Métis entrepreneur shakes up Saskatoon salsa business

Kim Parent's dance classes started with her teaching a few people salsa out of her sister's garage. Now after years of beating down doors, running two jobs and raising a child on her own, Parent has made a thriving business with Saskatoon Salsa Dance Company. As many as 200 dancers pass through the doors of her studios each week.

Kim Parent saw opportunity after travelling — and salsa dancing — around the world

Kim Parent demonstrates some dance moves at her studio at the Saskatoon Salsa Dance Company. The Métis entrepreneur has built her business over 13 years, juggling another full-time role and single parenthood along the way. (Erin Crooks Photography/Submitted by Kim Parent)

Kim Parent's dance classes started with her teaching a few people salsa out of her sister's garage.

Now after years of beating down doors, running two jobs and raising a child on her own, Parent has made a thriving business with Saskatoon Salsa Dance Company. As many as 200 dancers pass through the doors of her studios each week.

"I love what I do. I'm so passionate about it," she said, of sharing the infectious energy of salsa dancing with others.

But achieving success came with a risk when she decided to quit her full-time job a few years ago and dedicate herself to her business.

"I knew it, at this point it was very clear to me — this is my purpose in life, it's to bring joy to people through dance. So there was no another way to go, really."

Parent is one of several Métis entrepreneurs who have benefited from the Clarence Campeau Development Fund (CCDF), which supports Métis business development and goals.

Monica Brunet, the fund's director of economic development and community relations, explains the fund uses casino money, roughly $3 million a year, and turns it into programs to help Métis entrepreneurs.

Clarence Campeau Development Fund supports Métis entrepreneurs, and has grown from a staff of two to a staff of 12 operating out of both Regina and Saskatoon. (Nicole Belhumeur Portraiture/Photo submitted by CCDF)

In the two decades the fund has been in operation, its staff has seen 10,000 jobs created or maintained in the province, and a 2014 study suggests that every dollar spent has a $11.91 return, she said.

"It is incredible actually, the impact that we've made."

For Parent, the fund helped her turn what was originally just a personal passion into a business.

"They are absolutely incredible," she said. "The work that they're doing, and the way they're changing people's lives is phenomenal."

From garage to studio

After spending time travelling and dancing in different places in the world, Parent had come to Saskatoon in 2004, excited to launch back into the salsa dance world.

"But when I came back, there wasn't a community established here," she said, explaining she decided to teach dance herself to friends and family, out of her sister's garage.

Kim Parent found that as she travelled internationally, from Taiwan to Australia, salsa communities were everywhere. When she came back to Saskatoon in 2004, she found there wasn't much of a salsa scene, and began teaching others with the hopes to share her passion for the social dance. (Andres Kudacki/The Associated Press)

Keen to build a salsa community she began advertising and pounding the pavement, dropping off flyers and knocking on doors to spread the word, and quickly outgrowing her garage space.

"I did a lot of things back then that I would never do now, or I wouldn't have to do now," she said with a chuckle of her advertising efforts.

Those efforts paid off, however, as her business grew, even while she maintained a separate full-time job.

I think back on it, and I'm not actually sure how I got through that couple years of my life.- Kim Parent, on juggling a full-time job and a full-time business

CCDF helped out by connecting her with a studio space in 2013. And as soon as she found her own space, her business exploded.

"All of a sudden I had a ton of work with my studio, which became a full-time job, but I also had a full-time job and I was single parenting," she said.

"I think back on it, and I'm not actually sure how I got through that couple years of my life."

The Saskatchewan Métis Economic Development Corp. and CCDF came to her rescue to help connect her with a larger studio space, and she made the leap forward to quit her full-time job to focus on her business.

As many as 200 students from ages three to 93 take classes at the Saskatoon Salsa Dance Company. (Erin Crooks Photography/Submitted by Kim Parent)

Now, 13 years after she started teaching out of a garage, she loves the fact she's able to share her passion for salsa with others and to help spur employment, as she contracts about six other people to help teach classes.

She's grateful for her opportunities, even through the stress and challenges that can sometimes come with running a business. 

"Quite often, I find myself just thinking — I get to live my dream," she said. "It's very rewarding." 

About the Author

Janani Whitfield

Janani Whitfield is a web writer with CBC Saskatchewan.