Episode Number: 183

Episode 183-How To Transition from Corporate America to Entrepreneurship + All The Other Things They Don’t Tell You About Owning A Business w/ Tammeca Rochester

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Jamila Souffrant 0:00

You're listening to the Journey to Launch podcast How to Transition from Corporate America to Entrepreneurship, Pivot and Business and All the Other Things They Don't Tell You About Owning a Business with Tammeca Rochester of Harlem Cycle.

Intro 0:17

Welcome to the Journey to Launch podcast with your host Jamila Souffrant, as a money expert who walks her talk, she helps brave journeyers like you get out of debt, save, invest, and build real wealth. Join her on the journey to launch to Financial Freedom


Unknown Speaker 0:37


Jamila Souffrant 0:44

Hey hey hey, Journeyers, Welcome to the Journey to Launch podcast. I'm so excited that you are here. Buckle up we are taking off to financial freedom and independence. Now today on the podcast, I have Tammeca Rochester and let me tell you something. This was such an amazing conversation if I don't say so myself. I think that if you are an entrepreneur, and aspiring entrepreneur doing something on the side, that you will get a lot from this even if you're not any of those things. If you just enjoy a good conversation, a real conversation about what it's like to go after your dreams. You're going to enjoy this.

So let me first tell you a little bit about Tammeca, Tammeca, Rochester is owner and founder of Harlem Cycle, Harlem's first and only indoor cycling studio. In 2016, she decided to turn her passion for fitness and open Harlem fitness, when she was looking to get back in shape and find a workout that will put her in a positive frame of mind. After exploring the various workout, she was drawn to indoor cycling, and then eventually opened up her own cycling studio. Now I love this conversation with Tammeca because she really gets into what it was like to come up with that this idea what she really didn't plan to have and do and how she transition from corporate America to full time entrepreneurship. And within that time period, even up to this date, there's a lot that hasn't been happening, obviously COVID and having to pivot her cycling studio, what does that look like? How did she start the city? How did she get the money to do that? All the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, we are talking about it. So it really did feel like I was talking to a friend about what it's like to run a business because as you all know, I'm in my own entrepreneurship journey. So I found that this was very, very helpful. So I hope it's helpful to you too.

First, a word from our sponsor DCU, also known as Digital Federal Credit Union. Now at their core credit unions were founded on the philosophy of people helping people for individuals that might find themselves part of the underbanked or underserved communities. Credit Unions offer individuals a safe place to manage their finances, or help fund purchases as an alternative to other financial service providers like payday lenders, at DCU. The credit union places an enhance focus on financial education by offering learning modules on key financial topics like budgeting, saving for the unexpected building credit and much more. DCU also offers a secured credit card that could help individuals establish or improve their credit by borrowing securely against their savings balance. To learn more, check out dcu.org and stick around to the end of the show for a new segment called the DCU money tips of the week, where I'll be sharing tips to help you save and manage your money so you can reach your goals.

If you want the episode Show Notes for this episode, go to journeytolaunch.com or you can click the description of wherever you listen to this episode to get the full episode show notes. Now if you are a new listener to the podcast or OG journeyer, I've created a jumpstart guide to help you on your journey to financial freedom. It includes the top episodes to listen, to the stages to go through to reach financial freedom, resources to help you and so much more. Get it for FREE by texting launch to 33777, text launch to 33777 or go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart to get your guide for free right now. Okay, let's hop into the episode.

Okay, journey is super excited because I have on Tammeca Rochester on the podcast and she is the owner founder of Harlem Cycle and I was really intrigued by to make a story because I just feel like you know she's an entrepreneur and not an actual entrepreneur that has like a location based physical business which can be a little bit different from what like what I'm doing which is like more informational based and online. And I just I know so many you guys like want more possibilities want to see what things are available to you in the universe and in the world. So like why not bring on someone who has experience leaving corporate america, starting their own business and a fitness business at that, like so many things I want to get into with you Tammeca. I'm really excited to have you here. Welcome to the podcast.

Tammeca Rochester 5:06

Thank you. Thank you so much. I'm super super excited.

Jamila Souffrant 5:10

So first tell me um, so you started Harlem Cycle, which is a indoor cycling Well, it what it started as an indoor cycling fitness studio. So tell me more about like that journey because I always in my, in my like, I guess previous or like future life, I always thought I'd be like some sort of fitness instructor doing something. So how did you like, decide that that's what you wanted to do.

Tammeca Rochester 5:32

So that's funny that you said that because nowhere in my life that I ever think that I would be. So at no point did I ever see myself in fitness. I actually started my career as an engineer. But I always you know, I was always very active growing up and always love to like ride my bike outside, I grew up in Atlanta, so you know, streets of Atlanta and safer riding bikes. And that's what we did as kids. And then as an engineer, I decided to make the bold switch and switch into marketing. And when I was switched into marketing, like my stress level, just increased 20,000%. And then I realized I needed a release, I needed something that was just for me some form of self care. And I had just had my son at the time, so I'm struggling with a newborn baby. And so I just really needed some something for myself, and someone told me about indoor cycling, tried it and loved it, love the music, love the vibe, love the energy, and just was really making that I made that my workout. And so as a point, like even even as it became my workout, it was so far to see myself at the front of the room, was just so far out of my comfort zone, I just would have never imagined myself leading a class there. But you know, time reveals itself to you, and you kind of realize what your passion is. And, and so you know, though I'm in fitness, my passion is is always been about helping people to discover who they really are, and getting closer to who they want to be. And so that to me, is just manifested through fitness.

