Studio Spotlight: Pop Physique NYC
How two women of color embarked on an entrepreneurial fitness journey together.
Elizabeth Taveras and Regine Lahens initially became friends over brunch and barre in 2012, but their friendship has come a long way since then. A year ago, the two women decided to become business partners by purchasing two Pop Physique NYC locations together. Elizabeth and Regine set out to learn the ropes of running a studio while imbuing their locations with a NYC vibe.
Taking over an existing fitness studio and learning the ropes of a new industry was just the first challenge. In March 2020, Pop Physique NYC was among the thousands of fitness studios and gyms ordered to close due to COVID-19. But the friends persisted, following Pop Physique’s quick pivot to virtual classes.
We sat down with Elizabeth and Regine to learn about their entrepreneurial journey, what it’s like to be BIPOC business owners, and how they’ve adapted their business model during the pandemic.
FitGrid: Why did you decide to go into studio ownership?
Pop Physique: We both felt a draw to entrepreneurship and wellness. Our friendship developed over workouts followed by brunch and we loved the ritual of it. We felt empowered after boutique fitness classes and wanted to be part of bringing that feeling to others.
FG: Why Pop Physique?
PP: The Pop Physique workout is so fun and we loved it immediately! When we started looking at studios to franchise, Pop Physique was at the top of our list. Then it turned out that the two NYC locations were for sale, so we jumped at the opportunity.
FG: What was your biggest challenge as new business owners?
PP: Our resources were limited, both from a financial and mentorship standpoint. There are very few women of color in leadership roles in the boutique fitness industry, so it was challenging for us to find mentors that could give us advice on owning a fitness studio. We relied a lot on our family and that’s where most of our financial support came from. The whole process of building the business was very difficult because we didn’t have people with experience in the entrepreneurial fitness space to guide us. Everything at the beginning was trial by fire!
FG: How has the shift to virtual classes been?
PP: It’s been a challenge, but it gave us the opportunity to pivot to online classes sooner than we anticipated. It was something we originally planned to launch within the next year, but COVID-19 made it happen sooner. Our partnership with FitGrid allowed us to get up and running within two weeks of shutdown. Our clients also love getting to know our instructors on a more personal level—pets and kids have become Pop celebrities!
FG: What’s it like running a business with a friend?
PP: It’s been great. We complement each other really well and because we have different strengths we’re able to stay on track. Having a partner to lean on has been especially important during this crazy time.
FG: What has being a black-owned business been like recently?
PP: We saw other organizations trying to make a decision on their stance, but for us, it wasn’t a question. As owners of a brand that’s not known for its diversity, we risked alienating clients by taking a stand. But ultimately, people have stuck with us and those are the people we want in our community.
FG: What have you done to support the greater BLM movement?
PP: We’ve always tried to be active in offering classes that support different causes, but now more than ever we want to encourage people to do good. We’ve intentionally selected organizations related to BLM including Until Freedom, the ACLU, and the Okra Project, and donated 100 percent of the proceeds from these charity-based classes. Even though running a business right now is a struggle, we knew we had to do what we could to support the cause. We feel really good about that decision, despite the sacrifice.
FG: What’s next for Pop Physique NYC?
PP: As new business owners and women of color, we’re paving our own way and we’re excited to see where we’ll take the brand next. Regardless of when we reopen our physical doors, we’ll definitely be keeping virtual classes.
Pop Physique NYC is just one of thousands of studios using FitGrid to keep their fitness communities connected during a pandemic and beyond. Start your 30-day free trial of FitGrid today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lindsay McClelland manages social media and influencer marketing for FitGrid. As a self-proclaimed "people person" who loves group fitness classes for the social aspect, she was immediately drawn to FitGrid for its innovation in keeping fitness communities together during a crisis. Her passion for fitness and wellness brands stems from her personal interests as a yoga teacher, competitive marathon runner, and former collegiate swimmer.
FitGrid is a community management system designed for boutique fitness studios to engage clients on a personal level