My Main Street-Hokey Pokey

Send in the Clowns

If you think your career is fun, just wait until you hear about what Nadia Bentolila does all day. Read on to learn about her exciting business and the passion she has for her craft.

Owner Nadia Bentolila with a collection of face paints

If you can imagine what it would be like to spend your workdays clowning around on the job, you have a good idea of what Nadia Bentolila does for a living. Now, that’s not to say everything’s always dandy for the entrepreneur who has a Masters in geology and a Bachelors in computer science. It’s simply that Bentolila — a children’s entertainer and the owner of Hokey Pokey Shop — found her calling, and it’s quite possibly more fun than what most of us do. “I was working in information technology and started clowning as a part-time gig. Later, I felt it was time to switch careers, as I loved it so much. I also wanted to expand the idea of my business and create a place where other entertainers could get supplies.”

Enter Hokey Pokey — a colourful one-stop shop servicing artists and performers, and specializing in more than 700 unique specialty products, including premium face painting supplies, special-effect materials, theatrical makeup, glitter and more. (Yes, various sizes of professional clown noses are always in stock.)

The team at Hokey Pokey

But there’s more — the store offers glitter tattoos, professional face-painting and balloon-twisting services for private, public and corporate functions, as well as elaborate balloon decor. Bentolila completed face-painting school and received her certification, which allows her to provide professional face-painting classes. What’s more, she’s a certified balloon artist, and her husband and business partner completed the balloon certification program provided by Qualatex Canada, making him an official balloon twister and instructor. “With all our balloon orders, whether it’s a decor piece or twisted art, we put a lot of love and attention into even the smallest details. Seeing the reactions from kids and adults when they get their balloons is the best part,” she says proudly.

Bentolila’s been clowning for more than 15 years, but she says her recent participation in the My Main Street program was vital. (She’d also participated in the Starter Company Plus program and benefited from funds and advice the Vaughan Business and Entrepreneurship Centre provided her.) “It gave us direction on extending and promoting our business to our community. We didn’t come from business or marketing backgrounds, and when we first opened the store, we focused on supplies for entertainers like us,” she explains. “Thanks to the My Main Street program, we brought in professional makeup lines and prosthetics. It also helped us connect with local businesses to update our signage, and we are now working with a marketing company to help us with our social media.”

There’s no denying Bentolila’s passion for her work and community — she’s now planning to offer group classes for clients who want to learn the unique art of balloon twisting and face painting. In the meantime, her cheery disposition and positive attitude continues to delight audiences across the city. “We love what we do and don’t think of this as a job, rather, it’s a work of enjoyment.”

200 Edgeley Boulevard, unit 16, Vaughan

Nadia and Amram creating a balloon bouquet