Cara Zara is a South Charlotte mom of 2 who also is a professional hula-hoop dancer! She performs at festivals, events, and birthday parties. She also teaches the art and fitness of hula-hooping with after-school programs and summer camps.
Q. How well is your business is doing?
For over a year I have had steady business and I am booked for parties about 4-6 weeks out. I am now scheduling for the 2011-2012 school year for my after-school enrichment program. I teach kids to appreciate physical activity for the pure pleasure of movement in a manner that’s not based on repetition or competition. I foster team building skills and enhance children’s self-esteem in a playful and exciting way! I hoop at area festivals and have been seen spinning my hoops at Festival in the Park, First Night Charlotte, Charlotte Shakespeare Company, Strawberry Festival and many others. I was also featured on the Charlotte Today Show.
Q. How long have you been hula-hooping?
I started when I was a little kid and then put the hoop down for a few decades before picking it back up again. I’m now into my fifth year as a Hoop Dancer and it has been a transforming journey. It all began when my best friend insisted that I participate in a hooping workshop in her back yard. I enjoyed the free-wheeling swoosh of the Hoop around my waist and the awe inspiring tricks of well-accomplished hoopers. All I could do at the time was keep the hoop around my waist. Every attempted trick hit the ground with a thud. I have come a long way since that day in the back yard!
Q. What made you decide to make a business out of it?
On December 31, 2009, I hooped at a party under a full moon with the beat of a drum circle and made my New Year’s declaration that I would share my love of hooping by teaching and performing, which is funny because I never make New Year’s resolutions! My girlfriend who was hosting the party commented that New Year’s Eve wishes under the spell of a full moon and a drum circle are pretty powerful. She was right!
Q. What is your favorite part of having your own business?
I get paid to hula-hoop! It really doesn’t get any better than that. My favorite part is seeing the joy in the children’s faces and watching them express themselves through play. Children are enthusiastic and willing to try anything. When adults drop a hoop they automatically look around to see who’s watching their mistakes and compare themselves to others. When children drop the hoop they pick it right back up and try again.
Somewhere between childhood and adulthood our lives get filled up with a myriad of “can’ts” – “I can’t because I have no rhythm” – “I can’t because I have a bad knee” – I can’t because I’ll look silly” – “I can’t because I’m busy”.
Kids don’t have those blocks yet and hopefully with my help they won’t – ever! They’ll be just like the Little Engine That Could. “I think I can. I think I can.” It’s that attitude that propels you forward in life especially when things get difficult.
Q. How do you manage family life while running Cara Zara?
I wake up crazy early! Ideally my day starts at 4 a.m. so that I can have the quiet time to plan, write my blog, update my website, produce promo videos, sew costumes, watch hooping videos on YouTube for inspiration and a million other things. In fact it is 4:15 a.m. as I am writing this to you. I also work full-time as a lighting rep so my business has been a weekend endeavor. It can get tiring working 7 days a week but hooping gives me such a bolt of energy that I keep spinning away. Now my business has grown large enough that I will become a full-time hula-hooper this summer by teaching kids in camps and after-school enrichment programs in the fall all over Charlotte while performing at festivals and parties on the weekend.
Q. Do your children participate when you do festivals?
My daughter Anneliese is famous for stealing the spotlight! I love to pull her up on stage with me because she gets the other kids in the crowd thinking “I can do that too!” My teenage son Otto is my strong man. When I work a festival I bring around 3 dozen custom-made hoops with me. They are made out of PVC pipe and specialty tapes and are heavy so the boys help carry my load. I have turned my family into a 3-ring circus. Otto can hoop too.
Q. What is something you wish you knew before you began Cara Zara?
Don’t try to fit someone else’s business formula – go chart your own path. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur. I have always had a small side business. My business license is under my name and has morphed over the years. I’ve worked as a decorator, photo stylist, greeting card designer, prop-master, antique vendor, etc. I guess you could say it’s in my blood to have my own business.
In the past I tried to emulate/replicate the success of someone else because I was impressed with their success. All of those previous businesses had moderate success but the hooping business has been electric. Once I centered my unique talent while letting things happen organically and shifting my business offerings based on the needs of the community and what excites me, things really began to click.