It’s stressful enough being an entrepreneur. But imagine being a new entrepreneur–not even in business for a year–and you have to abruptly shut down your operation. That is what happened to Regina Armand, aerialist, USPDF Pro, and owner of The Aerial Loft in Long Island, New York. Armand, an eight-year aerial enthusiast, fell in love with the art of pole dancing after looking for new ways to be active. She grew up running track, dancing and cheerleading, but after high school she took a semester off to explore what she wanted to do. She ended up taking a pole-dancing class after seeing a YouTube video and got hooked from there.
Armand continued exploring her new hobby and adding on. She tried and mastered pole, hoop, aerial silks, flexibility and more, to the point where she realized that it could be a fulltime job. She landed gigs performing for the likes of Snoop Dogg, Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion among others, while also honing her skills as an instructor. After apprenticing at Body and Pole, the biggest aerial studio in New York City, Armand was inspired to make her dream of owning an aerial studio a reality.
She worked with a realtor to find the ideal location, but finding a studio space wasn’t easy for a variety of reasons.
“That portion of the process was extremely stressful,” Armand tells AURN, “because the places I would go to–it would either be: I would see a space, I fall in love with it, and then I would go back and it’s like, someone else already took the space; or I would go see a space and something wasn’t right. We would go through with the process where we were almost at the point [of signing] the lease, and then they back out and say something like, ‘I just feel like you’re so young. You have your whole life to do this. And I just don’t know if I want to rent this space out to you for three to five years because you are too young.’”
Armand adds, “It was so weird because some of them never even knew my age. I know for some people I look younger when I wear my hair in a bun, but I was 26 at the time which, granted, may be a little young to open up a business. But not really. It was crazy.” Eventually, Armand found the perfect space and launched The Aerial Loft. For a solid eight months, she had a fully functioning schedule of classes such as flexibility training, aerial hoop, aerial silks, pole dancing, and more—and loyal clients who helped her build her ideal community.
“A lot of my loyal clients came from over the years of me teaching at different spaces,” says Armand. “So, because I have been doing this—I’ve been teaching in Queens, I was teaching in Long Island and I was teaching in Manhattan—so those clients stayed with me in every studio that I went to. It was really beautiful to then see them all come into my space and them sticking with me all those years when I taught at different studios.”
And when she had to temporarily close her business due to COVID, they rode it out with her. Armand describes the feeling of uncertainty during this period as terrifying, but she decided not to panic and, instead, figured out ways to survive. Through a combination of grants, working out a deal with her landlord, and hosting online classes, Armand was able to keep her studio afloat.
“I appreciate the whole aerial community for so many reasons,” she says, “and it’s like—it’s easy to just kind of bypass it and get caught up in the everyday life of things. But it really is that whole community who helps with my side work or my career as a person outside of The Aerial Loft. And that’s also what helped me to still create income. That comes from those people who support me in the community. So, I’m always just really grateful for the community.”
July 8th marked The Aerial Loft’s one-year anniversary, as well as the day it reopened after being shut down since March. New cleaning measures have been put in place, and everyone is required to wear a mask—even during classes. Despite the changes, students are returning, and everyone is happy to be back weathering a new normal for now. For Regina, the key to maintaining is staying positive. “I always try to look at the brighter side of things. And yes, you go through your moods, but I always know in my heart and in my mind that things will get better. We’ll be in a better space. I also feel like I’m not in the worst position. Yes, it’s hard, but people are going through worse things than me. So, I just feel hopeful.”