Circus Sarasota had a good, encouraging year. Run by founder and CEO Pedro Reis and his wife of two years (but engaged for 17 years), co-founder and Associate Director Dolly Jacobs-Reis, the circus had its best year in terms of attendance and is opening its fourth summer show at the end of the month.
Circus Sarasota started in the Reis’ garage. People couldn’t understand a circus being not for profit, but everyone thought it was a great idea. Reis and Jacobs-Reis truly believed in the vision and outcome, and once they bought the tent, their vision became tangible.
Thirteen years later, Circus Sarasota is going strong, but it had to deal with the expected challenges of the recession.
“Despite the economy, we have remained fiscally responsible and haven’t spent money unnecessarily,” said Reis. “We are always looking at spending as an investment, so that wasting it is minimalized.”
He constantly reflects back on when the circus started and had no money and every pencil and pen were valuable — and Reis continues to operate in that mindset.
In addition, the pair of veteran performers are constantly branding their brainchild.
“Continuing to raise awareness that we’re more than a circus is a year-round challenge,” said Jacobs-Reis.
Circus Sarasota continues to expand its legacy by providing programs at the highest level through education, human service and the performing arts. Laughter Unlimited has developed a comprehensive-care service program providing professional clowns, circus entertainers and trained volunteers to nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, day-care centers, hospitals and other institutions. The “therapeutic laughter” program is the first structured ongoing professional clown program and brings smiles to Pines of Sarasota and Sarasota Memorial Hospital, to name a few.
“We are unique in that the circus provides entertainment, but is also a giving program,” said Reis. “We don’t consider anyone as competition, but look at it as an opportunity to collaborate within the community.”
Circus Sarasota’s goal is to expand and reach more individuals.
“Growing the organization and programs would be full circle because the more we grow our programs, the more we can give back to the community,” said Reis. “That, and it would be nice to have a permanent home and address.”
AT A GLANCE
Address: 8251 15th St., Suite B, Sarasota
Start date: 1997
Number of employees when started: Three
Number of employees now: 10
Advice: “Always make sure your product is one of the highest quality and have extremely good customer service. Also, advertising is expensive, but if you don’t market yourself well, no one will know you exist. Make yourself known.”
Biggest challenge: “The current economy and continuing to raise awareness that we’re more than a circus.”
Where do you see your business a year from now: “See an increase of our annual budget by 5%.”
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