Viv Laver Talks About Her Life After Santa Maria

Viv Laver has led an interesting life. She left Santa Maria at 15 to move to Bali, where she opened Bali’s first dance and gymnastics school.

We chatted with Viv about her life after Santa Maria.

What inspired you to move to Bali at the age of 15? 

It was my dad’s idea at the time as he had come across a business opportunity in Bali to manage a hotel.

Set the scene for us… what was it like opening Bali’s first dance and gymnastics school at such a young age? 

This is an interesting one! In a nutshell, our family broke apart, my mum was ill in hospital, and I was essentially homeless in Bali. I wrote sponsorship letters to a few companies and partnered with a local factory to develop the business. Being a teenager and female trying to enter any business, particularly in Bali, was very challenging. It required extreme tenacity, resilience and empathy.

When did you move back to Perth and why? 

As the saying goes, “if you haven’t been burnt doing business in Bali, you haven’t done business in Bali”. When the business grew successfully, my business partner stole the business from me. I showed up one day and was threatened with jail time and that I had been reported to immigration for overstaying my visa and running a business as a foreigner. I gathered what I could and ended up having to pay a fine to allow myself and my mum to leave the country and come back to Australia, again homeless. The Bali story doesn’t end there, I now own and operate a successful villa agency in Bali, owning two villas with my husband.

Tell us about the Freestyle Edge Youth Program

My husband Raz and I are the current facilitators of the successful Freestyle Edge Youth Program at the City of Joondalup. Our current popular hip hop program teaches skills in breaking, choreography and acrobatics. Through dance, our program offers a one-of-a-kind approach that builds vital attributes in today’s youth.

When Covid struck Australia and lockdowns were imposed, owning, and operating our own video production company came into force and we became the only youth program to continue keeping young people engaged, and active via an online method of teaching. We saw the drastic need for connection during this time and developed an online program that we then adopted by other government youth departments in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland.

Post covid, there has been an increased demand in the accessibility of programs like ours, particularly in rural/regional areas. We have now developed an online course that can be accessed anywhere, anytime.

What is the overarching aim of the Freestyle Edge Youth Program? Why should kids get involved? 

Confidence is a big one. We aim to empower the youth we work with. Aside from learning “cool moves”, we mentor our students to break boundaries. By boundaries, I mean any challenges they may be facing: emotional, mental health – anxiety and depression are big ones we work through, social expectations, bullying, and physical disabilities. We help our students prove to themselves they can do and be more than they believe. From learning dance, acrobatics, breaking, and hip hop grooves (from which all the viral dance trends are based), we also run and host dance events and competitions. Students can also take part in learning event management and organisation. Our students range from those who just want somewhere to escape to weekly to those that develop within the program to become mentors/teachers and those that end up competing professionally in dancing locally and internationally. The students learn a huge variety of skills that can then translate to any chosen future path.

“You being the only you is your superpower”

What motivates and inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing? 

I’m a big believer in taking your own challenges and using that to help others, therefore empowering yourself. You being the only you is your superpower. We have so many success stories within the program; from students dealing with pretty severe issues dismissed by society to growing into award-winning leaders in the community. Even down to having students that are bullied and shy at school, coming to class happy because they danced in the middle of a cypher with others cheering them on at a school function. The personal rewards I feel with every growth and success I see in students I teach cannot really be measured. I can’t express how important it is to me to help others. When you make that tiny difference it’s something I would be happy to do for the rest of my life. 

What has been one of the most things about being your own boss and starting your own business?

I clearly recall the first $200 I made as my own boss far outweighed the six-figure salary I had earned the year prior in a corporate role. I was a state manager in a financial firm working in corporate banking for over 10 years; however, I was never satisfied with the status quo. I was always challenging things looking for ways to do things better, I craved being innovative. This sometimes rubbed people the wrong way or was met with resistance. Being my own boss, I’ve been able to test and measure my own ideas. I’ve been able to connect with those who inspire me, and I’m constantly learning. The roof is essentially the limit, and the accountability sits with me to sink or swim. Now, as a parent, I have the freedom to juggle work with family time. I haven’t missed a single assembly or sports carnival.

What were some of your fondest memories here at Santa Maria College? 

My favourite subject was performing arts and getting to perform in the musical Oliver, for sure! We didn’t have a dance program at the time, and one of my best memories was in my final year when my eldest sister was employed to teach dance. I would help her choreograph and teach, and we ended up performing at Awards Night. I also met wonderful people, a few of whom I am still connected with today.

Was there a particular subject, program, teacher, co-curricular etc, which really stuck with and really influenced you?

Performing Arts solidified my love of performing, through to today, performing as The Lavers with my husband and two girls. Also, sports, as Mr Mike O’Meara was a big supporter of my gymnastics career and was always interested in what I was achieving at the time.

What would be your biggest piece of advice to young women who are thinking about starting their own business one day? 

Study, follow and read about those that inspire you. Also, I highly recommend studying and working on self-development. Learning to unravel some of our ways of thinking allows us to think more broadly and see things outside the box. Connect with like-minded people. Rework your relationship with failure. People see failure as a negative when in fact, failure is a wonderful teacher. No one ever succeeds more than they fail. When you learn to embrace the downs with the ups in life and especially in business, it helps you ride those waves rather than feel like you are treading water. Have confidence, and don’t be afraid to go against the grain. ALWAYS be authentic, especially in the age of social media, which plays a huge role now in business. You won’t connect with your target market if you’re not being you.

“People see failure as a negative when in fact, failure is a wonderful teacher.”

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time? 

My aim now that we have converted our physical youth engagement program to an online format is to see this being used by youth not just Australia-wide but worldwide! We have a decent following on socials. TikTok is our biggest platform. I’m enjoying the social media side of our businesses, so I see myself continuing to grow online and always continuing to help others. We are testing the idea of moving abroad. Being in a growth phase with our businesses, anything really is possible! We learnt during COVID that anything can happen, and it ultimately redirected our path of delivering our engagement work. I have dreams and aspirations, but I am also always open to changing what that actually looks like.

In addition to youth engagement and video production, the Laver family is fully immersed in the dance/entertainment industry, having recently won Australian Families Got Talent, chosen by Simon Cowell. Their eldest daughter, at age 12, is the current multiple state champion in breaking and Paris Olympics prospect. Viv and Raz also sit as two of four board members on the WA Breaking Association board, leading the way for breaking athletes towards Paris 2024.

If you’d like to know more about Viv and her family The Lavers, check out their website here.

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