International Women’s Day: Meet Johara

March 8th is International Women’s Day and we’re celebrating by featuring some of Downtown Burlington’s female business owners & managers! With so many incredible business owners downtown we turned to our community to help us in the selection process by nominating a female business owner that inspires you.


Meet Johara Kolishenco, CEO, Chief Instructor, Choreographer, Performer at BellyUp BellyDance who was nominated for “not only being an excellent human being but how she operates her business is incredible from her marketing on IG, Facebook and her commitment in the communities where her businesses are.  She has participated in supporting other businesses in ‘The Village’ and the many BIA events in Burlington like the annual Sound of Music Festival.  She is such an inspiration to other women both in empowering us  to love our selves but also in how she has built this business all on her own.  She is also an incredible supporter of women who may not be as fortunate like her annual PowerHouse event in support of local women’s shelters.

We asked her a few questions:

What was the defining moment for you? When did you know that this was your career path?
The defining moment for me is when I realized the transformative effects that Bellydance can have on women’s lives. I’m a believer that this dance form is so much more than learning steps and how to move. It’s no wonder it has been an ancient dance ritual that’s been loved for reportedly over 5000 of years. But to see the impact and the positive change that it has on women who come to the studio, from all walks of life. I feel like I have defining moments every day. Dance absolutely reflects life!

I fell in love with Oriental Dance from the very first class I ever took. It’s effect on me was profound. From building self-confidence, to accepting my body, to dealing with eating disorder, to really owning my femininity. I’ve made some incredible friendships through this dance all over the world.  It opened up an entirely new and exciting world to me and allowed me to continue on this journey of self-discovery on many levels. The language of dance is universal.

Who helped you get where you are today/influenced you to achieve your current accomplishments?
In my dance career I owe so much to mentors and my dance teachers such as Nourhan Sharif, Mdm. Raqia Hassan, Lubna Emam – I’ve learned from some of the strongest Egyptian women in the dance form. And they are fierce business women, incredible educators, nurturing, kind, generous women. But more than anything my students are the ones who’ve probably taught me more than dance ever has or will. If it wasn’t for their continual support of the studio, their passion for Bellydance, their support for my classes, we wouldn’t be here.

As a celebrated successful female, what advice do you have for the next generation of successful women?
My best advice for the next generation of successful women, is to be resilient and to find balance.  Business is hard. It’s dynamic. It’s fluid. No two days are the same and if you aren’t flexible and if you can’t adjust fast,  you’ll fail. Bouncing back fast from set backs is crucial. You have to be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.  And you’ll have to make many sacrifices and difficult choices sometimes. Having said all that, I think this generation will be better at finding balance than perhaps my generation. To be honest, the balance is something I’m only now trying to focus on. I’ve been a workhorse for 14 years and it catches up on you. So the more self-care you can give yourself to provide some balance and take care of you on the inside, the better it will be for you and your business over the long term.

Follow Johara @bellyupbellydance.

View all female nominees here.