What do you do when your business partnership starts to go south? For many entrepreneurs, having a business partner is a huge weight off their backs because you’re able to split responsibilities and lean on each for support. Unfortunately, a partnership does not always play out the way one or both parties expect. Within her first year of business, Karen McIntyre, owner of Pink Ambition Pole Fitness, had to transition from partnership to sole proprietor. What ensued afterward were many moments of doubt, trouble with reorganizing finances, and navigating life as a business owner independently. What got her through it? Her passion for the business and the local support organizations in her community.
Karen started as a pole instructor in 2009 at a local studio in Harrisonburg. A few years later that studio closed, but Karen developed a deep passion for pole fitness. She and another friend from the studio felt the need to keep pole fitness alive in Harrisonburg, so they decided to start a new pole studio. Pink Ambition Pole Fitness opened its doors in 2015, but Karen quickly realized the partnership wasn’t sustainable. After a couple of months, Karen made the difficult decision to dissolve the partnership, “It wasn’t easy going from a partnership to a sole proprietorship. Our taxes were an absolute mess our first year from changing our title,” she recalled. In addition to the financial web she had to untangle, she also lost the ability to bounce ideas off another person and share the workload, “I had a lot of moments of doubt, but I was passionate about pole, and my business, so I just tried to stick it out and make the best of the situation.”
Thankfully, despite losing a business partner, Karen found a lot of business support in her community, “Right after the 2020 pandemic started, I got connected with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance (HDR), because they were giving out grants to help businesses stay afloat. The grant came with a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) advisor who has been great at providing me with guidance.” With this new-found support system, Karen flourished, “By having organizations believe in me and support me, my whole mindset changed. I started putting myself out there more in the community, began networking, and started actually marketing my business.” The SBDC pointed Karen towards SCCF, so she began attending events like Entrepreneurs Off the Clock, and the Shenandoah Valley Entrepreneurship Summit, to learn from and connect with other entrepreneurs. She also became part of Harrisonburg’s B-Cubed program for Black and Brown business owners. Because of the support from these organizations, Karen said, “My business and I have grown more in the past two years than I did in my first five years of business!”
Karen’s passion for pole fitness is about more than pole dancing, “My larger mission is about helping survivors of sexual assault, human trafficking, and eating disorders. I want people to have a safe space in my studio where they can heal from their trauma. Pole helps you connect with yourself and love your body.” In addition to teaching classes, she also wants to hold benefit shows for causes that are important to her, like supporting those affected by the war in Ukraine. Karen described her entrepreneurial journey as, “trust your passion,” because in doing so she was able to push through the hard times to be successful.
Her advice to future entrepreneurs is, “Delegate. Once I was able to release some control of my business and trust other people, I was able to thrive.” She also notes it’s important to keep an eye out for different grant opportunities, “I’ve applied for and received, a couple of grants and they’ve been instrumental in helping me grow my business.”
Pink Ambition is open Tuesday through Sunday, and you can sign up for weekly classes on the website class schedule. If you haven’t been to a pole class before, and don’t know where to start, check out the class description page to see what’s right for you!
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