Multifaceted Community Leader
The passion of ‘community building’ is something Deepali Jamwal was born with. As the daughter of an Army man, she grew up in a defense community with immense pride, fearlessness and courage from early on.
After completing her MBA in Finance, she began her career in Corporate Finance for Infrastructure and Commercial Leasing. Even though she enjoyed preparing extensive financial models for infrastructure projects, her passion lay in creating a community.
She finally got a chance to create one when she moved from India to Canada, and then US. As an immigrant in a new country, she felt lonely and realised how difficult it is to make friends outside of school and college. So thus started putting efforts into building a community through dance, where people brought in their most beautiful selves, welcomed each other with warmth, and danced together to build a home away from home.
“I have always loved dancing, ergo creating a community via dance was a natural inclination. I thrived for a happier, inclusive and warm environment.”
This spelled the birth of Live2Dance in Ottawa, Canada, as Deepali’s vision to spread the joy of Bollywood dancing to every spectrum of age, gender, religion, and nationality. In 2016, her enthusiasm for this dance style blended with her zeal to create community, spread happiness and reduce stress in the world, gave birth to Live2Dance in Seattle, where it existed as a volunteer-based group of likeminded dance enthusiasts for 4 years before Deepali decided to take this venture on full time in October 2019.
“When I quit my corporate career for dance, I went from working 9am – 5pm to working 6am – midnight. And funnily enough, most days I don’t even get to dance. I feel like I work four full time jobs now – Entrepreneur + Dance Instructor + Community Builder + Mom.”
As you can well imagine, it is not easy to juggle these different roles each day. While Deepali and her husband split responsibilities, sometimes, it does get overwhelming, she says. “If I am succeeding somewhere, I am failing somewhere else. But those are the kind of trade offs you have to make to accomplish your dreams. And I’ve got a dream worth more than my sleep.”
Today, Live2Dance is home for more than 600 people, and has helped hundreds of people survive the pandemic and navigate all of life’s challenges. More importantly, it has enabled immigrants to settle down in a new city, fight anxieties, and deal with homesickness.
“As an MBA, I recognize one key portion of businesses that is often missing: creativity and passion. You can make a new spreadsheet or create a new strategy, but you cannot manufacture the passion for a particular field or activity. I love my business because it is more than just a profit or loss statement, but a true pillar in the community. My business is a home for hundreds of students in Seattle, Washington, and the smile on their faces is more important to me than our bottom line. When a mom of a student comes and tells me that this is the first time their daughter has been off anxiety medications in 10 years because of Live2Dance, that’s where my true reward is.”
With a mantra of ‘People first, Business Lasts’, Live2Dance has grown into the most incredible family with a sense of genuine love and care – built on the power of dance, music, and creativity. All this has been possible because of Deepali’s key values like honesty, integrity, and kindness. According to her, being kind and respectful at all times is not an option, it’s essential.
On the other hand, one weakness she’s constantly working on is accepting that she cannot do it all alone. She has therefore become more vocal about leaning on friends, family, and her dance community instead of risking burnout. “I am at my best when I have time to focus on key priorities and have others I can trust to help me,” she shares.
As a women’s leader, Deepali’s biggest challenge in her entrepreneurial journey has been unconscious gender bias. Speaking about overcoming obstacles to achieve success, she says, “I am not the competitive, aggressive, authoritative, or sometimes harsh kind of a business woman. So when I talk ‘business’, especially with male counterparts, it can be unnerving because it comes with a preconceived notion that a woman like me can not be a serious entrepreneur. There have been times when I’ve had to loop in my husband during transactions to get the other parties to take me seriously. Yet, I continue to persevere on…”