Mel Blaine is at the front of the room wearing a lime green shirt, blue leggings and pink bike shoes that match her studio. She’s teaching a small class, but you could never tell. She keeps them pumped with the same energy she’d have if it were a full class.
Everyone is sweaty and breathing heavily, but Blaine makes sure they keep pushing. At one point, she hops off her bike and walks back and forth to make sure the crowd keeps pedaling. “Level Up” by Ciara is playing as they do sprints. Blaine is encouraging and singing at the same time. “You can do it. Push to that RPM [revolutions per minute] that you haven’t reached yet in class! Level up! Level up!”
After class is over, she asks how the riders held up, and you can see her teacher side. You can see that this is more than just a business. To Blaine, it’s about helping people grow and reach their goals.
Blaine is a research biologist and the owner of Posh Cycling and Fitness in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She originally moved to the Washington area to work in an immunology lab. Teaching cycling started as a hobby and turned into a dream.
She was dissatisfied with the spin classes that she attended, including the instructors and what she felt were dangerous moves. “Instead of complaining, I said to myself, ‘Why don’t I just go get certified?’”
Instructors told Blaine that she had the personality for teaching classes, so she took their advice. She taught at different gyms in the area and eventually realized she wanted to open her own.
“I started falling out of love with science and more in love with fitness,” Blaine recalled.
She had been involved in athletics throughout her life; playing sports like softball and basketball. She often ran, doing multiple marathons. She even had a goal of running one in every state. Spin classes were just another way to keep herself in shape. Her activity faltered only when she injured herself running when she first moved to the D.C. area and was unable to exercise for a year while recovering.
Blaine’s athleticism shines in her studio as well. She is even a certified instructor in most of the classes she offers, just in case she ever needs to step in for an instructor. Not only does Posh offer spin classes, but her fitness center also provides a slew of other classes like boxing, Zumba, belly dancing and yoga.
She shared her business idea with her husband when they started dating. “I told him what I wanted to do, and he really pushed me.” They started working toward the business non-stop about a year ago, she says. She also pitched her business to the mayor of College Park, Md., Patrick Wojahn, and got full support from him and the community throughout the process.
It was not always a perfect journey. Blaine says she encountered numerous roadblocks. She had to apply for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan three times, and demo day was not what she had hoped it would be. She says it was just like the home renovation shows where anything that can go wrong does.
“Unfortunately certain cities or counties, I should say, don’t make it easy for a small business owner to open,” says Blaine, who voiced her concerns to the county about the need to walk entrepreneurs through the process and make it more clear cut.
Blaine eventually overcame the roadblocks and held the grand opening for Posh in November of 2018. She not only wants to help people get in shape, but she also wants to help the community grow. That’s why she chose to open her shop in North College Park so she can help to raise property values by bringing more businesses to the area. She describes the neighborhood as the “forgotten child of College Park.” She has held days of service and charity events to benefit the community.
Seated in the front of her studio space, Blaine is surrounded by various versions of pink and black. Music is blaring in the background, switching from Bruno Mars to Michael Jackson to Calvin Harris. As people come and go, she greets them by name and with a smile. A budding instructor whom she is mentoring is waiting for her. Blaine lets her in the spin studio to practice. She’s been training her to become certified to teach spin classes.
“I want to help build up my instructors in any way they want,” Blaine says, including encouragement to open their own business or even another Posh. She’s learned valuable lessons that she wants to share.
Being a black woman who owns a spin and fitness studio has met Blaine with some adversity. People do not expect her to be the owner, because of the perception that cycling is a “white person’s activity.” She has had to keep proving herself, because she felt as if people were not taking her seriously.
For those who are thinking of owning a business, she recommends trying their hardest to execute their ideas and remembering the process is not going to be warm and fuzzy. Don’t let the days that make you question your decision stop you from a potentially life-changing experience, she says.
“Don’t let fear be something that holds you back.”
Josyana Joshua is based in Washington, D.C., and writes for the HUNewsService.com.