Studio Owner Spotlight: Dakota Fox – Aradia Fitness, NC
Studio Owner Spotlight: Dakota Fox – Aradia Fitness, NC
Name of Studio:
Aradia Fitness USA
Location(s) of Studio:
Licensed studios in Cary, NC… Ashburn, VA… and Manassas, VA, Certified locations in Charlotte, NC and Asheville, NC (pending)
Studio Website/Contact Info:
Dakota Fox – US Operations
Years in Business:
Aradia Fitness was founded in Canada in 2003 and has been in the US since 2007. I have been the owner of the Cary, NC location since 2013 and took over control of the Aradia Fitness US operations in 2014.
Classes Offered (Tell me about your business!):
With foundations in yoga, Pilates & gymnastics, Aradia Fitness offers fun & sexy fitness classes specifically tailored for a woman’s body. Aradia Fitness takes a holistic approach to fitness offering benefits that serve a woman’s body, mind and soul. Clients gain confidence as they build physical strength, flexibility and conditioning. Clients also gain a sense of wellness as they learn to adore, celebrate and flaunt every curve of their body. We believe that each and every client who walks through our door is strong, sexy and beautiful… and our goal is to help you realize this too! Classes are light-hearted, warm and full of laughter. Our clients quickly form strong bonds with their instructors and classmates. Women come for the workout and stay for the wonderful sense of community & celebration! As of 2014, Aradia Fitness USA is expanding its operations. Prospective studio owners can have their own Aradia Fitness location with the Studio Licensing program which provides a website, trademark usage rights, business coaching, instructor training and fully prepared curriculum. Current studio owners can revamp their classes by taking advantage of our Certification program, going through the Aradia Fitness instructor training, business coaching and the rights to use the Aradia Fitness curriculum in their studio. Aradia Fitness is also currently working on the launch of our pole dancing books, videos and online lessons, coming in 2015.
What did you do for work prior to opening your studio?
I work full-time as a police officer in North Carolina. I was always active in team sports and martial arts growing up, and found the challenge of pole fitness addicting & invigorating. As a female in primarily male-dominated profession, I also found that pole dancing and Aradia Fitness did wonders to nourish my feminine side.
What inspired you to open your studio?
My mother is the one who got me into pole dancing! She opened the first Aradia Fitness USA studio in Cary, NC back in 2007. At the time, I was finishing up college and attending the police academy… and honestly thought that pole dancing for fitness was a crazy idea! I was always a big tomboy, rarely wearing make-up or high heels. After a few years, my mother needed help with updating her website, utilizing social media and a back-up instructor for emergencies. She begged me to go through the instructor training… and ever since then, I was hooked. Not long after this, my mother suffered a shoulder injury she couldn’t quite recover from and she began to need more help with teaching & running the studio. In 2013, she was ready to retire with my father and close the studio down. I was crestfallen at the idea of losing this amazing space and the incredible connections I had made with my fellow instructors & our clients. My husband fully supported my crazy notion of taking over sole ownership of the studio while still working a full-time job – he knew how passionate I had become about pole dancing and did not want to see me loose that part of my life either. So in the summer 2013 we took a leap of faith and purchased the studio for ourselves… and it has been a wild, fun ride every since!
What do you find is the biggest challenge in running your studio?
There are a quite a few things that have been big learning experiences since taking over the studio. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome is that of TIME. There just isn’t enough of it! Between staying on top of promotion & marketing, responding to emails, planning out the class schedules, managing instructor availabilities or emergencies, cleaning, stocking, accounting… trying to find some time in all that to get on the pole for yourself is tough. It can suck the energy right out of you.
I’ve found that I had to accept that I cannot get everything done… and having a never-ending “to-do” list is okay. I try to focus on one task at a time and if possible, limit the behind-the-scenes work to a few hours a day. Working in the time to play & train for yourself is very important – our love for pole is why we want to teach and share it… but if we let that love & passion fizzle out, your business will begin to suffer. I try to schedule play session with my instructors once a week and seek out any opportunity I can to be a student, even if that means taking a “polecation” to do so.
On a personal level, it is easy to let pole and your studio overrun every aspect of your life. Also – remember that you have other roles outside of the pole world – maybe as a wife, mother, sister, etc. Set aside time to dedicate solely to nourishing these important relationships with no interference of pole or business related topics – even if it something as simple as an unplugged evening in the house sharing a glass of wine or watching a movie.
