New Jersey Fitness Studio Thought Outside the Box To Help Women Get Fit and Have Fun Amid Pandemic
We here at GOBankingRates want to help get our nation’s small businesses back on their feet after the COVID-19 pandemic. To do that, we’re highlighting readers’ favorite small businesses around the country, and shining a spotlight on what makes them special to their customers and their towns.
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In this edition of our Small Business Spotlight series, we’re featuring Warrior Goddess Fitness in Elmwood, New Jersey, a boutique fitness studio whose primary focus is on empowering and uplifting women through wellness and fitness. Owned by Hollye A. Richardson, the studio offers a variety of exercise, dance and wellness activities to improve the physical body and psyche while providing women with a sense of safety, pride and fun. Here, we chat with Richardson about how fitness helped her overcome difficulties in her own life, how her background in retail helped her succeed as a business owner and why being able to laugh at yourself is an essential part of being an entrepreneur.
Was there a particular moment or experience that inspired you to start your business?
2017 and 2018 were traumatically stressful periods in my life. In May 2018, I had just completed my six-month check-up after battling stage three breast cancer (chemo, mastectomy, radiation) while at the same time experiencing a volatile divorce. During that time, I had the support of my family and friends. I was a single mother, in debt as a result of my husband at the time spending the insurance money meant for my medical treatment, in addition to having to pay attorney fees for an out-of-state divorce. I temporarily went on welfare to support myself and my daughter, and fitness was something I could always rely on to maintain my sanity. Those experiences catapulted me to realize my true purpose, which is to empower and support other women like myself with high stress in their lives by providing a community of wellness that is led by women, and whose main purpose is to provide an outlet where women could go to unwind and be nurtured — all while getting fit.
What did you take from past experiences or jobs that you knew you wanted to be a part of your new business?
The ability to provide quality customer service and an overall experience for clients. Prior to my career in fitness, I was an assistant manager at Kenar New York, an upscale women’s boutique in midtown [Manhattan] and Kenneth Cole Productions. Both companies focused on providing superior customer service for their clients by providing an experience where they felt valued. That is one of the main things I want all to experience when they come in for a class or one of our holistic services — to feel a sense of community where they enjoy being and want to spend as much time there as possible.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of being a business owner?
The most rewarding aspect of being a business owner is knowing where we began, knowing where we are (especially post-pandemic — we survived and are still thriving), and where we intend to go. I love seeing how the community we have built has taken on a life of its own and continues to grow. It’s so fulfilling.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
The pandemic helped us to become resilient, to revise our purpose. We were at a point where our attendance was growing, hence our bottom line was beginning to expand, and then, wham! It all stopped. At that point everyone had to reinvent themselves, to think outside of the box and learn new strategies to stay somewhat afloat. Financially, we are still struggling each month to cover the costs to make ends meet (rent, payroll, utilities, etc.). We never qualified for PPP and hopefully, in the next round, we will be able to get some help. But, by the grace of God and unrelenting faith in the value of what it is we offer, we are still here — celebrating our third anniversary!
How can people continue to support your business during this time?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
I would tell them to 1) Keep positive, supportive people around you. You are going to realize who truly wants to see and help you succeed. More than likely it will not be who you think. When the tough times come, they will. That’s who will have your back! 2) Do not allow obstacles to deter you. 3) Do your homework, research your market, break everything down into steps or small attainable goals, and just be steadfast. Take small incremental steps to propel forward. And 4) Make sure that you love what you do and just allow yourself to have fun while doing it. Be able to laugh at yourself.
Do you have a small business you want to see in this spotlight? Just let us know.
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This interview has been edited for clarity.