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Meet Akila Wilkerson-Doby of Barbellettes in South Central

Today we’d like to introduce you to Akila Wilkerson-Doby.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I grew up in South Central and I have always been passionate about fashion and sewing as a child. I went to Downtown Magnets High School, the only high school with a fashion program in LA. From there, I have done my fair share of fashion shows, bridal alterations, custom gowns, pattern making, etc. but I wasn’t quite sure what part of the industry I wanted to continue to do professionally. My latest fashion show was for my streetwear line that was ready for production and I had worked very hard to pull it off with a few month’s notice and a full-time job! Shortly after the show, I found out I was pregnant and that moment changed my life for the better. I got into health and fitness pretty heavily after I gave birth to my child. I became very passionate about being healthy for him and making sure that he too was as active as he can be. My son has food allergies and so I also changed my diet to accommodate him.

At that time, I had just signed up for a gym membership and realized I needed gym clothes. Then I thought, I should just sew my own gym leggings and outfits! Right then is when I decided to start an activewear line. After many months of putting in the work and seeing the results of being committed to my health, I created Barbellettes. Virtual fitness training with personalized fitness and meal plans. I encouraged fitness as self-care and wanted to emphasize the importance of recovery as well so I designed rest & recovery products. I wanted to help other women feel great about their bodies by giving them the tools to reach their goals.

Has it been a smooth road?
The path to opening Barbellettes has been very difficult. I am already an indecisive person so each unavoidable setback took a while to recover from. I went through many business names and ideas. My first clothing line was named Pink Streetz and literally three days after launch I found out I was pregnant so I was unable to continue with production because I began working around the clock getting ready for my child. I attempted to continue with Pink Streetz as a fitness company but marketing was very difficult for me. I felt as though I had rushed to re-open. I went back to the drawing board and was even contemplating opening a soap company! After researching for weeks, I finally settled on a full virtual fitness brand and Barbellettes was born.

Even after re-branding my company and getting a larger space for my family and my company, I experienced my largest setback. All of my business property was stolen along with my vehicle and I had to start over from the very beginning. That was the most heartbreaking loss to me because everything that represents my fashion career was gone. Every project, all my merchandise and my intellectual property was gone, just like that. The recovery was also a difficult experience. Due to the pandemic, many of my vendors were closed or struggling to remain open with 1-4 employees fulfilling orders. I was very patient and once I got the supplies and materials, I began to rebuild. I wanted to show my son that his mother is a fighter! I was not going to let any of the setbacks stop me after I put in 13+ years to get where I am.

Please tell us about Barbellettes.
Barbellettes Academy is a virtual fitness company that offers customized fitness and nutrition plans, activewear and rest & recovery products. Designed specifically for women who are looking to change their habits and get in shape. I offer text support, follow along videos and accountability check ins. I cannot stress enough the importance of rest and recovery so I designed two products, Muscle Rub massage bar and Tub Rest bath salts. Both are formulated to release tension in the muscles and aid in speedy recovery from intense activity. I specialize in custom weight loss plans as well as 1 on 1 coaching to reach those body goals. I am very proud of the rest and recovery products I created and I feel as though that will set us apart from other fitness brands. As a black-owned business, I am very proud to deliver my passion to my community and I love the support! The fact that everything is hand made and properly executed is also something I am very proud of.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The pandemic has changed the fitness industry drastically almost overnight. Face to face sessions have been almost eliminated and most people are working out at home. So virtual fitness training is making a lot of noise in the industry at this time. The changes are not predictable at a time like this and the recovery of the face to face fitness industry will take a while with the new sanitation guidelines in place. However, those who are 100% committed to their health will always find a way to push forward and that is what keeps me motivated to stay in the fitness industry. Fitness is not a trend, its a lifestyle and virtual fitness training will be advancing quickly in the next 5-10 years.


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