Jamila Souffrant 7:02

Yeah, I love that I love so you said you started out as an engineer, yes. And then like change careers. And, you know, at the baseline of of it all, I feel like we all have these things that we're kind of interested in or don't know, that we're interested in, right. And maybe it's a hobby or just a side thing that interests us. But it's just nice to see that like even if you're this thing, you know, like if you're in a box or you know, whether you put yourself there someone put you there that literally though you can, you can do anything.

Tammeca Rochester 7:30

You can take that lid off and jump right on outside of that box and do whatever you want to do. And I've done it, I've done it now this is the third career switch. So from engineer to brand manager to now fitness.

Jamila Souffrant 7:42

Okay, I want to talk a little bit about that switching up careers. How did you know it was the time to make that switch? Because there's so many people right now who are listening on their way to creating that life they love and financial independences and they're like, I don't know, if I want to do this. How do you How did you switch first, from engineer to brand manager to this? Like, how did you know it was right? The right thing to do.

Tammeca Rochester 8:03

So if you know I'm gonna lie, it wasn't easy, it's a scary thing to do is very scary to leave something that you know, you're good at. You know how to do it. You know, people recognize who you are in that field, and to go into a completely new territory, it's scary. It's nothing to take lightly. So whoever is in that position, I feel you, it's not easy. But for me, it was, you know, when I looked down, I was like, well, I like to do is just try, right, you know, having that that idea that? Well, if I try and fail, I can always still be an engineer, there's no big deal. And so to me, was the risk was bigger than the reward. So for me, the reward was, I tried, I started found myself a new a new thing that I could do, and I switched careers and loved it. The risk was, I don't love it, but then I could just go back to being what I was before an engineer.

Jamila Souffrant 8:56

Right, right. And I think that is such an important way to look at it things in your mind is that like, you won't always say like, you know, you won't die like you know, the immediate thing is that you think you're gonna die because it's like if something fails and the embarrassment of it all, like it feels like that, like there's so many emotions that then turn physical to how you feel about what's happening, and taking a risk. But literally, like once you can wrap your head around, like what is the worst case scenario and I would say something if you're having this decision or thinking about this, like you don't want to regret the risk not taken like you know that if you're in your life right now and you're like unhappy and there's something calling you for something more and you have the you know, something to leap off it doesn't even have to be like super solid but something that you staying where you are is like if you can't see yourself and it's like more painful to stay where you are then to at least take that risk. It's time to do it.

Tammeca Rochester 9:46

Right. It's kind of a but you know, I think that always stuck in my mind was I would have to constantly tell myself, you're not that important, Tammeca. The embarrassment people will get over it in 30 seconds when something else happens like you're not that important that you switching and failing at a career will be what the whole world is talking about. No one's gonna care after, like 10 minutes.

Jamila Souffrant 10:05

Oh, I love that. I love that you said that because oftentimes too, like, even with, let's say leaving a job, even if like just say your you got a better opportunity. Because I've spoken to people, I've been in a situation where you feel like oh, but they need me, like, it's gonna be an issue for you, you're more upset or worried about letting other people down and then yourself. And when it's just like, these people are gonna live their lives, they're not really that worried about you.

Tammeca Rochester 10:30

Not I at all, and I left the company after 13 years, and literally in like, a day, they had replaced me. Like you. So it's like, we're not as important as we make ourselves out to be in these situations. And you know, I always tell people, like your job posting will be posted before your obituary is up. So think about that they care more about that job than you and your life.

Jamila Souffrant 10:54

Oh, yes. Alright, so I want to know how you like then transitioned or new at the point, wherever you made that decision? Like, when did you decide, Okay, I'm gonna open a studio like I like cycling, I like going to the classes. But now I think I'm going to open a studio because sometimes, like, if you have like a side hustle idea, or something you want to do, like you can even go in it without even knowing, kind of like kind of what you did. Or you're like, you know what, I'm going to start a studio, like, at what point did you make the decision that you're going to go in all the way.

Tammeca Rochester 11:22

So I'm also on those people that makes very quick decision. Like, if I feel it, I pursue it. And if it doesn't happen, then I just move on to the next thing. So literally one day out for a jog. And I see like this assigned for open building, and I was like, Oh, this would be so amazing. If there was a cycling studio here, I could just walk to it, I could have my workout come right back home, like so it could be to me, um, and it was it was really about what will be convenient for my lifestyle, because there was no cycling studios in Harlem, and I had to go downtown for cycling studios. Or I would just take a class at the local YMCA that had its own ups and downs and its own mess. But I wasn't really satisfied with that experience. And the downtown studios, I wasn't totally in love with them, you know, the music is different. You know, many times I'm the only minority person in there, I'm the only person with hips and curves, like it was it was just a lot to always, you know, have to like navigate those two worlds. And so as I'm out for this run, I'm like, ooh, be so good. And there's a cycling studio here. And then I literally call the number on the thing was like, Hey, I'm just looking at this signage to know how much this space cost per month, they told me the number and I was like, that seems like a lot. Okay. And then as I'm talking to the realtor, he was like, Well, what, what are you trying to do? I was like, Well, you know, I'm looking to start a cycling business. Now he totally me brushed me off, it was like, do you have a business? Like, what's your plan? I was like, I'm just, I'm putting together my financials.

