If you live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area and are interested in fitness, you’ve probably heard of Freedom Cycle, a new spin cycle studio in downtown Kitchener. It’s the creation of Alana Arthur, a locally-based spin cycle enthusiast, who brings her energy and desire for inclusivity to the space.
Innovate Inclusion’s Social Media and Marketing Coordinator Valerie Chong sat down with Alana for a chat about her entrepreneurial journey.
VC: You’ve worked in corporate Marketing roles for a while now. What made you decide to start your own business?
AA: I’m currently a Marketing Manager. I love what I do so I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. I grew up with conservative, immigrant parents who believed in working a 9 to 5 job at a good company. But after a while, I realized that I wanted to explore personal and business opportunities focussing on something I loved when I wasn’t at work.
VC: What circumstances pushed you to take this step in your career?
AA: I’ve always wanted to open my own fitness studio. I grew up playing a lot of recreational and competitive sports, which impacted my life by keeping me on a good path and out of trouble. I developed a competitive nature from that. I moved to Kitchener a year and half ago. This city has an interesting small business vibe to it – definitely much more than other cities that I’ve lived in. When I moved here, I didn’t know anybody. I eventually connected with some incredible people who motivated, encouraged, and emotionally supported me on my journey to opening Freedom. There are so many wonderful small business owners here and we all help each other. In 2019, I felt that I was in the right place in my personal and professional life to go for it. So I just jumped in and did it.
VC: What were some of the challenges you encountered when getting Freedom Cycle up and running?
AA: It sometimes felt like I was going up an internal mountain. Freedom Cycle was always on my mind, a lot of sleepless nights. Imagine trying to start a business in a new city where you don’t know anyone. Why would anyone want to trust you, support you and in some cases even talk to you? I had it a bit tough in that regard. I had to sell people on ‘me’ before I could sell them on Freedom. Yes, I am educated, yes, I have a great job, yes, I am articulate and yes, I belong here too! I am still selling myself to this day, but it is getting easier. No one talks about those types of struggles in entrepreneurship.
VC: Did you experience any challenges or barriers as a Black woman? How do you deal with them?
AA: It does have an effect on what you’re doing. You’re scrutinized a bit harder, and people are more skeptical. There are preconceived notions that people carry about [Black people]. It was definitely challenging, but I always knew it was going to be there. You grow up seeing injustices that happen amongst people of colour and you know what to expect. I’ve realized it’s not just about intellect and having a good product – it’s a lot about discovering who you are and what you can take. I press through and hope that my business plan, personality and energy is enough to allow people to come in as they are, without judgement. It may take me longer to win people over, but I work through it. Having people in your corner supporting you is the game changer. I’m very rooted in my Canadian-Trinidadian culture. My journey of self-discovery has made me very confident in what I’m doing. I stick with what’s authentic to me; for example, a big cultural aspect of Trinidad is celebrating carnival. It’s the most freeing experience. People of all backgrounds wait all year to feel this beautiful, uncontrollable sense of connectedness to freedom. Trini people have this sense of openness, where they welcome any and everyone! That’s what Freedom Cycle was built on. That’s the way I want people to leave my studio feeling.
VC: That’s a wonderful, open way to approach the world.
AA: Definitely, working to Freedom has changed my perspective on the inequality around us. Truthfully, I used to simply exist while injustice swirled around me. Like walking into predominantly white institutions and hearing the N-word blasted across their sound system. It’s hard to stay silent…It didn’t feel right silently sitting by while one person is not given the same advantages as another. If people don’t have their community as the support system they need, society is against them before they even start. That’s why I have made Freedom Cycle a completely inclusive space. Everyone is welcome in the studio. Our first priority is to help you achieve your fitness goals and to overcome any intimidation you might be feeling about group fitness or cycling in particular. Freedom Cycle has created a truly multicultural space for people to come as they are. That’s reflected in our company culture, the music we play during classes, and everything else we do.
With a lifelong passion for fitness, Alana has been able to go beyond transforming the body, but more intuitively, encouraging a life of intention and freedom through movement and sweat. As Founder, Owner and Operator of Freedom Cycle, her guiding principles led to the development of an indoor cycling studio that proudly contributes to the community and sweat collective of Kitchener and Waterloo through diversity and inclusivity in fitness.