October 19, 2017

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Local Motion Studio

Shopkeeper Spotlight: Local Motion Studio

Local Motion Studio is dedicated to offering high-quality fitness and dance classes and promoting the multiple benefits experiencing movement and exercise in a variety of ways. Sara Lavan, with an educational and teaching background in dance, Pilates, Franklin Method, and pre- and post-partum fitness, opened the studio in 2012.  Sarah Craig, a fitness enthusiast, became business partner in 2016. She is working toward her group fitness and aerial yoga certifications.

This independently-owned, eco-friendly, warehouse-type studio offers barre, yoga, Pilates, cardio, modern dance, ballet, aerial yoga and a variety of workshops and special classes such as Glowga (glow-in-the-dark yoga with black light), Family Yoga with Pumpkin Painting, and Ab: Rehab (Sara’s signature core workshop). A few blocks away from the King Street corridor, it has a large parking lot with supplemental free side street parking. This is especially helpful for families with kids in tow. Yes, that is right: Local Motion Studio offers child care for morning classes Monday through Saturday in a dedicated, light-filled, electronics-free playroom.

We sat down to chat with owner Sara Lavan.

Why did you decide to open the studio?

After moving to Alexandria from New York City, I spent years trying to find an exercise routine while parenting two small children and getting acclimated to a new area. I was in and out of gyms with subpar child care when I realized that I needed to open a studio with child care. I value the numerous benefits of moving daily in all ways, and find profound inspiration in high-quality movement education. These became the cornerstones of my vision for a studio of my own.

How did you move from your vision to its realization?

I took a business course and supplemental classes at the Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia. Then I was mentored at the Alexandria Small Business Center for three months while fine-tuning my income statements and cashflow spreadsheets and applying for loans. Next, I hired a commercial realtor and looked for spaces. My first space fell through after almost 8 months of negotiations and permitting with the city, and it nearly stopped me in my tracks. I was so deflated. After almost a year I picked myself back up again found our current space. I hired an architect, contractor, lawyer, accountant, and insurance broker. I designed the space and hired teachers and child care staff.

Why did you decide to bring in a partner?

After opening, I went through a divorce and spent the next few years trying to manage a new family dynamic and nurture a new small business. In 2016, it became too overwhelming, financially, emotionally, and logistically, and I reluctantly decided I would shut the doors. This is where Sarah, a student at the time, came in to save the day. It was amazing. I did not even know Sarah. She took classes in the evening, and I worked during the day. Sarah started on our new client one-month unlimited pass ($50) in January 2016 because of our aerial yoga offerings. She had always thought of owning a studio that offered multiple types of classes and she loved Local Motion Studio and could not bear to see it close.

What have been some of the challenges of being an independent small business owner?

Anyone who owns a business knows there are many challenge and they shift often. For us, one of the biggest challenges is how to find new students and get them to come into the door. With the constant shift in fitness trends, we just want to stay relevant while staying true to our mission: having people find movement they love, do it well, and do it for a long time.

What would you tell someone who wants to take a class but is nervous or feels out of shape?

This is the perfect place for you. Our studio believes everyone can move, and should move. It is a community of students of varying ages, fitness levels, and fitness goals. All classes are open level and offer ways to modify to dial back or dial up. What is wonderful is people take the modifications on either end. Competitive energy is not something you will find here. We want to help students find the joy in movement and the many benefits when doing it well. Have any questions about what class might be right for you to start in? Please reach out to us.

How has the studio changed since opening?

I would say it is closer to what I envisioned, and on track with what Sarah has always wanted. We opened with only Pilates and yoga for our adult drop-in classes. We have added all types of movement. Most exciting to me, as a dancer, are the two modern and two ballet classes each week.

One other significant change is the way our children’s dance classes (which I started when I opened) are run. In the business restructure a year ago, I created Local Motion Project, a nonprofit where the children’s dance classes live. Local Motion Project still offers classes at the studio, but also does school outreach programs.

Being right off the King Street corridor, do you have any favorite spots?

I love Old Town and go often on my own, with my family, and with Sarah. Some of my favorite spots are Hank’s Oyster Bar, Don Taco, Hummingbird, and Killer ESP.

Any final message for our readers?

Come in for a class! The first one is free, and if you want to sample them all, we offer a new client one-month unlimited for $50. If you have not worked out in a while and are intimidated by the studio environment, this is for you. If you are bored with your routine, this is for you. If you are getting injured in your current fitness regimen, this is for you. I am amazed every day by the quality of teaching that goes on in this space.

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