Jamila Souffrant 12:49

Did You Know Before You said that, that you were gonna say...

Tammeca Rochester 12:56

No, literally out for a run and was like, Ah, this would be perfect. There was no point before that, that I was like, I want to start a cycling studio. Literally no point before that. And that was like an early November morning, I'm out for late October, early November.

Jamila Souffrant 13:11

What year was this?

Tammeca Rochester 13:12

This was 2015. Okay. And I'm like, Okay, and so but as I talked to the realtor had his like, negativity, I was like, Okay, I see what you're doing. Let me come around my business plan. And so like a week later plowed because, you know, I'm one of those people, once I get focused on something, it has to be done, like, I couldn't focus on anything else for that week, put through the business plan, use the numbers, and he'd given me for my financial statements and was like, This isn't, not doable. I work for Colgate palmolive company, I was head of the I was senior brand manager for their one of their top brands. I was like, if they've trusted me this company has trusted me with a billion dollar brand, I can surely make a little tiny brand in my own neighborhood, I could surely at least try. So from the you know, that standpoint, that that was that confidence from being able for me to switch before that I switched from engineering to marketing, and they trusted me with this huge brand, that I could at least start my own little tiny one. And so from there just kept pushing, um, I signed my lease in February 2016.

Jamila Souffrant 14:17

At that location, or somewhere else?

Tammeca Rochester 14:19

No, somewhere else. So then I, we signed the lease, I signed the lease over first and then April 2, we had our first class.

Jamila Souffrant 14:30

So this is 2016.

Tammeca Rochester 14:32


Jamila Souffrant 14:33

Okay. Questions about opening the studio now and like the capital to start this. So at this point, you're working full time still. And you decide, Alright, let me run the numbers and see what I can do. So how like, Can you share like the startup cost to actually getting this physical location?

Tammeca Rochester 14:48

Yeah. So startup costs are like, whatever your rent is, you need about four times that just to put down on the space, that's just that's money. It's gonna be gone. You're never gonna see it again. It's gone, but because they can buy it. So whatever if we're ever looking for a storefront, it's whatever that cost is that monthly cost is times four, because they, they want to deposit they want first and last month, and it's usually four times your rent. And then from there, you have to do some level of a build out the place comes exactly how you want it. And so you have to find contractors, that you can trust, notice the word trust, because contractors sometimes are a little shady with these numbers. And so from my space, like my contractors, it was upwards of $60 $70,000, just to build out the space. And that's just standing floors and painting that's not buying equipment and bikes and a desk and things like that. That's just literally painting the floors and the ceilings and making it to standards of what we need. And then from there, you have to think about your equipment costs and how much it is for your equipment. But you know, for anyone, these costs seem daunting, but you really have to pull back and say, What do I really need? as the years have gone on? Things have gotten better at the studio, like more pictures come up on the wall? like do I need 1000 pictures on the wall, when we first opened? No. But as the time went on, we've added different things to make it more inviting and more warm. But you do have to be careful, there's that fine balance of first impression. Like when people come into my space they want I wanted them to be able to be like, This space is amazing. It's inviting. Let me tell all my friends about it. So you know those little things. And then there's ways of doing things that cost like if you go to your house, like I do and stock up at Marshall's or Home Goods to decorate your home, there's probably something there you could probably purchase to for your business to kind of make it warm and inviting as well. So those kind of costs I had to factor in. Now, where did this money come from?

Jamila Souffrant 16:42

Yeah, that's, that's my next question. So all right, so I'm like trying to keep you so you're saying maybe this was like $80 to $100,000? To start?

Wow. Okay. And so when it came to, and I want to like also peel back to where you were personally with your personal finances at that point, like if you had outside debt? I mean, you already said you tap into your 401k did you like take? Did you drain your 401k? Completely? Or you just took some?

Tammeca Rochester 18:09

No, no. So another thing, I am also the most frugal person in the absolute world, I do not spend money ever unless I have to, like 10 years from now you'll see me the same sweatshirt, because that's just me. So my savings was already you know, I had already from 30 years of working in corporate America, my savings is pretty significant outside of that outside of my 401k. So my 401k was, you know, I use a bit of it, but not as much as the rest is just from savings.

Jamila Souffrant 18:40

Okay, and so I accept because there are people who, because I've seen this as an investment, right? It's a different type of investing, like investing in a business. But there are people who have debt still right and so or their personal finances, like they actually have to stress that to create the business. But then, you know, you have like a platform like mine that talks about being debt free, and all these things. And if certain people wait to become completely debt free, like outside of a mortgage or student loan, like then they may never realize or act on a dream. So I don't ever want to say like, Don't ever take the risk. And you know, like, I'm not want to be like okay, just jump into your 401k like I'm not like about that either. But I just find like some people that I whether it's from other, you know, stories of other people, like I hear like that they take this risk, and sometimes it is necessary, because there's no other way that you would have been able to like, make it work.

