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Alicia Sokol opened her barre3 location in Washington DC after a series of career pivots. As an equity analyst, she never set out to be a fitness instructor or business owner. Through self-reflection, she realized that studio ownership meant she could fully express her values in a meaningful way. She opened her studio to help people find a movement practice that not only feels good but nurtures a supportive community.
As a kid, one thing Sokol struggled with was a sense of belonging—which is precisely why she created a place where simply walking through the door validates acceptance. Alicia's always striving to bring versatility to her community through connecting people from all different backgrounds. She's consistently motivated by what barre3 has brought to individuals—it's a challenging and effective workout, but more importantly, it's the practice of feeling our intuition and following it accordingly.
We recently chatted with Alicia to learn more about her and how she views the world of wellness.
I was slow to find joy in movement. As a kid, I shied away from sports. I don't have a competitive nature and I was an awkward kid—always picked last in gym class! A friend invited me for a run along Lake Michigan when I was in college—that was the first time I realized the healing power of movement. I felt so alive! I remember thinking: why didn't anyone tell me this was a thing? I have always enjoyed movement that doesn't require hand-eye coordination or special skills. I also tend to enjoy movement that is meditative and allows me to be in nature—running, hiking, swimming, and paddleboarding.
My career path has been a series of pivots. Each opportunity has been a chance to learn about myself. I started my career as an equity analyst at an investment bank—it was what I thought I should do with my undergraduate finance degree. I never set out to own a business. I never set out to be a fitness instructor! But through a series of asking tough questions and connecting with what makes me feel purposeful and alive, this is exactly where I have ended up.
Owning a barre3 studio has allowed me to fully express my values in a way that is meaningful to me. My studio is staffed by kind, wise people who love what we do. We are a place that instantly welcomes anyone who wants to be a part of what we're all about. I'm constantly trying to diversify our community—a wider range of ages, shapes, sizes, goals, experiences, backgrounds. Moving together helps us see that we all crave the same thing—a sense of belonging, a space to express ourselves, to be seen and heard, to know we are loved just as we are. My favorite part of my work has always been teaching barre3 classes. My studio is now 5 1/2 years old, and this is still what I love to do best.
Even though I went to business school, I never set out to be an entrepreneur. When I discovered barre3, I was working as a freelance writer and photographer and exploring a more creative path to my career. I had two small children and I knew it was time to make yet another career pivot. barre3 provided peace at a time in my life when running hurt and I needed both an effective workout and an endorphin release. I fell hard for the workout (tough), the community (kind), and the feeling of being in the studio (better—ways better!).
One of the reasons I opened my studio was to help people find a movement practice that felt good and a community that felt supportive. You don't need to be a dancer. You don't need to be fit or flexible. This workout is truly for any human body. As a kid, I struggled mightily with belonging. I wanted to create a place where simply walking in the door permitted belonging and support. I am always so happy to hear people say, "I've never been able to stick to a workout routine, but this is the first exercise I've really loved! I WANT to do this!"—that was the feeling I was going for.
On a day-to-day basis, I'm motivated by what barre3 has brought to people's lives. Yes, it's a tough and effective workout. But more than that, it's a practice of feeling and responding to our inner voice. It's been a tough couple of years, and for most of us, it would be easier to just go numb. What we are doing in class is permitting ourselves to feel the uncomfortable physical sensations, and in doing so, giving ourselves permission to face the uncomfortable mental work of being human. We all need that. We all struggle at some point. I love to see our community members find love and acceptance of their bodies just as they are. Diet culture has made it difficult for us to do that, and it puts us in a state of constantly trying to change and improve. I love to see people stand a little taller and become more confident in who they are.
I also love to hear when people have been able to use their voices more effectively because of the work they are doing in class, which is all about listening to one's own voice. Over the years the studio has been open, my clients have developed the courage to ask for a promotion, leave a toxic relationship, come out as gay, apply to grad schools, start new businesses, and so much more. When they connect the work they did at barre3 to the courage to do those scary things? Chills. Every time.
To me, wellness is a continuum rather than a destination—kind of like "balance.” It takes constant attention and continued work. There is no getting there and staying there. When I was younger, I thought of wellness as something that was much more physical—staying active, getting enough sleep, eating nutrient-rich foods, enjoying some treats. But now I see wellness as much more complex—the mental component is substantial.
