After nearly a year of seismic change in the fitness industry we're amplifying the individuals who embody the spirit of kicking butt and inspiring others to live authentically full-out. Ife is a a long-time friend of K-DEER and fellow small business owner from Brooklyn, NY. We sat down to chat about her life as a fitness professional and how she's facing new challenges head-on.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Ife?
My therapist loves this question! Ife is a change-maker in wellness & entrepreneurship. She wants to ensure that Black women are included in the conversation when it comes to health & personal development. She’s never the loudest in the room because she’s busy putting in the work.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the fitness industry?
This is one thing I grapple with. While I’m in fitness, I personally don’t consider myself as having a career in fitness. It certainly seems odd since I’ve built up my personal brand around opening fitness studios, but it was just a need that I saw that required fulfillment.
Back in 2016 I developed a major back injury that required a lot of recovery time and therapy. This is how I was introduced to pilates. Pilates got me moving again and I wanted to give that gift to others. But once I got into it I realized that there was a community of people, largely people who looked like me, that weren’t getting the proper access to quality movement. I took it upon myself to bring it to them by opening up a studio in the middle of Bed-Stuy. I wasn’t some big name…I worked a corporate job for most of my life. I just had a mission - serving my community.
So I guess I would say I ended up pursuing a career in getting underserved populations, particularly Black women, well.
What makes The Fit In Bed-Stuy unique in today's fitness landscape? Tell us about your clientele and what keeps them coming back.
What makes The Fit In unique starts with who you see in the front of the room. It is very rare to see not just women of color leading the front of the room in pilates, strength training, and barre fitness, but it is also rare to see women of varying body types. Our instructors range from thin, to athletic, to curvy and lord knows I can be all 3 in any given week. But we represent reality. So our clients can come in with the ability to see themselves in us.
And from us they get some of the most knowledgeable and experienced instructors in the industry, Instructors that pride themselves on education and having great referral networks. They also get a team who is there to support them and meet them where they are. And this is not just from those in the front of the room but also those who are working out right alongside them. No person is just a transaction as happens in many fitness spaces. Everyone is a person with a name, a body, and a reason they walked in to our spaces. We act accordingly.
How have you adapted your business and teaching style during the pandemic?
On the fitness side, it was just a few days after the lockdown that we launched our on-demand service providing movement options straight to the small screen. Then as soon as we were allowed to, we launched our outdoor workouts, which took off. The ability for people to get away from the constant Zoom life, be outdoors, and be around other people in a socially distanced way brought back the same feeling of being inside The Fit In. It also brought in a massive new clientele. As the NYC winter started to make its appearance, we launched our live Zoom workouts to bridge the gap until we can be outdoors again.
Separate from just fitness, I already had plans on broadening our offering. As I mentioned earlier my career is in wellness, not in fitness, so I wanted to help the community in the complete wellness journey. Bed-Stuy is a food desert as much as it was a fitness desert. So I decided to launch The Shop which I’d describe as a Thrive Market meets Carbon 38 meets DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion). The products we sell not only help you along your journey to a healthier lifestyle, but they are either made by BIPOC brands or brands that have made it clear that they are doing the work in diversity & inclusion.
What's your advice for someone just starting their fitness journey?
If you’re just starting your fitness journey remember that it is yours and no one else's. That means there is no need to compare yourself to anyone else as all of our bodies, our stories and our journeys are different. I would also say to find the movement that YOU enjoy completing (because it’s always hard to enjoy doing it, am I right?). But if you get that euphoric feeling, or that feeling of accomplishment after completing it, then that means you are more likely to return to it.