Tammeca Rochester 16:49

Yeah. Okay, to start. Now this money came from my pockets that were just, it's terrible. But you know, as a, as a business as someone who was not in business before, as someone who only use I use only my 501 sec, my 401 K, I use my savings, my fiance helped put in portion of it. And he's been you know, he was the backbone to me helping because there was many months that you know, your first year, you're not making payroll, like couldn't even help pay for my instructors for the month. And so he put it the other half. Now, did I try to not use my money? Absolutely. I want to bang presented my business plan game, you know, and I've always had that with someone who has I have over 700 when it comes to credit score, and it just wasn't available to me. Banks were not willing to loan to me. And even small institutions were like, We don't know you. So it was very difficult at first to find that funding. So I use my savings and my fiance savings to get us started.

No, no, and I even put things on my credit card, which is not the best way to do things. But thank heavens, here we are five years later, and I've been able to pay that off. But you think about what's good debt and bad debt. Right? Everyone expects you to have student loans and student loans will be with everyone. No matter how much money you have for the rest of your life like that. That's debt as long as you're managing it and paying it. So I do not suggest that you spend all of your money trying to pay off student loans when you have this big amazing business idea that you could be developing that could help you in the long run pay it off. And so you know, you have to look at what, to me it's good debt versus bad now, putting on your credit card bad debt, I would not recommend it. It just rates ridiculous. But in the end, I that was what I had to do to get us where we are. But I believe I believed in the dream. And I held on to my full time job. So I didn't immediately quit. So I held himself full time job to pay down some of that debt in that first year, so that we could be in a good place.

Jamila Souffrant 20:32

Right, right. Yeah, I think yeah, it's so important, like everyone's tools and resources that they have available are going to be different. And to like, You sounded this thing to if you're serious about this, and you literally are going to go all in, then the risk is necessary to be taken.

Tammeca Rochester 20:47


Jamila Souffrant 20:48

But if you know you're one of those people. And it's funny, because you could definitely be one of people who've tried things and failed not a problem if you want to try something else. But you got to really understand if you're going to if you're going to tap into 401 K's, or bar from family and friends, like you have to be serious about whatever it is you're about to do that you're going to put your all into it.

Tammeca Rochester 21:05

Yeah. And you know, before I even started Harlem Cycle, I reached out to four friends that I've known to life. So first one was my best friend, who I've known since second grade, my sister, my best friend from college, and then someone who I've known since my professional career, and we sat down and literally did a SWOT analysis of me. And those are people who have known me through different phases of my life, the good the bad, the ratchet and everything else. And and know who I am, and are not afraid to tell me who I am. So if at any point they hadn't, like, Girl, you know, you don't ever finish or complete anything. I would have walked away from this idea and be like, Okay, well, maybe there's other things I can put my savins towards. So I think you have to also make sure you know who you are. And ask the people closest to you as that reminder of what those strengths are, what those weaknesses are. Because there's been plenty of ideas that I've had. And then my friends have been like, but you don't like to do that. You right, you right, I don't I really don't like to do that. So I that's not the best idea for me.

Jamila Souffrant 22:08

Right, I love that. Okay, so you then you start the studio in 2016. You open doors. You've already but you're still working full time. Yeah. How did it go? Like how did you market it? How did people start to learn about it? What was that first year business like cause I know, that was like the roughest part to try to get a profitable,

Tammeca Rochester 22:24

oh my gosh, that was literally the well, I will say the most stress of my life. But 2020 seems to be bigger than that. So it was like I gained 40 pounds. In the first year we opened, like, I it was crazy, I gained more weight. In the first year, I opened the Fitness Studio, then when I was pregnant, the stress just takes over your body. And you just it's it's a horrible thing. But it was just very stressful. You know, I was waking up at five o'clock in the morning, at the time, my son was four, four and a half, we come to the studio open up, let the instructor come and teach class and be run to daycare, drop them off. And then I make it downtown to work and come back to supply, outdoor back to the studio. And this went on for a complete year, to the point that it took such a physical toll on me. And it just it also wasn't physically, you can sustain it. I managed to sustain it for a year. But like physically, it wasn't sustainable. That was when I really realized I have to either make the leap or I'm gonna kill myself trying to live in two different worlds at the same time.

Jamila Souffrant 23:29

So how did you prepare to make the leap? What did you do?

Tammeca Rochester 23:33

I move quickly. So it was in like, early November again of 2016. So literally a year later, from when I had the idea for Harlem Cycle, we made our first $10

Jamila Souffrant 23:46

Wait, you made your first profit like so after paying expenses. This is the first time you made a profit.