Another hurdle I’ve found is the inevitable change in relationship you will have with your friends… both in and out of the pole world. In my situation, I found myself “the boss” of many of the ladies I used to teach & train along-side with. I hate the idea that a person cannot be friends with the people they work with, but there is a fine line between being a friend and being a boss. Some ladies will handle it better than others, but be prepared that you may be faced with someone who has trouble distinguishing that line. It puts you between a rock & a hard place and can cause tears of hurt & frustration. At the end of the day, we have a business to run. The decisions you make need to be in the best interest of your business, not to appease egos or show favoritism. However with the right team at your side, you will find yourself filled with positive energy & support of those who understand, appreciate and support you in your new role!
What is your favorite thing about owning a pole and aerial studio?
The ability to influence and make a change in the lives of others. I know this sounds incredibly cheesy, but it very true (and is also why I got into law enforcement).
Let’s be honest – becoming a small business owner is not going to bring in the big bucks – it is labor of passion and a lot of work. If you think owning a studio means you will soon living the life of luxury… you may need to seriously rethink your decision to do this.
Being a fitness instructor allows you to connect and impact your students in a way that many others don’t get to. I believe pole dancing is unique as it appeals to women from all walks of life, not just fitness buffs. We get the “everyday” woman walk through our studio doors – career women, stay-at-home moms, domestic violence survivors, divorcees, college students… or any mix thereof. Your studio will become the safe haven for many of these women – the place where they go to lose their inhibitions, break down barriers of self-preservation, have a little FUN in their busy lives, and learn to adore themselves again. The fitness benefit of pole is wonderful as we help women lead healthier lifestyles. However the spiritual & emotional growth that comes along with pole dancing is such an amazing & incredible thing to not only witness, but to be humbled by the knowledge that you had a part in it. I
What is your mission as a studio owner?
See above. If I know my program, my studio, my instructors or my classes are making a difference in the lives of the women in my community… then I couldn’t be happier. If my business is profitable, then even better! The goal of any small business owner should be to make a profit, but I am happy with the balance between the two.
What are your business/studio goals for 2015?
My goals for 2015 are to grow the Aradia Fitness USA brand. As the new owner of the US operations, I excited about the ideas & opportunities ahead. I want Aradia Fitness to become a known & trusted brand – one that can reach studios across the country. There has been great response to my studio certification program and I have had women asking me for instructor trainings for years. Keep an eye on http://aradiafitnessusa.com and our social media page (http://facebook.com/AradiaFitnessUSA) for news, announcements and updates as the 2015 opportunities are released!
What do you think is your biggest source of income for your business? (memberships, parties, events, website, coupon deals, Facebook, etc.)
Parties still play a large role in my studios income, however I think this is very location dependent. When I took over the studio in 2013, I revamped the class structure and membership options with great success. The income from long-term clients is now much higher than it used to be and plays a larger role in the profit margin for the business. I caution studios about the overuse of coupon deals and Facebook paid marketing campaigns… use sparingly and plan accordingly, otherwise you may find these type of “advertisements” doing more harm than good.
I also found that offering a mix of classes, not just pole dancing, is an extremely effective way to broaden your prospective client base. I have a lot of clients who don’t ever do the pole classes but love our bootcamps, cardio dance classes, flexibility classes, etc to pieces. Giving your clients the option to mix & match their workouts keeps them engaged, allows them to cross-train (very important for healthy polers!) and helps you to reach a broader market of women.
Words of inspiration/advice to new studio owners?
Keep the passion aflame! Despite all the hard work, the mistakes you WILL make, the loss of free time and the days where you alternate between wanting to pull your hair out or punch someone through the phone… following your dream and owning your business is an amazing adventure. Don’t let the reason WHY you want to own a studio get lost along the way. Keep your cheerleaders close to your side, schedule time to be a student yourself (somewhere, in something! Even if not pole) and don’t allow the business to consume every aspect of your life. I am incredibly grateful for the amazing team of instructors I have at my studio and even more so, for the patient, understanding husband I have at home.
Also don’t be afraid to connect with out studio owners out there – we all have a variety of experiences to share and we can all learn from each other. Resources like www.PoleAndAerialStudioOwners.com are great – I also created a Studio Owners & Instructors Networking group on Facebook years ago and it has been a great sounding board for pole dance studio owners & instructors across the world.
Most of all… remember to have FUN! Best of luck to you on this amazing new chapter of your life!