Leonora Stapleton was a professional dancer, including being part of the Lion King on Broadway, but her life was turned upside in 2017 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The treatment left Leonora facing feelings of shame about her body and led her to thinking about how we feel about our own bodies. This experience set the seeds for her company, Be Body Aware, which she started with help from AD:VENTURE in October last year.
Leonora runs classes and workshops on body image, dance and fitness for wellbeing, and body shaming.
She says: “Over time you really have to look after yourself and I realised my own story was one where I had failed on that front. My cancer diagnosis made me wake up and realise the importance of looking after your body, of being body aware.”
Leonora took her work into schools across Leeds and was targeting colleges, universities and businesses before lockdown struck. She is now successfully running dance classes on Zoom, but looking forward to returning to face-to-face work.
Leonora approached AD:VENTURE after it was recommended by a friend. She says although she had management skills (she has a Masters degree in leadership and management) and had run a small business before, she recognised she needed some help with the basics.
“I came to them with literally one page of an idea and I wanted to run with that idea. But they helped me realise it is a marathon not a sprint and I needed to plan properly, starting with a business plan,” says Leonora.
She also admits that her confidence was very low. “The breast cancer had really hit my self-confidence, but they helped me create the foundations for the business and gave me the belief to do it.”
As well as having one-to-one mentoring, Leonora attended workshops on topics including how to pitch and marketing.
AD:VENTURE helped Leonora set up as a limited company and helped with the website.
“After two or three months I started to understand the steps I needed to take; the thread of where I needed to go next. And I like that you know you have that support for up to three years. It’s really important to know it is there.”
Leonora is looking to increase her client base, particularly with approaches to companies. She wants to grow the business and take on staff.
“My mentor Tsitsi is brilliant. I really enjoy working with her. She helps to expand my vision without being intrusive. If I stall a bit, I speak to her and I am re-energised.
“Having a business adviser is like having a guide every step of the way. They are along for the ride! As an artist my brain goes everywhere, but having someone there helps me focus on what actions I need to take,” says Leonora.
“Sometimes in business you stumble. So, it’s great knowing someone is only a phone call away as you embark on your own adventure.”