Tammeca Rochester 23:51

First time we started planning April, I didn't see $10 until November, I paid all the bills for the month, then my payroll everything's taken care of all the orders in for water supplies, whatever we need. And it was like $10 now by oh *bleep*, We're rich.In business, there's so many it's such an emotional roller coaster. And you know, you go up you have ups and downs, there's days that you're going to be like, we're never gonna make any money. Like this isn't working like, you know, it's just, it's just such a roller coaster. And when we got that high about $10 I was like, oh, we doing this. It just was the renewed sense of and gave me that extra energy to keep pushing and keep going on. And from there it was like 100% like my sleepless nights became worth it and just really pushing us out. And so to get our names, name out there from the beginning. It was really all very grassroots marketing, you know, started Instagram started with five followers. One of them was my sister and my mama and then from there the instructors started following, they started sharing posts to to help kind of build the business. I walked every single coffee shop, every store in Harlem and handed out flyers to put it on their desktops to get to clients. I went to local schools and said, Hey, can you give this to all the teachers? So it was very grassroots at first. And every time clients came in, I was like, do you want me to take a picture so you can share with your friends on social social media, tag us.

And that actually was the biggest push that helped grow our social media, but it also, you know, help grow people physically coming into the space. So it was very grassroots at first. But those those things actually, I think, are how you have to start when it comes to in person businesses, you have to be able to talk to your customers, you have to be able to, to have them share because people people rely on word of mouth more than me telling you how great we are.

Jamila Souffrant 25:52

Right, And I assume you have to be a people person to have an in person. Because you have to be always on and pleasant and or your hire or you know, someone has to do customer service, you're not hiring that person up front, and you're the face of the business. People want to talk to you and see you.

Tammeca Rochester 26:06

Yes, absolutely. And so, you know, I find myself to be a people's person. But I've also consider myself to be like shy. So I don't necessarily always like talking about myself. That's something outside of my comfort zone. I've had to like share on social media who I am, who is Tammeca, why she opened this video. And to me, it still feels a little weird to like, talk about myself on social media. But it's something as a business owner, I had to like jump past that comfort zone, because people want to know who they're spending their money with, and what they're supporting.

Jamila Souffrant 26:35

Yeah, and I think that's interesting, like dynamic of being an entrepreneur and like the level of success you want to attain because you know, what I do, I want to be successful without anyone knowing who I am. And I can just like walk in the street. No one knows, like me, like, no one knows my business or how my kids look. Yes. And I do believe it's a way to do that. But now with social media thrown into the mix, people want to know you because you know, the concept for your cycling business. There are other cycling and fitness tools. Right, right. So people want to also be connected to you. And I find that in the personal finance space too. Like, I can just throw up like random just quotes, which is fine. But I feel like people aren't really connected when they really are a journeyer. And connected, it's because like they're connected to like my voice. And kind of my personal story within and obviously they're, you're the focal point. Like they're the ones that are trying to I'm helping them reach their goals, but they want to relate to you also as like the person. And so you have to share you have to be vulnerable.

Tammeca Rochester 27:28

It is such a it's such an interesting dynamic, right. It's such a crazy dynamic to me to be like, Here I am I am Tammeca, like what are you sit down, but you know, it gets you out of that comfort zone. And that's what really business is about is like taking the lead coming out of your comfort zone, sharing who you are with the world. And so that's something you have to be prepared to do.

Jamila Souffrant 27:49

Yeah, yes. Okay, so taking that leap. Now, how did you decide? So you said, You're like, I can't keep doing all these things. You got to give something up? How did you prepare then to leave? After that $10 profit, How did you say, Okay, I can like my family. And I can live from this.

Tammeca Rochester 28:04

So after, you know, that happened in November, which so the thing too, is we held that first class in April, that is literally the end of the fitness industry's best season. So January, February, March is like the booming months for us, like that's where you make all your money. That's where you get all your clients, you just got to hold them. So we opened up after everybody has already committed to New Year's resolution somewhere else and had already done all these things. So of course, our first couple of months were a little slow. But then in November, it was like that, that take of people now committing to wellness, they're getting ready for the holidays, they want to lose those extra pounds before they see their relatives. And then the January came and everyone wants to like get back their new year's resolution and they were choosing us as the place they wanted to do it. And so immediately that shift happened, we're like the clients just just immediately started picking up. So I didn't really prepare for it at all, like what the funds were starting to come in. And you know, as I said, I don't spend money. So anytime some profit came in, it was immediately put aside and saved, Instead of the working capital account, it was in a savings account for the business. Because if I was, I always forget, if you were able to make it happen with this little teeny bit of money, this is not the time to suddenly go out and start buying a whole new bike, like make it work and then save what you've gotten for bigger, you know, solid investments. And so it started coming in.

But also one thing that was happening at work was these passive and microaggressions were happening. So we were getting featured in The New York Times we've gotten the news and we were getting all this great press and my management were all like, you know, suddenly, I went from the number one performer on the team to Tammeca, we're not sure if you want to be here and I'm like why would you ask me that that seems like an odd statement to make, particularly when maybe yours was in like June and you loved me that and here we are in like November, December. And so you don't know if I want to be here. There are just very weird microaggressions happening and all those things, we're just continuing to pile up. And literally end of January 2017. I got my review, and it was not at all positive. And I was so heartbroken. I've been with the company for 13 years, I have never had a bad review. I've actually won awards for my performance at the company. And one of the three people who ever was able to transition from the engineering or from the science departments, to marketing, and to get a negative review, particularly when half of the year was so positive. But it came all after we started getting pressed and they knew about Harlem Cycle. I got that review on a Friday afternoon on that Monday, I came in and gave my notice of termination. I was like I can't do this anymore. I just literally that weekend. I was like I've been giving so much of myself. I just felt like I was betrayed. And so that Monday I just gave my resignation, though no actual build up to it.

