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Daily Inspiration: Meet Gail Hatch

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gail Hatch.

Gail, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Back in 2008, I was overworked, overweight, and overwhelmed, with two young kids and a household to manage. A friend dragged me to a Zumba class with the promise of dinner after. I loathed the idea of working out, but I enjoyed the class so much, in short order I was working out five days a week, taking my kids along if my husband was working and couldn’t stay with them. Within about a year of starting Zumba classes, I got licensed to become an instructor and, along with a close-knit group of instructor friends, began teaching Zumba classes all over the Valley, from Sylmar to Sherman Oaks to Woodland Hills.

My group of friends and I were at up to 10 locations per week, teaching at various gyms and dance studios— even at schools and hospitals. We did lots of free events too, trying to get our name out there and establish a reputation. We even did private classes, lugging around boomboxes and teaching in living rooms and backyards. It was exhausting and a challenge for our students to follow us and figure out where we were on any particular day (social media wasn’t a big presence then)

My friend Camille (incidentally my very first Zumba instructor, how cool is that) opened up the studio in March 2012 to give all our students just one place to come take our classes. I really wanted it to be mom-friendly since I could totally relate to the challenges moms face when trying to get in shape and focusing on their well-being while wrestling with the guilt of not devoting every waking minute to the children.

We crossed our fingers hoping that our students would leave their (much cheaper) gyms and come to us – a dance fitness studio specializing in Zumba. We knew that service was one way of setting ourselves apart from the big gyms, so we worked hard on our client relationships and ensuring they had superior experiences at the studio.

The studio was a success, and we quickly built a community- a very positive, energetic, and civic-minded community! The studio started raising money for the City of Hope, Typhoon victims in the Philippines, Hurricane victims on the Gulf Coast, and Kids of Hope. We did shoe and toiletry drives for the homeless, volunteered at a homeless center, even teamed up with Big Sunday to clean up a local elementary school. Toy drives at Christmas and back to school drives for the underserved. We also donate studio time as needed for fundraising events. This activity slowed down during the pandemic, but happily is coming back. Next month, we will be holding our first event to raise funds for a center for Autism, so I’m looking forward to that.

In 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatment later that year, an aggressive course of chemotherapy and radiation following surgery. Camille also faced her own health concerns and left the studio in 2019 to address them. The studio suffered greatly as I tried to continue classes in between cancer treatments – at that point, I was teaching most of the classes at the studio, so I knew if I stopped, there was no way we’d stay open. I was bald and bloated and tired… definitely not ideal for the fitness industry, where peak physical appearance is so valued. Class attendance plummeted for a time.

My students responded with immense support and rallied around… even encouraging me to teach while seated, and soon I was teaching wingless and hatless, shaking my bald head to the beat. The latter half of 2019 was spent trying to recover from the dip is students )and finances) but 2020 started off with a bang until the studio was forced to close on March 16 due to COVID mandates.

For the next 18 months or so, the studio switched to virtual and depended on donations to stay “open”. The bank account fell to less than $200, and I was in a panic as I furiously applied for any loans or grants available, I worried if this was it- time to close. The community rallied again and fundraised to keep the studio open long enough to outlast the COVID shutdown, We barely squeaked by, but we made it!

Today, the studio is just a big ball of happy! We have over 20 classes weekly, all the instructors and students support each other, and we’re getting back in the swing of things as people slowly venture back out into the world.

Despite so many challenges, we made it through. We celebrate our ten year anniversary March 25th!

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The last three years have been the biggest challenge, trying to run a business while undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment wiped me out, but at the same time, having to focus on the studio served as a great distraction from the stress of the illness. I wasn’t able to do as much as the business demanded, and unfortunately financial reserves dwindled. The Covid shutdown was a whole other monster — having to figure out technical logistics to teach virtually was a nightmare, guiding the students to access online classes, maintaining relationships through video… definitely one of the biggest hurdles for me as I’m an introvert at heart. It was all so stressful, and teaching via donations was not profitable – there were days the studio made $3.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am not a trained dancer by any means. Never joined a drill team or dance squad. I actually would never choose to work out as an activity. I generally avoid groups of people. I’m kinda chunky and I’m pushing 50.

But— turn on some music and I’m ready to dance, and I’m gonna take you along with me. I’m most proud when my students- shy and hesitant at first- move confidently and with joy. When my 50+ ladies are proud of their defined muscles when I see men and sons dance alongside their wives and mothers.

I teach Zumba and Weight-Training classes. If you come into the studio, you will be treated with respect, you’ll have the time of your life, and I will remember your name. You will make friends, and your troubles disappear for the time being. It truly is such a warm and happy place.

What matters most to you? Why?
What matters most is that I want the studio to be a place where people feel a sense of belonging. I want them to be happy and secure, to know they are in good hands and among friends. When they feel good, they can focus, and when they focus, they can achieve.

Pricing:

  • First class is free
  • 10 classes for $100
  • 20 classes for $170
  • 30 day unlimited pass $125
  • Single class fee: $12

Contact Info:

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