I cannot believe it’s been 5 years! Coincidentally and almost full circle, today also marks my last day of “work” as I begin my maternity leave. Its really not “work”. As much as I need the rest and relaxation, I’m still not looking forward to not “working”. SO, I thought that there is no better time than now to recap these past 5 years and share the story of how this studio developed into what it is today ( plus I have the time off to do so!). My path is crazy, and long, yet has gotten me to where we are today.

These have been the best, most career fulfilling years I’ve ever had, and to be honest, the longest time I’ve stayed in one career. I’ve worked in the food industry (bar-tend/waitress), I managed in retail at Pier One while going to school full time. I worked for an airline at the check in counter (that is no longer in business). I’ve worked in furniture sales, advertising sales, and ran an in-home daycare program. With every job, I thought, “yeah this is it” and I could possibly do it the rest of my life!

That always changed, I always wanted more, and something different.

I went to the University at Buffalo and graduated with a BA in Communication.  I started studying with pharmacy in efforts to break into pharmaceutical sales, but then walked out of my first chemistry class due to no passion or interest what so ever. I’ve always dreamed to be a “business owner”, just wasn’t sure which type business I would want to get involved in. When I was little, I loved playing store, hotel, and having lemonade stands. At even a smaller age, I was often called “bossy”, which is nice to hear, now that it’s considered “independent” and ” posses leadership skills”. My mom always would say that I made friends every where I went when I was little. I’ve never been afraid to venture on my own, go to parties not knowing anyone, or introducing myself and hanging with a group of strangers. I for sure did not get into college for my academic abilities, but my extracurricular activity and social involvement got me the push to be accepted. I joke about my major when people ask me – “what did you study in school?” I usually reply “talking”. And it’s then when I really discovered what I liked to do and what I’m good at.

Communication.

My “bossiness” character traits always gave me the confidence to speak up when something needs to be organized and not be afraid to step up to be the one to do it. It gave me the courage to like what I like because I like something and not care what other people thought, yet still be respectful to others opinions and views. The fear of new things never existed and I love connecting with people, meeting people, and being friends and kind to everyone. I’m honest, and say things like they are. Black and white. That more times than not is appreciate because it shows genuine honesty.
So what business could I get into that fulfills these social passions and this want to connect that I have? I did well with sales at the time, because I really believed in what I was selling. Newspaper ads, furniture, and home interiors. I really enjoyed those topics, but when push came to shove, I couldn’t get rewarded enough from my company to feel worthy of their corporation. I was paying someone else’s paycheck, not my own.

In 2008 I was hired by the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina. I packed whatever I could in my 2 door Honda Accord and drove down to live and work for the newspaper. I left my post journal job of outside advertising sales job, to work for this huge southern newspaper, typing classified ads.

Typing classified ads.

I sat in a cubicle, answered the phone when someone wanted to place an ad to sell their lawn mower, I typed it up and that was it. It was AWFUL. However I did have the chance to up sell. Bigger spaces, more words, stars, color, etc. So I did. It was acknowledged. I had a handful accounts that were inactive that I was able to call upon and try to refresh to place ads again. And I did. It was acknowledged. It wasn’t until I spelled “chihuahua” wrong for someone selling their dog, that I got the real attention I wanted. I thought I was getting in trouble, but I was asked to take over a territory for outside sales. It was awesome. I did extremely well, and was having fun yet the newspaper is slow dying media forum. There were many layoffs, and cutbacks at the paper, but my job was secure for what I thought. After a year, in the middle of great acknowledgements and achievements, I met my daughters father, we dated for a few months, and in the blink of an eye was pregnant.

The biggest blessing in my life.

I waited the standard 12 weeks to tell my boss I was pregnant. Everyone I worked with was so happy for me and excited. Two weeks after I informed them I was pregnant, I was called into a meeting and told that my sales goals were increasing. I needed to do better, and sell even more. They increased to a point that were impossible to keep up with. Once I wasn’t meeting “quota”, I was fired.

Pregnant, No job, No health insurance. It was the worst feeling in the world.

I decided to take the plunge and “make it work” with my daughters father. I didn’t matter if we were in love, or if I had butterfly’s, I would have enough love for my child to get me through, and it would be the best thing for my daughter, right?

I danced my whole life. In Charlotte I did a couple classes for fun to keep with it yet I knew dancing could never be a career I could obtain, and I didn’t have enough knowledge to open my own dance studio. My best friend Tara found a job on craigslist to teach a “cardio hip hop” class at a gym once a week.

I got the job, and taught my first class like a dance class. Spent hours on a routine, broke it down, and people walked out. I had never taken a zumba class and had no idea how to run a “cardio class”. My boss saw potential in me enough to allow me to keep trying. After a month of creating routines ( that we I still use today) I nailed it! My class began to fill, people were having fun and I was having fun, yet as soon as I got home I was made to feel that I shouldn’t be leaving the baby and leaving my “duties”.