I have also noticed that when the mental health piece is off-kilter, it impacts the physical! I discovered that when I had a pain in my back "for no reason"—oh, there was a reason. And it had nothing to do with the mechanics of my body and everything to do with sorting out some stressors in my life. That was a serious a-ha moment for me. I am the mother of teen boys (the hardest work I have ever done!) and I think it's important to show them how I process emotions in a very real way. Even just saying "I'm feeling frustrated right now because ___" or "I'm sad because ____" or "I'm angry right now, and I need to _____ to deal with my anger." It makes everyone uncomfortable, to say the least. But I hope they are taking note somewhere deep in their brains and seeing that being able to recognize, sit with, and process our emotions is at the core of our mental health. There is no ticket to overall wellness without that.
If you’re in the DC area, you should definitely check out Alicia’s barre3 location to help you advance your wellness routine. Not in the area? No worries—barre3 offers live stream studio workouts that can be done at home. Or find a studio near you at one of more than 150 locations sprinkled all over the US (in cities like Seattle, New York City, and Austin—just to name a few) and Canada. They even offer a complete virtual membership for folks who prefer to work out at home—so everybody has a chance to get that barre3 experience they are known for. Ready to lengthen and strengthen with Alicia and her team? Book barre3 classes on the Mindbody app.
February is Black History Month—a celebration of the achievements and contributions of African Americans in society. As the beauty and wellness industry becomes a more welcoming and inclusive space for all, we are taking this opportunity to continue to shine a light on the gap of inclusivity and diversity in our industry, and take action to promote, empower, and honor the Black community that shapes and grows wellness.
While the beauty industry is making improvements—it's important to showcase and support Black businesses and the creatives in this space every day. To honor them, we're shouting out some of our favorite Black-owned beauty and wellness businesses to support.
Beauty Bin is a full-service day spa and dry bar located in Asheville, NC. With a focus on inclusivity for people of all backgrounds, genders, and races, their MO is to match the outer beauty of every client to their inner beauty. From eyelash extensions and hydrafacials to waxing and massage, Beauty Bin is a one-stop-shop for all the spa services.
The KIKA Method® is a gentle assisted stretching process that loosens up tight muscles freeing your body from pain and stress. By practicing this method, clients can experience decreased muscle tension, increased energy, enhanced flexibility, a substantial reduction in stress, improved posture and relaxation, and increased mental clarity. While its headquarters is located in Las Vegas, NV, they have multiple locations sprinkled throughout the US, including Atlanta, New York City, and Dallas—just to name a few.
At Kimberly Coleman Salon, their philosophy begins with promoting healthy tresses, elegant sets, unique accouterments, perfect pampering of hands and feet, and precision cuts. Known for working with models and celebrities, they fully appreciate and celebrate the diversity of their clientele which also includes super moms and warrior dads.
Pressed Roots was developed with the simple concept in mind—that everyone deserves access to easy, and quality hair care. What started as a single pop-up shop in Boston, grew to a multi-city pop-up tour, and is now slated to be the largest national hair salon franchise specializing in the care and styling of highly textured hair, they launched their first flagship location in Dallas, TX.
Jersey City resident, Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez started SW3AT. The company began as a fitness apparel line in 2015 but evolved into a sanctuary catered to health and wellness now known as SW3AT Sauna Studio—the first infrared sauna studio in Jersey City. The healing power of infrared heat therapy is a phenomenal option for holistic health proven to strengthen the immune system and provide relief from joint stiffness and muscle pain. It is also supportive of any fitness program as it aids in weight loss (you can torch up to 900 calories in a 45-minute session) while also detoxifying your body from some of the most harmful toxins.
Kelli Coleman and Anika Jackson opened The TEN Nail Bar in Detroit to address a void in their city. They saw a need for a quality, modern nail bar that could also serve as a fun social space for Detroit’s residents and professionals. They designed the TEN to provide their clients with a #Perfect10 experience—where you can relax, enjoy music, a drink, your friends, a clean and precise manicure, and a much-needed break from all your hectic days.
Located in the beautiful downtown Hyde Park Chicago area, Bettye O Day Spa specializes in first-class treatments. They aim to nurture and relax each of their clients with individualized and innovative therapeutic techniques. From body wraps and massages to facials and hydrotherapy, this day spa promises to be a safe place for healing to occur.
Looking for more businesses to support? ClassPass has also created a list of Black-owned business to check out all year-round. While both of these lists are a great start to get you familiar with many of the Black-owned businesses either in your neighborhood or around the globe, we have only scratched the surface. We'd love to keep these lists growing.If you have any businesses you'd like to see on this list, click here to submit a Black-owned business we should be highlighting as well!