Jamila Souffrant 31:09

Just you you're done. So I just want to go back a little bit because I The other thing about building something on the side is like whether you share it with your company or not keep it secret. I remember when I was doing Jounrey to Launch like it was no one knew about it. I had like this segment on CBS that I couple people saw my job. This is like before I left my job and they're like, I think I saw you on I'm like, Did you like I was like are you sure that's me. The security guard was like I saw you on TV.

Okay, so I didn't share what I was doing just because I talk about specifically to with like my content, like if you want to leave your job preparing to leave your job financial independence. So I felt like that was kind of, you know, directly letting them know that I was preparing to leave. And I didn't want like that to be something that held me back. So you kept did they not know about Harlem Cycle before the press?

Tammeca Rochester 31:56

No, I did not tell that. So the interesting thing is, so I told my engineering friends and my engineer, my old engineering managers that we're still friends with the engineering and marketing were very two different dynamics in the company. So engineering, we're a team, we love each other. We're like we work together, marketing was very cutthroat very design emphasis is very different. So my engineering people knew and we're still friends to this day marketing people, not so much. And so I didn't tell them. And they they found out through the news. And I was like hearing whispers like, what? Someone shared an article Tammeca that you were on the news. So you were sharing articles about me, but then cc me on it. And so it was like, Why are whispering about this? Just ask, and then it just you could just feel the difference in in the tension in meetings and things like that when I was there.

Jamila Souffrant 32:50

Yeah. Okay, so you got this. You said, I'm done. I'm gonna leave, you leave. But at this point did you have were you paying yourself from Harlem cycling?

Tammeca Rochester 32:59

No, at that point, I wasn't paying myself. But then I had to start. So I didn't start paying myself until after I left. But I still I still had two weeks of vacation left. So I gave my notice. I was like, and I want to take my vacation. So yeah, so that's two weeks left. So I, you know, I used that. And then, because I was previously a high performer in the company, I had different incentives that were I had already had accumulated over the years that if I ever left or if I was ever willing to leave, that I could cash in. And so I cashed those in and that helped me survive for about a month or two before I had to start paying myself from Harlem Cycle.

Jamila Souffrant 33:39

Do you feel like like, since you didn't have any other options, there was no other income, like from your job coming in that you ran Harlem Cycle differently? And like you became more profitable because of it?

Tammeca Rochester 33:50

Yes. So opportunities literally opened up the moment, I said, I can't do this anymore. And so there were things that I could say yes to like, we picked up a contract with teaching some teachers and educators that we couldn't have done before, because no one was available at 4:30 to teach these classes. And these this contract is literally like what take us to a different level, I was able to use the middays to meet with other fitness professionals and like learn more about the industry and increase like my knowledge of what's going on out there and network a little bit better. And literally, doors are just opening and opening and opening. Like in a month I saw a difference. And I was just like so to me, they were holding me back and I just didn't realize it.

Jamila Souffrant 34:34

Yeah. And it's weird. Like you won't know that until you take the leap. Right until you go all in right. Like you won't be able to experience like what opens up beyond right because your mind or you might be just blocked to the possibilities. But yeah, I think it's fascinating because some of the things that we're holding on to and we're like we're afraid to let go because it's stable or secure. And that could be even if you're a business owner, yeah, and there are opportunities that are stable, but you don't. Maybe you like them, you're like, what if I give this up then what? But like not understanding this, like I always say, like dating, I have a friend who dates someone, I think he's like trash and I'm just like, if you stopped dating him, I think you'll find someone better and like, No, I'm gonna hold on to it and then maybe someone else will come. I'm like, No,

Tammeca Rochester 35:14

he's blocking your blessing.

Jamila Souffrant 35:16

Right? So it's very, you know, I think that applies here too, even with your own, like, whatever it is that you're in right now. Letting Go, what's not serving you having the courage to do it is important, because then you'll realize, like, how much more is out there for you? So now you have more time to grow your business to build. And I'm gonna skip ahead just a little bit here. So at some point, so between 2017 that's when you left? Yes. Okay, so now you're you're profitable, you're running. Now you have one studio in Harlem, and it's doing well it's paying the bills, you're like,

Tammeca Rochester 35:48

it's doing well, or paying bills or getting recognition or getting clients, followings growing, everything is going smoothly,

Jamila Souffrant 35:56

and then 2020 happened.

Tammeca Rochester 36:02

And then 2020.

Jamila Souffrant 36:04

So I think it's important to talk about this too, because I think for 2020, it's been a whirlwind for everyone, whether you are have, you know, a regular corporate job or not, or have your own business, like it's impacting our health, or our mental health, physical health, just the way things are how we work as like, if you have kids, and you're working from home, or having to commute and figure out how that works. Your business, though, because it's a physical location, like my business, you know, at most of the things I did was online Anyway, there was some opportunities where, you know, I'm not speaking as much or going to conferences, but your business like as a physical business, I want to hear like, how it's been this transition, like to still be profitable, if you are and like, what's that been like for you?

