A Black-owned business in Northampton provides a holistic fitness space

The CEO of Africana Dance Studio shared her mission of providing a holistic space where people can get fit as a community through dance and other workouts

Chris+McLaughlin+%2F+Daily+Collegian+

Chris McLaughlin / Daily Collegian

By Samourra Rene, Collegian Staff

She’s a mom, college student, fitness instructor, business owner and Board of Director; all of the hats that Aimee Salmon wears make it even more admirable when one learns how much she has dedicated to building her fitness brand.

While attending an entrepreneurship capstone class at Mount Holyoke College, Salmon learned about various aspects of business such as marketing and pricing plans. For her class project, Salmon had to start a company. She had previous experience as a fitness instructor training client, so a fitness-oriented business seemed natural for Salmon. The birth of Africana Dance Studio swiftly followed suit in 2017 after Salmon began working on the business website.

A life-long learner, Salmon sought to acquire more credentials and fitness knowledge while expanding her business. Salmon became certified as a Strong Nation High Intensity Interval Training instructor, Zumba Gold instructor and personal trainer, among other certifications. Salmon sought to accumulate the most thorough knowledge she could for her clients, whom she centers her work around.

Her clients’ holistic well-being is of the utmost importance to her, which is why she enjoys sharing her love of dance in classes.

“Dance becomes a language to us, it brings us together,” Salmon eloquently articulated with a gleam in her eyes, as she spoke about her passion for dance. Through dance movement, Salmon was able to connect to her new community in Northampton after immigrating from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She instantly fell in love with the Zumba dance class she took at the Northampton YMCA and desired to provide that same joy and connection to others.

Salmon’s fitness classes are a continuation of her lifelong mission to help people. Her work as the former Administrator of CAMME DRC, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality education to children in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at a reasonable cost, seems worlds away from her current fitness entrepreneurial pursuits, but she still exhibits the same values of education and accessibility through her daily practices.

When asked about the advice she would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, Salmon encouraged those to self-evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and “research and find as many resources as you can to help you be better at whatever you desire to do.” Salmon practices what she preaches and is still constantly learning herself—she has been pursuing her Bachelor’s in psychology and education with a minor in entrepreneurship, organizations & society at Mount Holyoke College.

She finds her psychology classes particularly useful in becoming a better teacher. Her growing knowledge of people’s learning styles has been instrumental to her in growing as a teacher. She recognizes that not only is she a fitness entrepreneur, but a fitness educator. Salmon strives not only to help everyone that steps into her classes meet their goals, but also to provide a holistic experience for them after learning about the connection between mental health and exercise. Salmon prioritizes creating a community first and emphasizing social interactions with one another so everyone can feel connected and comfortable. Her psychology classes have also taught her about eating disorders, which made her aware of the importance of body positivity.

“My clients leave feeling happy and energized after my classes,” Salmon proudly stated.

Salmon wants to spread as much positivity and joy as possible, which is why she aims to make fitness classes accessible. The standard monthly price to have access to all online and in-person classes at Africana Dance Studio is $60. However, through the BIPOC Access program, low-income and minority communities can get a significant price deduction of $10.

“I know what it means to be poor, and I want to help reduce the health inequality in this country,” Salmon said as she described how growing up disadvantaged in the Congo formed her values to create accessibility for health and fitness. Anyone who meets the criteria can sign up for the BIPOC Access program by clicking this link.

Providing opportunities such as the BIPOC Access program motivates Salmon to keep pushing through obstacles. “You have to keep in mind that you are building something bigger than yourself,” she said.

She plans to do just that with her expansion plans, as she is teaching her fitness classes online and in rented studio spaces in South Amherst and Northampton. Her goal for the upcoming years is to have a full-time permanent studio space where there are more trainers and customers in a constant flood of activities working together to build a holistic caring community.

Salmon’s online and in-person classes can be booked here. Her in-person classes are located in South Amherst at Studio 116, 460 W. St and in Northampton at Workroom Theater in the Northampton Center For The Arts on 33 Hawley St.

Samourra Rene can be reached at [email protected]