Today is the 8 year anniversary of Aerial Dance Pole Exercise. That is crazy. I woke up thinking how much that wasn’t the plan when it started (it was supposed to be a hobby business I did for a few years) and how grateful I am that the plan changed. I still can’t believe many mornings that I work for myself at my beautiful thriving company. Dude. How did that happen!
As the sport of pole fitness grows in northeast Wisconsin it is really humbling to know that I’m the root of it. 98% of people who are touching a pole recreationally in the area I either introduced to the sport or are being trained by someone who I introduced to the sport. How cool is that! To think that my love of pole is rippling out and helping women who I never met is a really special feeling. And to know that since that first class with 3 ladies in it we now have 250+ women attend our locations every week is truly amazing. Fun fact, one of the ladies from that very first class, Mylea, is STILL with us 8 years later!!!!
When I moved back from Australia pole didn’t exist in the area. My dad and I put a pole up at my cottage so I could workout but I missed the community of a pole studio. And my homemade pole kinda sucked, it was not the right material and didn’t spin well. At the time I was on Match looking to meet people and one of the guys I was speaking with, Todd, asked what I did to workout. I said Pole and he was the one the put me in touch with Rod at Premier Fitness. Rod had built a pole studio but had no one to teach the sport. So Aerial Dance was born. I’ll always be grateful to Rod and Todd because I don’t know that we would have started without such an easy entry to business.
10 months later we had grown past the point of the gym and needed our own space. We build the first exclusive pole studio in the area at our Appleton location. It was such a leap of faith. At the time I had 30 students weekly and 2 instructors. My dad thought I was nuts. And when I took out a 0% APR credit card for 12 months to charge $4,500 worth of mirrors and $4,000 worth of poles he REALLY thought I was crazy. But I have the best parents in the world. So even though he was sure he’d end up needing to bail me out of my crazy idea, he helped me tear out carpets and paint walls to make Aerial Dance Appleton a reality. And mom, my mom is always up for my crazy ideas. She’s been my business partner from the start. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to my parents and how much they have done for Aerial Dance.
In 2014 I was struggling to rehabilitate from shoulder surgery (not pole related…I’m just injury prone….and accident prone…lol) and was using an aerial hammock to regain range of motion. From that the idea of our Aerial program was born. We were SO LUCKY that our building had more space available at the time that we needed it. And when we couldn’t safely rig from the building and the steel structure’s initial quote came in $20,000 over original projections my mom stepped in (I’ll pay you back someday mom!) and helped make it a reality because no bank was willing to loan money to pole studio….and you’d be surprised how much crap I still have to deal with on that front from the community….but today is all about what I’m grateful for on this journey! The bigger thing I’m grateful for from this time period in the company’s history is that my amazing staff stepped up. Training on pole was a lot. Now they had to train on three more apparatus, some of which they don’t really personally like. 90 minutes of instructor training commitment per week became 3 hours weekly. In addition to the training, bruises and learning, they had to learn how to rig properly and put up heavy poles for studio change over. It was a BIG shift in their responsibilities. And the great instructors were excited about the changes and made the company even better. Instructors Leah & Niki were particularly instrumental in getting Aerial Dance through this change over period. The transition from a pole studio to full circus school was a really big shift and it wouldn’t have happened without their unwavering support and work.
Things were going really well for the next few years. We had amazing staff. We had built an amazing community and we could have rested there and said that was enough. But my amazing staff deserved more. Many wanted more hours and more opportunity. So while I was taking two weeks to clear my head on a boat in Galapagos I came up with our expansion plan. January 7, 2018 I announced to my team my plans to build a facility in Green Bay and gave them the option to become owners. And their excitement and commitment to building our vision is why we now have a second location. Four instructors (Kim, Lynn, Kelly, Olivia) stepped in and put their money in to become owners. The other four instructors (Leah, Niki, Chrissy, Alison) stepped in with the commitment to teach at both facilities, to take on more hours, and to “work equity” their way into ownership sometime in the future (once we figure out how to do that). Without buy-in from all 8 of my instructors in early 2018 Aerial Dance Green Bay wouldn’t have existed. We truly are a TEAM that is making things happen now. And I don’t have to words to tell you how much I love these women. How much their commitment and drive and work is what inspires me daily. Running two companies is hard. I work insane hours. But they make it worth it because they are the kindest most inspiring women I’ve ever met.
And it’s exciting to look to the future. We’ve hired new instructors, who now commit to working more hours and at both facilities. We have plans to expand our aerial program with Advanced Hoop coming soon. We have plans to offer more classes in Appleton to meet our membership needs starting January 2019. We are making the sport of pole in our region better by hosting the US Pole Sport Federation Midwest Regional in April 2019, when all my staff are again stepping in to donate their time to give our community another opportunity. Our team has lots of other cool things in the planning stages too, that you’ll learn about in due time.
But what really excites me on the morning of my 8th year is all the women who choose to come play with us. All the students who spend their time and money at Aerial Dance and are committed to improving their health. We have this amazing community. When I wanted to start a book club in January I thought it would fizzle out after one book or two books but instead the conversations and commitment to meeting are growing stronger. When I wanted to create self-care Sundays to have our members focus on themselves for a hot second I thought it would loose attendance after the second month, but instead we took a break from it for a few months due to summer and students are requesting it to be back on the schedule. It is AMAZING to me what we are creating. In a time in history when women are under attack and being told that we can’t be believed and our experiences aren’t valid we have created a space where women are safe and flourishing. That is what the 8 years means to me. And I’m so grateful to be on this journey with all of you.