By Chris Olsen
As Katie Kimball ascended several stories up a narrow ladder, she felt strangely energized. It was less like nervous energy and more like an underlying feeling she was meant to be there. As she reached the tiny platform her mind swirled. She listened for the instructor’s commands. In an instant Katie was in the air, swinging out from the platform, hands gripping the fly bar. As she propelled forward, she pulled her knees up and hooked them over the bar. All at once she was upside-down, swinging by her knees more than 30 feet in the air.
Even before she released her legs from the bar and bounced down to the net below, Katie knew she was hooked. Her long journey from Minnesota to California had been the right decision after all. She felt a profound sense of belonging, similar to how she felt when she attended her first Cirque du Soleil performance a few years earlier.
The trapeze school in Oakland would end up being more than a place where Katie would train to become a skilled circus artist; it was also where she would learn the ins and outs of the circus business. For the next decade, Katie worked at the school and experienced the professional utopia we all dream of but that eludes many: She earned a living working at a job that didn’t feel like a job at all.
And then in 2012 everything changed. Katie’s son was born, and with the sheer joy of welcoming him into the world came a tinge of sadness—home was tugging at her heart. She longed to be closer to family in Minnesota but loved the circus arts community she had become a part of in California. She wondered if she’d be fortunate enough to experience anything like it again.
Katie’s aha moment came with the realization she could open her own trapeze school in the Twin Cities where she could surround herself with like-minded people. It wasn’t easy to get financial backing for what big banks considered an unconventional business, but Katie never gave up on her vision. She found a space in a former brewery and navigated small business ownership with lots of determination and some help from a nonprofit economic development agency that provided funding and mentoring.
Five years later, Katie’s Twin Cities Trapeze Center is a thriving business that has expanded to include circus-themed parties and camps for all ages, as well as team-building events for all sorts of groups. Most importantly, years after first finding her tribe at that initial circus experience, Katie has created a place for them to come where nothing had existed. She has built a vibrant community and a team whose members encourage each other to pursue their passions and step out of their comfort zones, one knee hang on the fly bar at a time.
For more information about Katie’s business, visit TwinCitiesTrapeze.com.
Photo: Feather Media
About the author: Chris Olsen is a radio veteran turned communications consultant, educator and author of “Whyography: Building a Brand Fueled by Purpose.” Through her work as a consultant partnering with startups, Chris realized her WHY—to support women-owned businesses in confidently communicating their purpose and impact, setting them up for entrepreneurial success. She created My Founder Story as a platform for doing so.