11 May, 2016
by Jake
Comments Off on VIATEC Awards finalist: Creative Excellence…

VIATEC Awards finalist: Creative Excellence…

Thank you to VIATEC for selecting Island Circus Space as a finalist in the creative excellence category.  We are striving to make Victoria, BC an even more exciting and vibrant city.

The awards are on June 24 and we look forward to attending the show.


9 May, 2016
by Jake
Comments Off on What I have learned starting up Island Circus Space…

What I have learned starting up Island Circus Space…

ICS Logo Black Background

Just over a year ago, Island Circus Space emerged.  Initially, it stemmed from an idea I had about gathering all of the high level, professional circus artists from Victoria, BC.  The team that has assembled has tremendous talent.  It is an honor to be working with such dedicated circus artists.

The spark that started it all was a night out on the town, getting down, to Maceo Parker.  There were 2 incredible, ex-Cirque dancers in Victoria called Tentacle Tribe doing a movement workshop that I attended (learned lots!).  At Maceo, their friend, Lisa Eckert (a professional circus artist), was also in town.  They had all been working on Cirque Eloize’s show, “Id”.


IMG_1760It occurred to me that there must be a few others like Lisa, who are traveling the world working for big shows and are from Victoria.  I figured that at some point, they are going to want to come home, but they can’t as there is absolutely nothing here for them to come back to.  To me, this was a real shame as Victoria would be missing a tremendous opportunity to develop a cultural and educational asset.  I love this little city so much and it needs and deserves a world class circus scene.

From there, Lisa put me in touch with Kaelyn Schmitt (another professional circus artist).


ICS_Kaelyn-289x300She enthusiastically signed on.  Kaelyn and I worked super hard this winter teaching workshops, performing for TEDx, and pitching investors.  Lisa finished a contract in Berlin and came back to help create our first production, “CATALYST”, that happened Apr. 2/3 at the Metro Theater – sold out and standing Os.

Many more artists have joined us.  In my biased opinion, we have a very, very talented and diverse team.

We are currently working in the lean start up model developing our mvp (minimal viable product).  At first, we will partner with a Rec center to offer classes and build a following.  The number one lesson that I have learned starting up the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry is that it is absolutely critical to build capacity right from the start.  It is crucial to avoid being bogged down by the day to day as that limits the entrepreneurs ability to push the vision forward and ensure the health of the organization.  So, first things first, we must train coaches and develop high functioning systems.

It has been an excellent entrepreneurial learning experience already that is pushing me just outside of my knowledge range allowing me to accelerate.

A few entrepreneurial lessons that have been reinforced:

1. Team and partners are everything.

While cliche, it is absolutely true.  Getting this one right is critical.  It has been fascinating to put together this circus team.  The goal of a true leader is to make other leaders.  It is impossible to do something this big by yourself.  It would be foolish to do so.  Not one person on the team could do this on their own.  We compliment each other’s skills and one person leaving would be a huge blow to building the company.

I haven’t just learned this lesson here as I have been developing other startups,but now, I feel that over the course of many years and lots of mistakes, I have steadily improved my communication and listening skills.  They are being put to the test and expanded as I continue to learn how to facilitate teams.

2. Just go for it.  Learn as you go

Pull the trigger.  It is impossible to know everything.  You have to trust that your preparations will serve you as things change rapidly on the fly.

Be a learning machine.  That is the only way forward now.  I believe that every organization is going to need to have a Chief Learning Officer as the world’s knowledge is growing exponentially.  I have dozens of ideas on how to accelerate an organization’s learning capacity and would be happy to help you with this (just give me a call).

3. Hustle

I have never hustled harder in my life trying to sell our first production “CATALYST”.  I bit off a large chunk and had to sell over 700 seats for the weekend of shows.  I did absolutely everything in my power to get bums in seats: radio, print, TV, handbills, social media, and praying that it was going to come together.  This is while working a crazy day job trying to change education in BC (call me if you want to know how to change an entire province’s education system).

