BY BILL PHILLIPS
Effortless grace and style.
That’s the only way to describe Angel Stewart as she lifts herself into the air and glides, seemingly weightless, through one of her aerial fitness routines. It may seem effortless, but behind it all is strength, determination, dedication, and a lot of hard work.
“It was something that I loved, I still love,” she says. “I had friends coming over and they wanted to learn. And then they started ask if they could bring friends over. I wasn’t teaching, we called them ‘pole jams.’ My entrepreneurial brain kind of kicked in and said this is something that people want to learn.”
That was in 2007 and Angel’s Aerial Fitness was born.
“In the beginning, I never expected it to get it where it is,” she says, adding she felt it would always just be something she did on the side. Then, in 2010, she opened her first studio on Quinn Street offering a people a different way to get fit. From there she moved to a studio on Ogilvie Street.
“It just grew from there,” she said. “And now this is my whole life. This is my happy place.”
Angel’s Aerial Fitness is now located on First Avenue and Stewart is very pleased with the new locale.
Things, however, weren’t always easy. When Stewart started out, not only did she have to deal with all the trials and tribulations of starting a business, she had to deal with negative perceptions as many people associated it with pole dancing at a strip club.
“The first few years were hard for me,” she said. “There was a lot of stigma around what I did that I had to fight really, really hard and I got through it. I’m a stronger person because of it.”
The best part of what she does, she says, is watching the progress of her clients.
“That is the reason I exist, it’s next level,” she says. “I love teaching, but is 100 per cent watching, predominantly women, come in a little bit shy and not really sure of what they’re getting themselves into and then a week, a month later they’re standing up taller, they’re confident in themselves.”
She says they have had women stop taking their anxiety medications after a few sessions of aerial fitness.
“It’s not like this place is magical, but there’s something about the community in this place,” she says. “It’s the fitness, it’s the people, we all encourage each other, we call ourselves a family. That’s the reason I can never give up the studio, watching that progression of people grow internally as well as through their physical fitness level.”
Like any fitness program, you’re never too out of shape to get started. The strength needed for aerial fitness is evident, but it’s something that comes with practice. It’s not needed to get started.
“I constantly get told ‘I don’t have a lot of upper body strength’, or ‘I’m not very strong,’ or ‘I’ve got to lose some weight first,’” she says. “My gut reaction is, if I only taught coordinated strong flexible people I would’ve been out of business years ago. I couldn’t touch my toes when I started. I couldn’t lift myself off the floor. Everybody starts from Ground Zero, and they build from there. How fast they grow is entirely up to themselves. Literally anyone can do this.”
One of the keys to her success as a businessperson is that she is constantly learning and she’s not joking when she says her pleasure reading includes books on marketing and entrepreneurship.
She is going to a pole expo in Las Vegas this fall so she can learn more about the business. In addition, she will be holding workshops in Red Deer in Edmonton later, which also helps her learn.
She will be doing some contortionist training in several different countries over the next year and bringing that back to Prince George.
“I’ll be making some very, very bendy people here in Prince George.”
And, for the second year in a row, she will be performing at the Iron Ore Classic September 22.
“I’m performing during the halftime show on the pole on the stage,” she says. “I’m choreographing it and taking some posing classes, I’m going to incorporate some posing into the show.
“It will be a light performance, I want to keep everybody’s mood up because everybody’s stresses are up on show day. I want to have some fun with it.”
Stewart has also caught the attention of the Brink Group of Companies which has named her as Entrepreneur of the Month.
“It’s a gym, it’s very fitness-oriented, it’s about staying in shape, the aerial fitness program is unique in this area,” says John Brink, Founder and CEO of the Brink Group. “I’m very impressed.”
Brink, who now owns 10 companies, appreciates the hard work that goes into building your own company.
“The misconception that people have about being an entrepreneur is that your primary preoccupation is bringing money to the bank and planning holidays,” he says. “There is nothing further from the truth because it involves all the other things such as laying awake at night, thinking about your business plan, wondering what will happen next, and hard work. I’ve learned to sleep fast, work long hours. It’s not easy, but if you do the right thing, and follow the right path, and with hard work everything is possible.”
Being a successful entrepreneur also involves having the right mind-set.
“It takes the right attitude, never, ever give up,” he says. “You set a goal and you pursue that, you stay on course.”