Shay Williamson

Owner of PoleActive

Shay Williamson is a multifaceted performer, producer, business owner, instructor and creator! She is an international pole dance champion and traveling performer. She owns PoleActive, an inclusive online apparel company for Every Body. After college Shay joined an aerial and circus gym and her life took a turn for the better! In 9 short years she has created, grown, and sold several small businesses in the circus industry. PoleActive Is her newest project, having been the shop’s first sponsored athlete, she and her spouse, Bennie, took on ownership in late 2020. Shay is striving to grow and cultivate an inclusive brand for all bodies and all types of adult dancing and is proud to have the pole and circus community support in this effort!

Where did the idea for PoleActive come from?

I was lucky enough to meet the founder of PoleActive at a National dance competition. I loved the small, women-owned company and I loved the wide variety of styles that the shop carried. When I took over as owner of PoleActive my first goal was to widen the diversity and allow for more types of people to shop with us. Our community is so vast and varied, that there is always an opportunity to be inclusive!

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Haha. Well, I am a creative through and through! I detest admin work and desk work, but it is a necessary evil. So we start the day (me and my super helpful Sphynx cat assistant, Hades) with coffee and that pesky admin. I find my days are much more productive and I can enjoy my creativity if I get the paperwork out of the way first thing. I have had to set a designated start and stop time for myself. This helps me be more gentle with myself if I don’t complete a task completely, I know I will have time tomorrow. I have a set “lunch date” time each day with my partner Bennie, We use this to make sure we are 1. eating and 2. spending some moments together. Having these solid, but easy-to-follow boundaries for the work day allow me to stay on task and stay productive.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I work in such an amazingly creative community of people that I consider myself very lucky when I have ideas I need to bring to life. I can generally reach out to the “right people” to set me in the direction we need to go. My PoleActive team is so smart and creative in their thinking that between us and our general community, we usually have a great place to start. But ya know what, sometimes we try a bunch of things and fail… But at least we know failures are a thing that can happen and we have a million other directions to go after that.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Gimme alllllll the layers and straps! I LOVE creative layering and mix and matching outfits. Why wear a matching top and bottom set when you can have this top, that bottom, a bright garter, and patterned shoes to pull it all together?! Get creative, make it weird!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

This is a tricky one. I think I have to say that I am always willing to pivot, think, and learn on the go. I rarely get stuck in one way of thinking and I am always thinking 3 steps around (not necessarily forward) and am ready to go with the flow, so to speak.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Switch to a Business administration major, ha. But also, it’s going to be ok. Nothing, literally nothing, is going to go how you planned it, but it is going to be so much better than you could imagine. Take that “adult dance class” (it was a pole dancing class and I was too afraid the first time I came across it).

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Owning a small business (or 3) is a special kind of stupid that I do not recommend for everyone(said with love). A lot of times it is not easy or fun. It is the absolute most fulfilling and wonderful thing that has ever happened to me. But it is easily the hardest. and that is ok!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Self-care! it can be really simple things, especially in such a warp-speed existence that we all live in. I turn my phone to “do not disturb” at 9 pm every night. I take a hot bath and read a book for a half-hour most nights. These small things offer me so much peace and quiet when it feels like I can never get away from the internet and the pace of the planet.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Delegation! I got some really great advice from a very smart, and wise friend that went something like, “Of course you can work faster than an employee. But you cannot work faster and harder than 5 employees. You can do more and be in more places with help” It can feel scary to grow and pay employees, but it is the only way to grow a business. It HAS to happen.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Oh, just one? I often say, I have failed at everything entrepreneurial 3 times before getting it correct.

I have missed the mark on almost everything tax related at least once in the beginning. They make it hard and confusing on purpose, get an accountant immediately. Trust me. I entered into a really awful partnership with a – less than legal – business at one time. That resulted in a bad rap for one of my companies in its local city for a short time. I would highly recommend to be extremely cautious in partnerships. Ask to see their business plans and licenses. Sign more contracts.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Someone should make a movie theatre but all the humans are live actors. the screen is behind them and everything except the humans is on the screen… eh.. yeah.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I just bought myself the sparkliest Pole dancing shoes I have ever seen. (Available on Poleactive!) That counts as business AND personal. Nailed it!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

The calendar app on my iphone. If it isn’t on the calendar, I will not remember to do it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

In no particular order:

– How to fail at everything and still win big. By Scott Adams.

– #girlboss by Sophia Amoruso (I do not subscribe to the “girlboss” movement. but the book is amazing). Do not call me a girl boss or I will eat your soul.

– Nice girls don’t get the corner office by Lois P. Frankel.

What is your favorite quote?

“All that we are is a result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” – Buddha

Key Learnings:

  • Be prepared to fail! Failing is success!
  • Delegate. Just do it. Stop trying to control everything all the time.
  • Self-care matters. Even if it’s buying that iced latte.
  • You’re gonna fail at least once. Trust me.
  • You can do hard things. You absolutely can.