I am happy to say that it was successful; 3 shows were sold out and the last one was 80% full.  I truly believe that my salesmanship has reached another level and I feel confident that my hustle can make pretty much anything happen.

I must also give full credit to my wife.  When she asked how much we could potentially lose, and I said a relatively large number, she was out there selling the very next day and hustled just as hard as me for weeks to make it a success – what a champion!

4. Closely related to hustle – Get in front of as many important as people as possible

The help and advice that I have received this year from experienced, seasoned entrepreneurs has been priceless. Peter Elkins has been a big help.  Indeed, he got us in front of 80 accredited investors in February from all over North America. It gave us big time visibility and credibility as the companies who applied to pitch where stringently vetted.

At the pitch, it was us and 9 tech companies.  Kaelyn and I did a two-high, made everyone laugh, and delivered the most enthusiastic pitch of the evening (we are performers after all!).  From this, we found another very big helper, our lawyer, Carli van Maurik.

5. Build community

For us, it is so easy.  Circus is such a deep passion for people. We have already gathered a strong, supportive, and talented community.  It is not like we are starting up a dry cleaning business.  The people want circus!  They want to get fit, have fun, and be creative.  We are fortunate to have such a great base to grow from.

Our goal is to open a high level circus school.  Ultimately, my personal goal is to open a K – 12 circus school.  To my knowledge, this doesn’t exist on Earth.  With the right sales and marketing team, it could be an international sensation.

9 May, 2016
by Jake
Comments Off on The best endorsement I have ever received…

The best endorsement I have ever received…

This is from a learner of mine that I have been closely working with.  He graduates in 6 weeks and has become my lifelong friend:

“Jake West has been my teacher and mentor for the final 3 years of my high school life. It is high time that I show some appreciation and explain what I have learned from him. I have seen how a power house mobilizes to get shit done. No matter how hopeless or how little motivation a student has, this man never gives up on someone or on something. Last but not least, he has dreams and goals that he actively works to achieve.

10:00am, 10:15, 10:30… Meeting after meeting, student after student, this is the day to day for Jake. How does he do it? Well that my friends, is one of life’s greatest mysteries; he doesn’t drink coffee. Unless he is using caffeine patches so that we do not see them, the only possible conclusion I can come to is that he is some kind of superhuman.

The teenage spirit; energetic, moving forward or lazy without interest in anything in the world. This is the age all people dread to deal with, they tend to be very sassy and think they know everything.

Lack of motivation can be much harder to deal with than an idiot because motivating someone who does not care is well, near impossible. But despite all of this, Jake makes them pass through endless pushing and encouragement.

Jake is a well traveled man and it shows. He has countless stories and life lessons, enough that he could write quite the interesting book. He is a one of a kind man that inspires those around him to achieve what they want to do in life and to not follow the beaten path and to instead bring out the machete and make your own.

Jake is a machine, well oiled and always gassed up with the goal of moving others towards success while moving himself forward to achieve his own goals. So is Jake superhuman? Well no, but he is one of the closest things you can find”.

24 Apr, 2016
by Jake
Comments Off on Improv



It has been quite the journey coaching improv at the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry.  This year, we decided to compete in the Canadian Improv Games (CIG).

My experience and ideas of improv differed from CIG expectations.  From my experience as a street performer and clown, improv means that you cannot prepare.  Obviously, you can prepare in terms of practicing over and over  – developing a repertoire and being able to pull out certain jokes, voices, etc when the moment calls for it.  What I did not expect, was that teams could actually structure their events and then just plug in a suggestion from the audience.  This rattled the team during the exhibition round and they threw everything they knew out the window and did not perform to the best of their abilities.

After a debriefing, we decided to continue with not preparing and focus on really being spontaneous and in the moment.  During the next competition, they did much better.

