Donté Colley has become a Canadian gem and internet sensation over the past few years. You’ve probably seen his infamous dancing posts on Instagram, which include emojis and positive affirmations that give his followers motivation to conquer their day. Colley’s dancing and content creation has created many opportunities, including a recent stint for Vogue Magazine and the Met Gala.
He’s also appeared on Good Morning America, Busy Tonight, ETALK Canada, and been written about in The Globe & Mail, Allure, and many more. His dancing talents have landed him in music videos for Ariana Grande’s “Monopoly” and Doja Cat’s “Say So.” The performing arts have always been a passion for Colley. Prior to his rise in popularity, Colley had worked several customer service jobs and even at a children’s hospital.
“When I was 16, I worked at Tim Hortons and a children’s hospital. Learning to be in that environment while trying to make people feel a bit better, especially with just a cup of coffee or whatever they needed, was something super important to me,” Colley said.
Colley’s bright personality and experience in customer service have allowed him to use these skill sets to become a successful content creator. He was able to take his experiences working a nine-to-five to expand his side hustle as a successful full-time content creator. Although getting to this point took a lot of hard work and perseverance, Colley was able to stay true to his authentic self, which has made him very relatable to many millennials. We had a chance to speak with Donté Colley regarding the importance of building a website for your brand, staying mentally strong, and when you should “risk it all” for your dreams.
I recently saw your commercial for the Met Gala for New York Fashion Week. Can you tell us about your experience?
It was amazing. It was really nice to obviously go to the Met Museum for the first time and meet the Vogue team and everybody else that was a part of the process. It was very surreal. It was something that I wrote down in my goal book, months ago. I think that was exciting to work towards and hopefully, continue to do in the future.
What was the pivotal moment for you to become a full-time content creator?
I think it was always something that was a part of me. I have been sharing little fun things on the internet since I was a teen, whether that had been on Facebook in the beginning, and then it kind of transitioned into Tumblr. That’s where I could really learn how to code, create my own platform for myself and let people see me in my own unique way. Then along came Instagram. Instagram Live was the page where I started to take it super seriously in the beginning. I wanted to enjoy it and have fun creating the content that I share on it versus feeling like I owe that to people because, at the end of the day, the stuff that I make is my own art. Art is supposed to be shared and it's supposed to be valued. It's not something that should be expected of you to create for someone, it's something that you want for yourself.
Social media has created a place where people feel they can say anything to someone without having to say anything to their face. This can result in positive or negative comments. What boundaries have you set for yourself in order to block all the negativity that you may have encountered online based on the messaging you’re putting out?
The pandemic was a time where a lot of what I did was very out in the open. I've always been candid, transparent and honest. But creating that space for other people to have opinions or expectations is where I really had to reassess and draw that line. Where this is my channel, this is my page, this is what I come on here to do and I'm not going to stop doing it because of what you think I should be doing or whatever expectation you've put on me as a person. So, that for me is something that's always going to consciously be evolving. We're going to learn what those new boundaries will be as time goes on. But I just had to step into my power, and really just communicate what I need. This is what I'm doing from this point forward, which is to focus a little bit more on myself and do what it is that I need to do for myself.
What advice can you give to business owners, content creators and entrepreneurs about starting their business?
I would say that it's not something that just happens overnight. I've been doing this for almost a decade, where I've learned how to create a platform, engage with an audience and create my own unique art on whatever platform that may be. I think because we see virality so easily in this era, it's important to know that you have to do the work, it's not something that's just going to be handed on a silver platter. Whatever comes easy is not worth having, you want to be able to have some sort of backing to support whatever it is that you're doing moving forward.
I would say, don't give up, keep pushing forward, keep establishing yourself. Your website is an essential part of your brand. It's definitely a vehicle to drive your business in whatever direction that you want to go. I think a great platform to possibly use for yourself is GoDaddy. That's something that I've stepped into. I've used GoDaddy to create my own digital environment where people can come and experience who I am and the things that I've done. There are so many templates and tools that you can use in order to bring your ideas.
If you're a small business owner, what steps do you think you could take in order to start your website?
There are going to be new things that come into mind and things that are going to have to be reimagined. But you have to start somewhere. I think if you're somebody who isn't the greatest at creating an HTML website or doesn't have the necessary support to kind of do that, I would definitely go with a more traditional, nice, classic, easy template on GoDaddy.ca. You can plug in exactly what you need. If you're looking to expand and explore your creativity and want to really bring your worlds to life, I would definitely recommend using the GoDaddy managed WordPress option where you can actually customize whatever it is that you want to do. I think that's the beautiful thing about code is that it's a language that you can run into some boundaries. But, the possibilities are endless. I would say you just have to start somewhere. If you don't start, you're never going to start.
“What advice can you give to small business owners, entrepreneurs, and content creators to take that leap of faith?”
I worked simultaneously by doing the things that I loved. You need to find a way of fuelling your dreams and fuelling the things that you want to do and you're passionate about. Don't be afraid of doing that nine-to-five and investing into yourself so that when the time comes, you can actually transition into doing what it is that you want to do full-time. It’s not something that you can just drop and go into. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But you are going to find the pieces along the way and your big picture is never going to be fully painted. You're gonna have to keep finding these tools and keep finding these pieces as you go along. I would just say it's okay to fail, it's okay to fall, you're going to pick yourself back up and just fall forward. There's so much more to learn. You're never going to learn unless you fall.
Did you always have a Plan A? Did you ever have a Plan B?
You know, I always thought about this. I didn't expect my journey to kind of turn in the way that it did. But I always knew that this was something that I wanted to do. I always wanted to try and propel brands in a positive way with whatever it is that I did. It was always something that I really enjoyed. I think if you start investing into a plan B, you're exerting that energy into your plan B. You can do it. If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, but you gotta keep going. You can't just stop and give up. Really go for it headfirst and just see what happens.