By Katia Ostapets
Photography by Kareen Mallon
An international dancer, instructor, choreographer, motivational speaker and award-winning entrepreneur, Laura Furtado is a woman of many talents.
She describes herself as a “hard working and very passionate individual.” Furtado has many accomplishments under her belt and has won the following titles: 2002 Mandell Xtreme Entertainment Dancer of the Year and 2009 Canada’s Top 5 Arts Entrepreneur of the Year. She has also been named the 2010 Top Young Entrepreneur in Canada and was, most recently, one of the finalists in the 2011 Notable Awards (Best Personal Brand category).
Even though she has been dancing since the age of six, and professionally for almost 13 years across North America and Europe, Furtado says she never considered starting her own company or dancing full-time.
Driven to success, Furtado studied hard and graduated from Ryerson University with a marketing major. Eventually she started teaching dance and participating in more shows. “I fell in love with it and decided that one day I’m going to do this for a living. And here I am!” she says.
Founded almost two years ago, Furtado’s company – DivaGirl Inc. – consists of four divisions.
DivaGirl Fitness was the first to launch a couple of years ago, and provides a variety of dance classes, with a focus on “sexy dance.” DivaGirl Entertainment, a professional dance company, was launched a few months later. Within the next year, DivaGirl Beauty and DivaGirl-Preneur, an aid for women entrepreneurs, were up and running as well. Today, the company spans three continents, with partners in Canada, Brazil and Israel.
Christal Garib, a friend with whom Furtado has danced internationally, was one of the two people who helped her create the concept for DivaGirl.
“She always called me a diva, and it really stuck,” says Furtado.
The second person who supported Furtado was her ex-boyfriend. He encouraged her to work on the company and focus on branding.
“Both of them were helping me at the same time, and it gave me the idea that I should do a brand that represents the Diva – an empowering and independent woman – and the Girl – the flirty, fun side of the female.”
Furtado says what makes DivaGirl special is that it is “a one-stop shop for women to feel better about themselves – physically, socially and as entrepreneurs. It is an online community that encourages women to get fit, have fun and feel sexy.”
Furtado runs her international company with the help of her social media co-ordinator Amy Caron.
The business model ensures that Furtado partners with female entrepreneurs in their respective communities to support their future plans, rather than hire more staff herself.
Never looking back and always looking forward is one of the characteristics of an entrepreneur, something Furtado says she always does herself.
“It’s interesting that when you’re positive, good to people and have good energy, things do happen.”
She admits that many things that have happened since DivaGirl started, she didn’t plan for and she’s pleasantly surprised about how fast the company has grown.
Furtado has big plans in the coming year. She will be launching a new and improved online community by the end of December; will open an online store, where she will sell dance-class DVDs and a “pink and girly” clothing line, designed in partnership with Titika Activewear; hold a conference in Toronto in March; expand her company to Amsterdam and Florida in spring 2012; and hold an event in Vancouver in the new year.