We made it to the semi finals and the team did a mighty job of entertaining the audience getting the largest laughs of the evening.  The judges did not like us all that much, but the crowd was 100% behind our improv. Indeed, one of the moms there was calling one of the kids her spirit animal.   The crowd was chanting P-S-I-I, P-S-I-I…

What truly matters is that this team went through an intense bonding and learning experience.  I can see noticeable improvement in all of them as they had to move beyond their comfort zones and rise to the occasion.  As a producer, I love seeing a team collaborate together and build original work that people thoroughly enjoy.  In the process, I too have learned much more on how to coach performance art.

I believe that improv is a skill that crosses all occupations and industries.  I cannot think of better chops to leave high school with than being able to think on the spot, persuade people, listen to others, and create original ideas.

7 Mar, 2016
by Jake
Comments Off on Guest Blogger for Teachers-Teachers

Guest Blogger for Teachers-Teachers

I have been invited to blog for an education website out of the US called, teachers-teachers.com. I am looking forward to writing numerous upcoming posts.  I have many to share!  More coming soon…

Lessons in Teamwork

25 Nov, 2015
by Jake
Comments Off on TEDxVictoria



The Island Circus Space team had so much fun performing at TEDxVictoria.  I was not overly happy with my performance.  I dropped it a few times in weird places and missed my final whip catch cartwheel which I can usually do in my sleep.  I am not sure what was going on there.  Overall though, we put on an awesome show and we got excellent feedback.  We are looking forward to translating this experience into further work for the Island Circus Space artists.

Video will be out soon…

24 Nov, 2015
by Jake
Comments Off on Island Circus Space’s first workshop was a success!

Island Circus Space’s first workshop was a success!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our first workshop.  We had so much fun teaching aerials, hand to hand, acrobatics and juggling.  Victoria has some dedicated circus artists.  Everyone is stoked to get something going on a regular basis.  We are working on it and will keep you posted.

(Photos by Jasmine Wong)

ICS Workshop 3

Continue Reading →

12 Oct, 2015
by Jake
Comments Off on School as Incubator

School as Incubator

Nothing fascinates me more than developing talent.  At the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), I help to co-create and facilitate people’s passions.  It is so rewarding.

I am able to connect dots for our learners and get them to focus their efforts as a team on accomplishing a shared passion.  I firmly believe that the way forward for any organization is for the entire team to become phenomenal learners.

Currently, I work in a bunch of different teams.  I am the force that keeps the vision together and moving forward.  Everyone on the team has complete autonomy to contribute the best way that they can.  It is amazing to see the mastery that develops when you allow people to learn what they really want to learn.

School then becomes just a large incubator of people developing their passions with expert guidance to assist in team decisions and skill building processes.  There are some incredible things being built.

For example…

A smart tech team has formed and we are working with the Director of Limbic Media, Manjinder Bening, to develop proprietary software.  We are working in Scrum methodology and they are all making important contributions to the project.  As scrum master, I have already seen noticeable team enhancement through everyone committing to improving 1000% together over the course of the year.

Last month, I launched Island Circus Space.  A team at PSII has formed to help.  The kids are learning business through actually doing business.  They have been building web sites, creating content, sending out press releases and newsletters and networking at events as well as researching cutting edge business practices in use today (Lean Startup, Seth Godin, etc).

I work in many more teams, but just these two examples alone have the capacity to develop our high school kids into entrepreneurially savvy, smart creatives who can produce Startups, jobs, and ideas to help sustain our economy.

Again, when you give people the autonomy and freedom to learn what they want to learn, you begin to see it applied in exceptionally creative ways that you could not have possibly prescribed.

I would like to highlight one individual who is an incredible example of what happens when school is an incubator.  This guy is very intelligent and articulate, as well as tech savvy and creative.  Over the last two years, he has learned how to use the entire Adobe suite, and combined with a very entrepreneurial attitude and skill set, has landed him work with many local companies in town.  Recently, he has been developing video for Silk Road Teas.

The lessons that he learns from his solo freelance gigs in turn gets filtered back into the teams that he is working with.  He is part of the two teams above and both teams are benefiting tremendously from his experience and knowledge base that he is continuously growing.  Indeed, he is the one who built the Island Circus Space website.

That is what he has been able to accomplish in school, because school for him has been an incubator of his passions.