Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sarah Robichaud, Founder of Dancing with Parkinson's, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I am the founder and executive director of a registered Canadian charity called Dancing with Parkinson’s (DWP), and I have had the privilege to combine my passion with purpose every single day. I began this program almost 15 years ago with the intent to help people living with Parkinson’s disease find some joy in their movement through dance and the arts.
I am absolutely overjoyed that Dancing with Parkinson’s has expanded into the hearts and homes of thousands of Canadians across the country—not only those living with Parkinson’s disease but also seniors with other cognitive and/or movement challenges and those who are looking to stay active and connected to their community, as well as their family members, friends, and care partners.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Sarah Robichaud, and I am a classically trained dancer and choreographer. I have been dancing all of my life for pleasure, profession, and passion. Toward the end of my dance career, when I began having children, I transitioned my love of movement into the fitness realm and became a personal trainer. That is when I truly became aware of the importance of dance and movement as a therapeutic and proven modality for certain conditions, including Parkinson’s. My interest in Parkinson’s disease began in 2007 when I was helping Andy Barrie, formerly of CBC’s Metro Morning, with functional exercise to help him stay strong and flexible as he managed his disease.
Through my journey, I learned about the Mark Morris Dance Group's innovative Parkinson’s disease dance program and was on the next flight to NYC to train with them. It was there that my life's trajectory changed. I saw an absolutely incredible transformation in the dance class that took place right before my eyes and rushed back to Toronto, vowing to start offering free dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s. A few years later, the disease became even more personal when my grandfather was diagnosed, and I was able to dance with him in his long-term care home until his final days.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, DWP had grown from one free dance class a week for people living with PD to over 15 in-person locations. As of March 2020, we began offering free online, daily dance classes seven days a week for all seniors to help combat social isolation. Now, thousands of seniors from across the country tune in every day to see and engage with their dance family. It is such a joyful, inclusive place to come to every day to explore art and connection.
We’ve also recently returned to in-person dance classes again and are continuing to grow and expand in terms of the programs and classes we offer. My vision is to bring dance, joy, laughter, hope, and connection to those who need it the most in our country, and I’m so happy to be doing this important work.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I started this program as a way to give back to my community. I just wanted to volunteer my time and passion for helping others through movement. I had no postsecondary education or formal business training, as my younger years were spent dancing professionally.
I have learned everything about running a charity by doing, seeking help from mentors, making mistakes, and learning from them. I’m so proud to have been able to grow my purposeful passion into a sustainable, national-reaching organization with an incredible team by my side.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
I suppose the hardest thing is that the day never ends. There is always something to move forward with, discuss, and take action on. My brain rarely shuts off! However, I absolutely love what I do and the people I work with. I am truly energized by the work and inspired by the people positively impacted by DWP every single day.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Seek out people in the field you are working in whom you think are great leaders and speak with them as much as possible. Learn from other people's experiences and stories.
- Ask questions, open yourself to other ways of thinking, never stop innovating, and when things become blocked, find the opportunity to break down the barriers.
- Follow your passion.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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