Ballet Kelowna pirouettes into profit

After a tumultuous year Ballet Kelowna is back in the black.

The ballet company, which threatened to close its doors for good a year ago, expects to turn a modest $30,000 profit when its fiscal year ends June 30.

That profit will be rolled back into establishing a new business plan.

Since announcing it was ceasing operations in February of last year due to financial constraints and dwindling audiences, the Kelowna company has risen from the ashes through financial support from the public and a new vision by a new board of directors.

Ballet Kelowna president, Deborah Ward told City Council during its annual report Monday it is important to ask what happened in order to avoid making the same mistakes.

Ward says she believes Ballet Kelowna lacked a long-term plan and a sustainable business model, relying too much on expensive event-based fundraising at the expense of developing a most cost-effective, proven financial model.

"We hadn't paid enough attention to earned income opportunities that could subsidize our operations," says Ward.

Since the announcement a year ago, Ward says memberships have tripled while Kelowna audiences have increased.

"We have gained control of our budget, we've created a new strategic plan and a new brand, 'Excellence In Motion', and finally, a new business model."

The annual budget, which had crept as high as $635,000, was trimmed to $265,000 for the current season.

Revenues, including contributions from the City, other government sources, private support, ticket sales and fundraising totalled $295,000.

Ward says both a shortened season and reduced budget allowed Ballet Kelowna to bring back some control and regain a responsible financial situation.

"Our new business plan, creating a sustainable future, means creating and building excitement," says Ward.

She says Ballet Kelowna hopes to build that excitement through a new Artistic Director/CEO to succeed David LaHay, who will be stepping down after 10 years as Artistic Director at the end of the current season.

Ward says that search is now underway with the recent release of job applications across North America.

She does expect the current direction Ballet Kelowna is taking will allow the company to reach a sustainable, annual budget of up to $400,000 within three to five years.

"All the while we will be building our capacity for relation-based fundraising with an emphasis on recruiting and stewardship of members and donors."

As for the immediate future, Ward says something special is being planned for the company's season ending performance.

"(I'm) not telling you what we are doing, but keep your eyes open around town because in the next two weeks you are going to see us launch into, I think, a very exciting marketing campaign for our final show of the season."

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