Millennials face a constant torrent of accusations from older generations, ranging from their calling us “lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow” to their blaming us for the current state of the diamond industry. The system is stacked against us, with one of the most common fears of our generation being whether or not we will be able to support ourselves. Lauren Wills answered that question in the most gutsy way possible: if your field isn’t hiring, “you go and make a job.”
Granted, it was hardly that easy. The 25-year-old owner and co-founder of Amethyst Dance & Fitness, located at 733 Johnson Street in downtown Victoria, worked as a registered massage therapist for two years starting in 2012. At the time she moonlighted as a contracted dance teacher, starting with belly fit and chair dancing and expanding to other types of dance. It was a passion that had helped her learn to feel comfortable in her own body, and a passion that she wanted to share. When she and future business partner Sarah Wilson realized that they could rent their own space for the fees they were already paying to teach, their path was set. They signed a three-year rental contract that provided them with an office and three studios which they then rented out to contractors. These contractors then charged whatever they deemed fit for the class they teach, which can range from a monthly fee for the pole dancing class on Tuesday evenings to “by donation” for acro yoga on Sunday afternoon. The goal is to provide an affordable space for renters. “Contractor income should be far greater than what they are giving to me,” says Wills.
One of the most surprising parts about their venture is that neither woman took out a loan to finance it. For the first year, they both invested money out of pocket into it, but it has grown to the point where it now covers itself.
While Wills covers the dance side of the business, Wilson is spearheading a new initiative. In early 2017, Amethyst Dance & Fitness began to offer counselling services and hypnotherapy during regular business days. Wilson is certified in both practices and wants to maintain their current business philosophy. In Wills’ own words, they “never want to be corporate.” Because she didn’t grow up in the dance world and did not take her first class until after high school, Wills wants to foster a “community centre feel” where “every class is beginner friendly.”
“I want people who have never worked out before or done a sexy dance class to not feel judged and to make friends.” Wills recounts how she cried in her first week of belly dancing and wants to ensure that no one else has an experience like that.