Tammeca Rochester 36:47

So it's been hard, in summary, it's been hard, particularly as a cycling Studio One, I kind of don't own bikes, that's literally why they come to us because they don't have a bike at home. And to because they love the group atmosphere. So it was a little bit harder for us versus, you know, other fitness studios who did like HIIT training or things like that, where you're just taking the same workout of doing it at home. For us, we couldn't take the same workout into at home. And so I recognized that immediately when we shut down I was like, Okay, we have to like show the world that we can do something else. We, you know, all of our trainers, we all have multiple certifications and teach it other places and teach different things at other places. But here in Harlem, we're known for cycling. My first thing though, was we need to show our community that we care like this isn't just about making money during this time, because at the time when we shut down, it was so many unknowns, people were being laid off, people were being furloughed, like it was just so much unknown. And we were all literally scared for our lives. And so I was like, we need to show our clients that we care, and we need to take care of them. And so everything we did, within the first couple of weeks were you know, free and with the intent of just making sure clients knew that we were here for them, we provided grocery shopping list of things you should have at home, we had you know, someone who had been a COVID survivor on, like, what prescription medicines or things used to get from the drugstore to keep in your home so you are not running out to get these things in case COVID COVID does actually get your home, I went around and interviewed some of our Harlem restaurants to do cooking demos, so that our clients would have these cooking demos, because some of us haven't cooked in a while either. So we could have this stuff, we tapped a lot of our workouts and then provided them to clients. I was like, if you do nothing but these four little workouts everyday, you're good. And then we started doing like 15 minute online IG movement sessions just so we could like get up from our computers in the middle of day, move together as a community and and get back down. And so those will be initially pivoted to like just making sure we're taking care of people let them know we're here. And but you know, in the back of my mind, like, Okay,

so we've rented out our bikes, ship them to our clients homes. And so that was like one steady stream of income that we could have coming in.

Jamila Souffrant 39:07

And that was profitable, like even including the shipping cost. So give them to your client.

Tammeca Rochester 39:11


Jamila Souffrant 39:11

Oh, wow.

Tammeca Rochester 39:12

Yeah. So at the time, interesting thing is so you know, when all this happened, it was like shipping companies were like, yeah, we'll take care of it for you. No, it was they lower their rates to get as much business as possible. And so it was able to kind of ship those out. And they're still with the clients right now.

Jamila Souffrant 39:29

How many bikes did you ship out?

Tammeca Rochester 39:31

only 15

Jamila Souffrant 39:32

15. Okay, but you can charge like, you can do like a monthly rent fee.

Tammeca Rochester 39:36

Yeah, so we do a rental fee for that. And so that helps keeping that steady stream coming in. And then those contracts that I had with my teachers, I still have them we just teach a class virtually, which is great to see, again, that opportunity didn't become available until I quit and now it's what's helped sustain us. And then we immediately switched and put out a live stream schedule. Very limited because we you know, we used to teach 23/ 22 classes a week, and now we're down to just 9. But those nine, you know, it's the faithful we have some people who are still on their monthly packages who commit and are still taking those classes. And, you know, we recognize that it was gonna be harder for us than any other studio harder because I'm now telling you that what you love to do, which is cycling, I don't want you to do that right now, I want you to do something else.

Jamila Souffrant 40:22

So most of your classes, they're not all cycling now?

Tammeca Rochester 40:25

No, most of our classes are mat based. So you don't need any special equipment and, and so we, you know, want to make sure you do something at home. And even from that we now have we now have an at home subscription based program. We have over 80 workouts on there, we release new workouts weekly, we're adding cycling to the platform and this is also a monthly subscription program. So we've done a couple of pivots during this time, and the good thing is so I never wanted to be in the online space. I didn't want to be Peloton I didn't want to be Mirror. I love the community feel I love seeing people. I love the group, part of group fitness. But it's pushed me to move to another comfort zone. And it's pushed me to say hey, why why don't you want to be like Peloton and so now we're in that same at home subscription base space as well.

Jamila Souffrant 41:18

Right, And I mean, but you know and I think about the draw for peloton

I do have it's funny because I sister who's very into fitness Shaina, and I like she's into fitness. She was like, next step for her cuz she teaches fitness stuff too. And she's doing things online. And like in my head, like, again, I'm into fitness and I stopped with the kids, but I'm like, one day maybe I'll be a Peloton instructor, but like, I just felt like in general, like the difference or the pull for people who would want to like join, like, what you're doing is one of the physical aspect of it, right, like the community part. And the convenience and I think also the goodwill, right. It's a community based like business, like this is one of our own, who has started something for us. And is like, you know, giving back to the community, I think that differentiates you from like the big names doing this stuff. So with like, Alright, so you're transitioning, you're pivoting. What about like your rent, right? I know, one of the biggest things is like commercial rent, like, you know, a lot of people couldn't pay. So how have you navigated that?

