In April 2017, my husband and I took the biggest risk of our lives. He stood next to me as I signed the lease on what would become Vitality Buffalo.
Can I be totally transparent with you? My husband is an amazing supporter of everything I do. However, this business was a big point of tension in our lives and our marriage. There is a fitness studio on every corner, and convincing him that mine was different was a bit difficult. I cater to moms, and well— he isn’t a mom! So, there was a lot that was hard for him to relate to; the plan wasn’t crystal clear for him.
When I started telling him about my overall vision, he would pull me down from the dream cloud, forcing me back into the NOW. He reminded me over and over again that where you start isn’t where you end, and that we were starting at the bottom.
So, that’s what we did. I looked for the perfect space, because I knew that I wanted the space itself to be different from anywhere you had ever been before. I wanted it to be warm, welcoming, and most importantly pretty. I wasn’t going for a grungy, bare bones gym feel. I wanted a space that would promote growth, both physically and emotionally. I wanted to create a space that felt safe, especially for those who hadn’t been a gym setting in years. Most importantly, I wanted to make the space safe from every woman’s greatest critic; herself. We polished the floors and painted the walls soft lilac and deep eggplant. We ditched the mirrors and went with country chic decor. We created a space that (when freshly vacuumed and cleaned up) makes me feel happy! At the end of the day, isn’t that how we all deserve to feel?
The next thing to set us apart was going to be our playroom. You see, at the time, my oldest was 2.5 years, and my littlest babe was only 7 months. I needed to make this work while being an attentive Mom. If we were going to pour every extra penny we had into the studio, there wasn’t going to be extra for daycare. So, I created a space that would allow not only me to bring the kids, but for other moms to bring their children too. I was forthcoming about the idea that kids would be around. Our members must be tolerant of little people on and off the floor. It’s a stipulation of the space and something they agree to before working out with us. Our model isn’t like a big box gym. Our playroom isn’t separate from the workout space, and it isn’t staffed. Moms can peek into the playroom throughout the workout and pause when they need to. This allows them to “mother” the whole time. We take a village approach in these walls. This means that any mom can jump in and help at any time. This gives our members a chance to finish a set or take a break! We also let the little ones come out and give hugs or join in the workout next to mom. In fact, one of the things I’m most proud of is that your child can workout alongside Mom until the age of 16; this is one of our most valuable contributions to the community. Modeling and participating in intentional movement with your child teaches them habits that can stick for life!
In the two years since we opened, I have learned a lot. The concept has proven to be incredible. We have found that the kids really LOVE coming, which helps to motivate Mom. The kids are given opportunities for socialization and learning; especially important for those who spend the majority of their days at home with Mom. This model alleviates the guilt, especially for working moms. They no longer feel like they have to choose between their children and themselves. They bring their child and they have the opportunity to spend time with them instead of putting them in a staffed kids room. There are invaluable lessons learned everyday by our littles. We are teaching them about fitness, wellness, and making self a priority without actually speaking about it. They watch, they see, and it becomes NORMAL.
In order to stand apart from the rest, I knew I needed to approach my business with complete transparency. I have fully embraced the body positive movement, and stress that there are more to goals than simply numbers on the scale. I strive to help every woman see her worth, flip her mindset, and approach her journey with a level of self love and acceptance. We focus on the good; let’s face it, moms have enough guilt and negativity to deal with on any given day. Working out should not be on the list of things to feel guilty about. So, what does this really mean? It means, who cares if you’re five minutes late or need to leave five minutes early? Who cares if you can’t give 100% today because you were up all night with a sick baby. It means that any and all effort is applauded. We do not follow, believe in, or give life to quick fixes or deprivation. We are in it for the long haul. We learn to accept progress and remember that perfection is just a smoke screen. The best part, in my opinion, is that we are in it together.
For the past two years, Vitality Buffalo has slowly grown. We have gradually expanded our services, our class lists, and business hours. We’ve hired staff and have BIG VISIONS for the future. There are possibilities that we are considering for our next steps, and we are putting ourselves in the position to move forward.
When I think about the next steps, I think about more space. I think about two studio floors under the same roof, allowing us to hold two classes at the same time. I think about finding more space for the kids to workout, allowing them to burn off extra energy physically, instead of simply playing in the playroom. I think about adding a laundry room, showers, and more offices. I am a leader. I am changing the fitness mindset from perfect to self love. I want mental health counseling on site. Better yet, let’s kill two birds with one stone and get a therapy session in while we work out! I want licensed clinical dietitians on staff who align with my nutrition practices, and can take things further than I am able to. I see a full kitchen, where we host classes, cooking seminars and more. I see offices for massage therapists, reiki, acupuncture and other holistic healing methods.
I see us being a staple in the Blasdell community, the way Blasdell Pizza & Ilio DiPalo’s are. I want to give back and I want to do more. I want to host talks for parents on speaking to their children about weight and health. I want to partner on a greater level with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and host more events within our walls. I want tackle eating disorders, co-dependent relationships, personal growth, and promote self love. I want to be a positive force in countless lives, and know that they are better because they walked through our doors. My goals are big; my space is small. The fundraiser we’re gearing up for is to help put us in a position to take on more, sooner, so that we can grow faster and become a bigger player in this community. We NEED to get the word out that your value is not tied to your jeans size. We don’t need to work out to lose weight; we work out because it feels good, because we like the people next to us, and because it makes us better humans. We need to change the message of fitness, so that more people feel success, instead of guilt and failure. We need to change this message now, so that our children don’t grow up with the same insecurities that we did. We need more positivity, more encouragement and more freedom than traditional spaces offer us.
My visions are big, and I simply want to be sure that when the chance presents itself, we are in a position to say yes, and offer the community MORE! The Beer Blast we’re hosting at Kaz’s on Lake Avenue in Blasdell will have drinks, food, raffles, and a ton of love. Join us on July 27th from 7-10pm. Tickets are just $15. This mission is so important— not only to us, but also, our children. Will you help support us through this period of growth?
Tickets are also available at the studio: 3720 S Park Ave in Blasdell.
TABITHA SWEENEY is the founder and owner of Vitality Buffalo. Vitality Buffalo is a family friendly fitness studio dedicated to providing the modern woman with fitness support & lifestyle training.