We talked to: Positively Africana, LLC
We recently had a lovely conversation with Aimee Salmon Lunanga, owner of Africana Dance & Fitness. Check out what she had to say about her business!
Hi, Aimee! Could you give us an overview of your business? What do you love about teaching classes in Northampton?
Hi! My business is Positively Africana, LLC, and we are located in the Pioneer Valley! We offer a variety of vibrant exercise classes in different locations, including at the Northampton Center for the Arts. Our mission is to empower women and to help improve their physical and mental health, as well as their self-image, through movement. We encourage body positivity through our wellness programs, and we believe that when people from diverse backgrounds move together to African-inspired music, they generate a powerful community spirit. Our current classes offer something for everyone, and include Zumba, strength training, Zumba Gold, Afro-Cardio workouts, functional strength, and dance classes for kids.
I’ve been teaching since 2017, starting out with one class as a fitness instructor with another organization. Then, while working on my minor in entrepreneurship, we were asked by our professor to come up with a business plan and start our own companies. And that’s how my vision for Africana Dance & Fitness began! A lot of the work happened in the classroom, and this class project really motivated and pushed me to make my business dream a reality. It also gave me time and space to reflect upon what it means to be a business owner, as well as to do research and explore.
In Northampton, I currently teach at the Northampton Center for the Arts, and I just love bringing my classes to a city I love. I am originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and settling in this welcoming, open-minded, and supportive community has been so wonderful for me. I feel grateful to have found an affordable space—the Center for the Arts is so supportive and encouraging of artists and entrepreneurship. Over time, I know that I will grow and move into a new space, but for now, this just feels like the right place for me to be!
And how are things going in general for your business?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve had to pivot and learn a great deal, just like many other local business owners. I had been teaching all of our classes in person, then had to learn how to shift so that I could continue to serve my clients and keep my business going. I created a space in my basement, which is now a dedicated gym and dance studio, where I could teach Zoom classes. It was a learning experience for sure, but it was also an opportunity for me to learn, grow as a business owner, and realize that I could overcome obstacles and take on new challenges. I didn’t even have a website pre-Covid, and now I have a website, athletic clothing line, and online classes. I am continuing to do online classes for those who prefer them. but am also back to offering in-person classes, which has been wonderful.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered in the past two years since the beginning of the pandemic, both personally and professionally?
I’ve been doing a lot of growing, shifting and learning, both in my business and at home within my family. I’ve been learning to take time for myself and take a step back to get new ideas, perspectives, and come up with new programs I want to offer. In the future, we’re thinking of building our team, and I’d love to have an assistant manager so I can wear fewer hats and really focus on doing what I love, which is teaching classes and expanding the business! I really appreciate the fellow instructors I currently have, as we can fill in for each other, encourage each other, and come up with new ideas.
As a business owner, what do you do to unwind/relax/rejuvenate?
First of all, I feel so lucky to be in a business I love. My clients give me a sense of pure joy, and the fact that I get to teach them movement classes actually feels like an act of self-care to me. Though I still have a lot of marketing to do on my own at this point in time, the exercise aspect feels like a treat on a daily basis. And eventually, I know I’ll have more support when it comes to administrative tasks and marketing!
I’m starting to find ways to take more time out for myself and my family, whether through hiking, engaging in local activities, traveling, or just sitting down and relaxing and reflecting. This year my family actually had the chance to go to Sedona, AZ to hike and be out in nature. It really gave us some time to reset, which is essential for all of us.
Is there anything you’re excited about regarding the business in upcoming months, from events to other things?
We are planning a community fitness master class in late May—three of us will get together in support of our BIPOC program. This program will support low income students and give them the opportunity to take classes at the minimum price. I am always thinking creatively about what lies ahead and getting excited about new business plans and classes. I just keep thinking about how I can move forward; I love trying new things and experimenting, figuring out what works and where things can be improved. I’m just so thankful for being in a career I love and feel passionate about, and I’m overjoyed that I can bring my classes and energy to this amazing community.