I run my business now.

I learned how to take more time to curate an idea and fully flesh it out while working in France. It was good for me to work at a slower pace and to be less stressed, so that’s what I admire most about the way the French work.

Describe your brand…
My brand is still in its very beginning stages. We only launched a little over a month ago. It’s just my husband and me who work on our brand every day, so it’s nice that we can give one-on-one attention to all of our customers.

Some of the first steps I took when I was starting my brand was: creating a brand book, or a lookbook for my company. Once I had the general aesthetic and direction of my brand finalized, I moved on to actually sourcing the products, creating the website (storefront), branding it and then creating a test Instagram account to see if there was an interested audience.

This step was vital to me. During this stage, I would post images or ideas that resonated with my brand and its values, and I would see if it generated interest. I was very uncertain if my brand would work in the beginning, but during the whole process, I just created what I would want in a ballet-wear brand. I wanted beauty, authenticity and kindness. So, I created it.

Describe the most beautiful and unique things of your business.
I believe the most beautiful and memorable part of my business is getting to connect with dancers from all over the world and seeing them grow. For me, it’s not about selling. It’s about the connections I make with people.

I was at a shallow point once I lost my job due to COVID-19, and my business gave me my purpose back. Now, all I am trying to do is give back what has been given to me. That is why I do my business.

Do you have some actual cooperation with someone?
Yes! I am actually in the process of collaborating with a unique non-profit called, Move for Two (@movefortwo), on Instagram. It is a dance school in South Africa that is run by two dancers. They are teaching Dance to the children in that community and giving them fantastic opportunities to learn life-skills and to express themselves. It is a cause that is very close to my heart, so I hope to do more with them in the future.

Do you have some dreams?
Yes! I have many. My more immediate dreams would be to create my ballet-wear collection and make the clothing inhouse in Brazil. We are moving to Rio, where my husband is from, in about a month, so we are looking to move production down there. We would love to give back to that community, have more control over our supply chain and provide exceptional products that are ethically made from start to finish for our customers.

One day, I would also like for my company to be able to sponsor ballet dance students who need it most (providing them with all their dance clothing, shoes and classes.) This has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and I hope to be able to fulfil it sometime in the future. 

What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur? What has been your most challenging moment?
My proudest moment was when I had a girl reach out to me and tell me how our brand was helping her view herself and her dancing positively. This was huge for me. I, too, am a dancer, so I know how important it is to stay positive and not to compare yourself to other dancers.

My biggest challenge has been other people’s critics. I take everything to heart and care so much, that when someone is unhappy or doesn’t agree with me, I take it very hard. Through this entrepreneurial process, I am learning that you have to keep focusing on your vision and don’t ever waver just because someone else doesn’t fully understand it.

Which quotes do you consider the best for you?
I love the quote: “There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open…” -Martha Graham

I believe this quote can be applied to Dance and what it is we dare to do in our lives. So many times, I have judged myself or thought my ideas to be silly, but I’ve learned that these inspirations are our muses talking. We are worthy of our most excellent ideas coming to fruition. We must listen to them. We must take action on them. We must not second guess them. We are all here for a purpose, and we must believe in that above all else.

What kind of advice would you like to give to people?
I want to tell them to take action on their dreams. Don’t doubt your unique expression and what you feel called to do. We must silence the doubt, what society tells us and what others expect of us. Only you can create the life you desire.

I would like to finish by saying that we are always looking to grow and expand because we are so new. I am working on new designs, sourcing new fabric, and always looking for ways I can be more inclusive, open and transparent. If anyone would like to reach out to us or see what we are up to, we are very active on Instagram @aurora_x_sky and our website auroraxsky.com

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