Brandeis International Business School

015: From Forensic Pathology to Dancing to Doodling

Forging your entrepreneurial path

Kymberlee Jay is a former professional dancer, choreographer and Nike athlete who founded DoodleDirect, a visual communications company that creates animated videos for internal and external brand communications.

It was a long and winding road that brought Kymberlee from dancing to doodling, but today she shares the mindset and strategies that helped her break into the dance industry without a traditional dance background and then start her own digital communications company.

From the Dorm Room

Like the rest of her journey, Kymberlee’s university experience is quite unique. She originally went to school to study Biomedical Science, pursuing her chilhood dream to be a forensic pathologist. It seemed like the perfect job to merge her love of science and her desire to be a police officer.

But then, she started dancing. She did that as a hobby for a number of years until she started considering the idea of turning it into a career. It didn’t seem even remotely viable, but instead of going into her third year of university, she left to become a professional dancer and choreographer.

She didn’t have formal dance training or connections, and she didn’t even dance in the most popular styles at the time. But she did have passion – so she kept going.

“I'll be honest,” Kymberlee says, “it was an exceptionally painful few years that followed. I was, ultimately, turned away from every audition that I went to. I pretty much was not recognized in the industry as being anybody that could dance, let alone be paid for it. So, it was heartbreaking.”

There were times when all she had to keep her going was the certainty that she was going to make it.

To the Boardroom

Kymberlee made her big break when she was found by Nike, as a dancer athlete. Dance wasn’t generally recognized as a sport in the UK, so it was a big deal being signed up with the football players and the track-and-field athletes at Nike. So, Nike created campaigns in Europe, the Middle East and Africa to promote and to push this idea that dance is indeed a sport, and they created apparel and footwear for dances.

While working with Nike, Kymberlee of course honed her skills as an athlete and as a dancer, but that’s not all she learned. Kymberlee also took the opportunity to sit in on branding and communications meetings, soaking up everything she could about running a business.

“I always knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur... So, being able to sit amongst these great business minds that run this huge sports organization was really a blessing for me.”

Kymberlee stopped working with Nike and dancing professionally when she had her first child, but she quickly realized that being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t in the cards for her. So, in an effort to keep busy, she gave some marketing and communications advice to friends who were starting businesses.

Then one friend asked if she knew anyone who could make an animated video for her business. Kymberlee had some free time and she learned some video editing while she was a choreographer, so she volunteered to help, plus provide some insight from her time at Nike. The video did quite well, and then referrals started coming in.

Over the next six to eight weeks, Kymberlee realized that she’d stumbled onto a new business. It wasn’t the business she ever imagined she’d own, but she saw an opportunity and she took it.

So that’s forensic pathology, to dancing, to Nike, to being a mom, to sort of serendipitously doing animated videos on the side, to founding a digital communications business – we did say it was a long and winding road, but it speaks to the fact that what you’re doing now doesn’t have to be what you’re doing in the future. At the same time, what you’re doing now will definitely teach you something that you can take with you into the future, so pay attention.

The Entrepreneurial Edge

Every week, we highlight one piece of advice for aspiring, struggling, and successful-but-want-to-be-even-more-successful entrepreneurs:

“If you have an opportunity to learn additional skills in whatever you do, even if it is something that's completely unrelated, grab it with both hands... There was no reason for me to be at the yearly sales meeting for Nike, but I would go anyway, and I would sit at the back, and I would take notes."


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