Zoe Jackson




Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts - Dance + Preforming Arts

This leading lady has ambition in spades. At age 16, Zoë Jackson recognized a need for affordable and accessible performing arts training. The teenager's response: To start her own performing arts institute. The Living the Dream Performing Arts Company is run by young people for young people, and works to help grow youth's talent, confidence and self-esteem. Its more than 350 members, ages 5 to 25, take part in classes, events, showcases and even flash-mobs.

When she's not teaching dance and performing arts, Zoë is taking on the challenges of running a business, organizing events, working for funding and keeping up with the industry. And despite the insane schedule, she says she still finds some time to squeeze in fun, enjoying shopping, traveling and partying.

You will need to grow a thick skin and have bags of energy, passion and determination to get to where you want to be.

How did you discover your current job?

I set up Living the Dream in 2006 at the age of 16 to raise money for my course fees with the National Youth Theatre in London. I decided to set up an organization that was run by young people for young people. Performing arts training in my area was so expensive and I wanted to be able to offer affordable opportunities that were open to anyone.

What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?

Teaching dance and performing arts to my students, organizing showcases and events, submitting proposals for funding, meeting with potential sponsors, venues, staff, networking with other arts organizations and companies, seeking new opportunities and keeping up to date with happenings in the dance and performing arts world.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?

The most rewarding part of my job is having students tell me that I have changed their life, and seeing them grow and develop into confident and ambitious young people. The most challenging part is either not being taken seriously as a young business woman and making tough decisions.

What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?

The main sacrifice I have made has been not having enough time for my friends or myself. It is more than a full-time job for one person; at the moment, I am working 24/7!

What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?

I have learned that if you can dream it, you can do it! Every idea I have had I have made happen, due to sheer determination, hard-work and passion. Nothing is impossible!

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?

I think one of the biggest challenges is people under-estimating women’s capabilities (which sometimes translates as feeling threatened by a woman’s confidence, success and talent).

However, there are exceptions to this where I have dealt with people who have seen my potential and capability!

Who are your role models?

My Mum! There are a lot of successful business women out there who I do admire, but my mum has been the biggest role model for me and her ideas and influences have helped me shape who I am and what Living the Dream is all about!

What are some of the rules you live by?

My main rule is that I won’t stop and will keep going in the face of all obstacles and challenges until I achieve my dreams.

I also ensure I stay true to who I am and what I believe in, which is about providing the very best opportunities and training for young people at low prices to make the performing arts affordable and accessible.

What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?

It is tough! You will need to grow a thick skin and have bags of energy, passion and determination to get to where you want to be.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Five years from now … I see Living the Dream opening performing arts centres in major cities across the UK and having expanded the provision dramatically. I see successfully growing our performing arts school, professional company and media company. Also, having a major sponsor, a leading dance-wear brand, an on-demand dance service, a media channel to spotlight young talent, a documentary shown on TV and run a dance competition. Once I have achieved all of this, I will be planning to take Living the Dream to America and Australia.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

If you have a dream, go for it, make it happen!