I can't believe I am writing this, and I can't believe that I now have to talk in BC and GR terms!
It's been four years since we embarked on this journey. Before every beginner class at Flirt Fitness, we ask the women to share how they heard about us. It's a little difficult to ask how I "heard" about it because it didn't exist when I first started pole. We hear about a lot of journeys of how our students started pole. This January, I'd like to share with you how Flirt Fitness was born, and how our dreams are coming true.
Five years ago, I was working in sales and was feeling complacent. I had been an athlete all of my life, so nutrition, exercise, team building, fun and a challenge were always a passion of mine. I decided it was time for me to do something that I loved. I didn't know what that was, but I did know that I felt like I needed a change......like I was searching for inspiration.
I googled "weird certification trainings" on my computer and up popped Pole Fitness. I saw a Pole Dancing studio in Chicago that was offering a Certification training the following weekend. After realizing there wasn't a Pole studio in Grand Rapids, I thought it sounded like a good idea. I mean after all, I WAS an athlete, I'm pretty coordinated, and Lord knows that I had spent as much money on a few pairs of jeans or a bar bill that didn't mean anything, so what did I have to lose? So......off I went!
When I arrived at the training, I quickly found out that I was the ONLY one in the certification class that had never pole danced before. Everyone else in my class was already an instructor! They weren't students, they were instructors! I wanted to crawl in a hole and die at that exact moment. I remember two specific things about my certification weekend. The first thing was when we were told to "feel the music and let your body move" in the dark and using a pole. "Ummmmm, I'm sorry.....you want me to do what? I don't think so." I have never felt so awkward in my entire life as I did trying to dance to that song. I was sweating and moving like some sort of octopus and I had no idea how to "slow" move my body. The only dancing I was ever use to was in the club at 1am! We were required to do this three time during the weekend. The very last time, I decided I was brave enough to close my eyes and dance just like the others were. So, that's what I did. I moved, I danced, I flowed, I did wall work..........and just like that - I KNOCKED A LIGHT OFF OF THE WALL! Yes, you read that correctly. It was the loudest thunk I thought I had ever heard. I was absolutely mortified. But, everyone kept dancing. They were so engulfed in their own bodies that I was glued to how they weren't distracted. This leads me to the second thing that I remember most about my certification weekend: the family of women that were there. Never in my life had I met women that were so confident, humane, honest, and beautiful. I wanted to be just like them. I wanted to radiate beauty the way they did. I wanted to be able to dance and move just as their bodies allowed them to. I was so inspired by their hearts that I couldn't wait to learn more about this so called pole world.
Fast forward a knee surgery and 8 months later. I decided i was going to open a studio. I began to work as a bartender at a local bar to save up money to start my studio. By the time the end of the year rolled around, I was ready to begin! (Well, kind of). I had only taken a couple of classes at the studio that I trained at in Chicago, and I had a mentor to help get me started. I thought that this was going to be a part time gig where I would keep my sales job and offer 4 classes a week - 2 nights per week. So, I called Groupon and ran a Groupon, leased a small space that had boxing bags, mirrors and 8 foot ceilings (yes, 8 foot). 600 Groupons later, I capped out and decided to give teaching a whirl. I wasn't sure exactly what I was doing, but I has a passion for it and I guess people caught on.
The first studio of Flirt Fitness was a 900 square foot shared space. We had boxing bags on one side, a bathroom inside of the studio space (which means if you went to the bathroom during class everyone in your class heard you pee - imagine that during meditation!), no front desk, no sign, dirty floors, and a bunch of weights and bars and work out material stashed in the corner. Before each class, I had to put up 6 poles, spray perfume, light the candles, and put up curtains. After each class, I would "de-robe" the room, a boot camp class would run, and then I would do the set up all over again for another class. Three months and 13 classes per week later, I maxed out at how many classes I could teach per week, the amount of time I could use in the space, and I was sacrificing spending time with my son. I quit my job, called my realtor and went on a hunt for new space and new instructors. Lucky, and I mean lucky, for me, I had two very experienced women that I was training that had already had pole experience and that were interested in instructing. Thank goodness for Cassie and Jess! After five months of Flirt Fitness being opened, I moved into a 2500 square foot studio that would have a bathroom, a changing room, two studio rooms, an office and space to add on if I needed to. Little by little, as the money came in, I finished the studio. I painted until 3am, called in a lot of favors, and worked day and night on getting everything done, teaching my classes, finding more instructors (and training them) and running the business. Yowsers, it was stressful! I had a lot of nights that I cried because I didn't know how I was going to make ends meet, pay my instructors or even buy one more can of purple paint to finish the studio. But, I just kept going.
After a year of not paying myself and the studio finally being finished, we were off to a great start! I couldn't wait for 2014 so I could make some money, build a few more classes, and continue to teach. As 2015 began, WE WERE SWAMPED! My vision of "coasting" through 2014 was not going to happen. We added our "Add-on" classes, gained even more instructors and then in the fall of 2014, we expanded the current space to have three running studio rooms under one roof. We were growing by leaps and bounds! I remember joking that that would be the only expansion that I would do and "Don't you guys make me open a second studio. Ha Ha Ha, I laughed."
2015 was our most promising year yet. We began by crowning our third and then fourth set of Ambassadors, hiring more instructors, and starting to really get the Flirt Fitness name on the map. We had big name pros come through the studio to train us, we had girls compete in Chicago, and we altered our curriculum to now acquire Advanced level students. This was going to be the year, I remember thinking. This will be the year that we coast, hang tight and stay put. Remember that joke I had said the year before? HA! HA! HA! Around June of 2015, I started to have a greater vision of Flirt. I got married to a business man that either secretly somehow put thoughts of this in my head or just gave me the confidence to think I could make it happen - or maybe both! I began talking to my husband about the fact that I was thinking about opening a second studio. I wasn't sure if our Grand Rapids location could hold all of the volume that we had and I knew that we were only going to continue to grow. So, once again, WE EXPANDED!!! In October, 2015 we started construction on our second studio space. I just smiled and giggled after writing that.
I can believe where we have come from because it's something I will never forget. This journey is stamped in my heart. I constantly have students that thank me for opening these doors. It is me who needs to thank all of you for believing in this dream, for inspiring me, for humbling me, for being the beautiful human being and woman that you are. I have met women that I would have never crossed paths with had it not been for Flirt Fitness and I am so thankful for that every single day. It has lead me to be able to love what I do for a living, "work" (if we can even call it that) with my best friends, and be inspired all the time.
On January 10, 2016, Flirt Fitness opened it's second location. Our goal was to run two-three classes totaling 26 people. Six classes and 47 people later.........are you seeing the same pattern here that I'm seeing? While some business owners or customers might see this as easy, simple, not a big deal, etc., it was different for us. It was different for the Flirt family because it meant something else. Having a second location meant that we would inspire more women. It meant that we would change more lives; that we would share more journeys; build more trust; give sexiness to more mothers; appreciate more community. It meant that we were going to be even sexier, even stronger, even more beautiful.
And that is exactly who we are. It is perfectly defined as who and what we stand for. We don't stand to be just another sign, just another location, just another address. We stand to be something bigger, more beautiful and more powerful than ever for women in this city. So, welcome. Welcome to the bigger, bolder, more bad ass us - Flirt Fitness. Do I even dare think about what 2016 will have in store?
Flirt Fitness. Changing the world, one woman at a time.
Be sexy. Be strong. Be confident. Be you.
Cheers to our journey.