We moved back to Buffalo after my daughters first birthday and lived with my parents until we found a house. My parents knew right away something wasn’t right, I was not myself, yet I continued to convince them and myself that “this was the life I wanted”. I was completely dependent on my ex husband. I was not allowed to have any involvement in finances, because that “wasn’t my role.” I was given an allowance, and scolded when my jobs weren’t complete. I continued to stick it out. I was depressed. The only time I felt alive and happy was when I was teaching cardio hip hop.

I have to do something. At this point not with the marriage because I was convinced divorce would crush my daughter. I needed to BE someone. Not saying being a stay at home mother is not SOMEONE, they are amazing and astonishing, but At this point in my life I wasn’t ready for the full time stay at home gig. All of the independent drive, networking, and leadership cravings I put aside were raging for attention.

My friends boyfriend had a little gym in Armor, and was looking for someone to teach Zumba. I ended up getting certified. Everything we learned were things I was took weeks to figure out on my own to craft my own class. The instructor was amazing, but the fees were expensive, YET its what I needed to teach in Armor. My first class was at 6am, and I had 3 people show up. ( My average class size in Charlotte was 15-20).

My next class, no one came to.

I went for an entire MONTH of 2-3 or ZERO people attending my classes. I cried every night, full of defeat, thinking it would never work, and I would never get my classes full.

Yet I kept going. I believed in the class I created, I believed in myself. I believed I had a good thing that could help people. I believed in myself enough to push through. Teaching that one class a week fueled me enough. I felt myself. I felt inspired. I felt amazing.

After 3 months, in the hottest months of the year, my class sizes began to grow. I started using my Facebook account ( On April 29, 2011) and people were bringing there friends. After 6 months I had over 30 people on average coming to my classes, asking for more classes. It was working. I continued to plug along until the capacity level reached its max- I had to start looking for a bigger place.  Out of courtesy,  I let the guys who I was renting the space from know that I was interested in getting certified for personal training and looking for bigger space to rent. We didn’t have a contract, and were friends, it was the least I could do. A week after I told them of my future potential plans, I was cornered into a contact with an outrageous fees. I had to either agree to their temporary contract that was 100 times more in rent than what I was paying, OR hand over my keys and be done using their facility. I didn’t want to just STOP my classes, so I bit the bullet and paid what they asked.

I found the current location 4 years ago and it was our best move yet. I met Jeff through a craigslist add and it has been by far the best business relationship I had ever had. From there it snow balled. We had trainers training clients out of the studio when there were not classes going on, new classes, new programs-  it was flourishing. We were busy but I wasn’t too busy to give up the time with my daughter. I made my own schedule, still spent all of my days with her, and was fulfilling my personal needs for leadership and connection AND being a mom 🙂

At home, I was still expected to complete my “duties”, and wasn’t supported. Since I had no control or awareness of the finances, I was told that the “business was failing”. It didn’t make sense. Classes were full, people were happy. I was told that I should just give up and go back to being a stay at home mom. But what good would that do? I was finally fulfilling my life. My daughter was happy and I was finally a person she could look up to right? Then was one point where I remember saying, ” I would never want my daughter to date someone who didn’t support her –  Do I want her to grow up thinking, this is how marriages go?”

I fought to stand up for a “team” relationship, instead of a controlling one. It got ugly, and it was time to end it. The hardest thing in my life to do but it had to be done.

All through out the divorce I still had Dani-Fit. I dont know how I was able to keep it together, stay strong, leave my problems at home , but I did it. Over the years Dani-Fit became more than just a gym you sweat at, It became a second family. Everyone who attended classes was welcoming to others or new people. Women I trained would come to sweat out their stress, anger, depression, or leave struggles of “life” for a while. After the divorce things settled, I realized I was not the only one using this studio for an outlet.

Dani-Fit made me be the person I was looking for.

The woman I knew was there but couldn’t exactly pin point. I was using Dani-fit just like every other person that came through the door. I was depressed, not happy with myself, and feeling completely low, yet when I came to the studio it was different. I was using it to create and become the best package I could be. Be the best role model for my daughter, not only as a leader or by “being someone”, but pushing through the toughest time in my life, and realizing what I deserve. The studio has allowed me to accomplish things I NEVER thought I could or would do in my life, and its a blessing to know that it has done the same for others. Helping people make a change, believing in people when they do not believe in themselves. Not selling a product or a scam- The real stuff. That is my passion, and it happens to be the career I was meant to do. It is true when they say that if you follow your passion, and fulfill your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. This is why we are so much more than a “protein shake” or “being skinny”. We are a place that nurtures full mental and physical health and in my opinion the only way we have made it to 5 years in business.

The ability to break out and follow my drive to be a role model for my daughter has lead me to the happiest point in my life. I reconnected with a man right in the middle of this “self discovery” that loves this person that I am. He supports me FULLY, loves my daughter like his own, and I can be who I am. We are a team.

If you took the time to read this entirely too long of a post, I appreciate it. As I said, its a crazy story, yet it wouldn’t have created the place we call “Dani-Fit”. I am beyond proud, humbled, honored to be part of the Dani-Fit family and look forward to another 5 years. Cheers!

 

 


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