Guy Laliberte once seemed to be an unlikely success by traditional standards. In 1977, the then eighteen year old Canadian, hitchhiked across Europe making enough money to live by being a street performer. While sleeping on park benches and very low on cash, the very young adult was actually in training to becoming a billionaire and the CEO of an entertainment phenomenon that has packed in tens of millions of people to his shows.
From bench sleeping street performer to fire-eater, accordion playing and stilt walking, Laliberte combined forces with other street performers. At first he had no grand schemes, he was just out for “an adventure” and that adventure was supposed to end with returning to school and having a “regular life.” What he didn’t expect was the adventure became his life.
He returned to Canada in 1984, after learning a great deal about entertaining people and was asked to perform for Quebec’s 450th Anniversary Celebration. The rest is history. But, before history was made, there were many challenges on his road of trials. He signed $1.5 million in contracts, although he did not yet have the financial backing.
The first year, his show was a success in interest, but his newly found company was badly in debt. “He went for broke and took a huge gamble by booking an act for the opening of a Los Angeles art festival.” “I bet everything on that one night,” he recalled. If we failed, there was no cash for gas to come home.” (Wikipedia)
Now in 2010, Guy Laliberte is not only the CEO and Founder of the Internationally acclaimed Cirque de Soleil, he is also a philanthropist. ONE DROP Foundation was created three years ago to raise awareness on world-wide poverty and the essential needs of sustainable access to safe water. He has also won Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year at three levels – local, national and international and many other highly acclaimed awards praising his dedication to the arts, as well as issues that impact people around the world.
From homeless street performer to a man who is impacting the lives of others globally, not a bad journey, huh?