Tammeca Rochester 42:23

So I'm still paying and have been paying rent since March even being closed, I also become really proficient at grant writing. So I literally plow through at least two to three grant applications a week. And the good thing is these grants were not out there before, like these grants are just because of this timing. So we have to take advantage of this timing now. And so I know, we've been able to secure a lot of these private grants that have helped with the rent and securing a commercial lease, and just help pay for it. So even even the classes that my instructors are teaching, that money goes directly to them. So the studio isn't pulling the pocket like you normally do. You know, normally instructors get paid a set rate, no matter who takes the class, this time, it's whoever takes the class will they pay goes directly to you. So sometimes it may get more, like don't get used to this guys, it's solely during COVID. But you know, I for me, too, it's not just taking care of the Harlem community, but the Harlem cycle community, like my team is, is amazing. And I love them, and I want to make sure they're okay. And so and I want them when I come back. And so to me, it's you know, we have to make sure we took care of that so that the live stream classes goes directly to them. But the at home subscription comes to the studio, and as well as the bike rental fee.

Jamila Souffrant 43:46

Right now, do you have like, how many employees if you have full time employees? What does the structure your team look like?

Tammeca Rochester 43:52

For structure is one full time employee, which is me. And then 12 part time contractors, right?

Jamila Souffrant 43:58

Right. And that's the thing, right? Like running your business. I'm experiencing that now with Journey to Launch and expanding and like wanting to have and get help. Versus like even making, I said this in another podcast. If your business makes let's just say, quarter million, which sounds like a lot because I just said million in there, but $250,000 your business makes that you don't make that your business like that. As a business business owner, I may still walk away with like minimum wage when you do the math on how much time I put in.

Tammeca Rochester 44:24

Oh, yeah, I'm definitely minimum wage yet.

Jamila Souffrant 44:26

Right, I remember last year, same thing, like even now like I'm making more money this year, and I'm paying myself but it's still not like equivalent to what I made at my job just yet. And I think as a, as an entrepreneur, as a as someone who's trying to grow something and take care of like, not like yourself, but also others. Like you, you are taking care of putting your team first, right, they may be getting paid more than you at or at the moment or the same amount. And, you know, that's just what's necessary as a leader especially during times like this, where it's just like, maybe you know, your income has been impacted. So I just think it's important to understand that these are the kind of things that as a leader, if you think about being an entrepreneur full time like that it's not the money is the money will come may come depends, but not always right away. And if you're pivoting, doing different things like this, you may you some people are not even paying themselves like at all remember, I mean, they're paying everyone else first, because that's what it's going to take to keep the business going.

Tammeca Rochester 45:21

Absolutely. And there were there been months that I got nothing, zero, barely enough to pay my rent, just you know. I do have a fiance who was still working. So he was able to cover us for a couple of months. But I mean, just so what you said, as a leader, your team comes first, your clients come first, your family comes first. And at some point, you've put yourself there, but it's you definitely not first. And you have to be comfortable living off of bare necessities.

Jamila Souffrant 45:52

Yeah, and I think there is a difference because I also don't want to get stuck into this like kind of savior kind of complex or not savior martyr complex to write as a business owner, because, you know, it's one thing I need to pay my bills and my living expenses, maybe I'm not making a profit in terms of like having extra money to invest and save, right? But I need to, if you want Journey to Launch, if you want Harlem Cycle to keep going, I need to eat food, and have a roof over my head to pay that. So like that's just like baseline. But I think it's just important to like, as the business owner, you know, that the goal eventually is like to reap the benefits to like, this isn't that you're investing now, like maybe the return right away, it's not there, but it's compounding. And when that time comes for you to reap the benefits you did, like it's take it, you deserve it,

Tammeca Rochester 46:37

You have to delay gratification. That's all it is. I know on the other side of this, I'll be okay. Because I will have build a brand and a community and a business that's sustainable, and that has, you know, rallied around us and has helped us. And so that I know is happening because I've made these small sacrifices. But also, you know, I will tell people bend but don't break, like bend on certain things. But if you feel like you're breaking and your family's suffering, and you can't sustain yourself that you've gone too far. But do you need that extra shirt? No, that's a bend.

Jamila Souffrant 47:14

Right, right. Do I need to like pay this mortgage and rent like, I'm not, I'm not betting on that I need to make and make sure I pay myself accordingly. So this episode will come out way after we kind of record this, but you did have unfortunate events happen at your break in? Right? And you want to talk a little bit about that, because I saw that on social media. And I'm just like, oh my goodness,

Tammeca Rochester 47:36

Yeah, and so that was we I got a call from actually the landlord. And she's like, to me the alarm was going off. I said the police went off at like 3am. And at 6am it was going it gone off again. So I ran out to the studio live a few blocks away, and I got there, the police were there and our front door was completely kicked in glass shattered everywhere. And I literally had my heart broke. Because it like Harlem Cycle is like a second home. I sometimes did spend time here then in my apartment, and to have that happen, particularly because we are such a community focused studio. And I was like who would do this. Everyone knows this. Like, everyone in this community knows who we are those what we're here for. And it just was a moment of like, I am so broken right now. They took so much from me at that moment. And literally the week before we had the ceiling leak, my hard drive of my computer crashed and I was like Lord, I don't know what I did, like I feel like the test is here. And so that that was such a problem moment for me. And I like took a picture of the door.

I posted it on social media was like I am tired. And literally like five minutes later, one of the clients calling it like Actually, I was trying to send her to voicemail accidentally answered. And she's like are you okay? And I was like No, I'm fine I'm sobbing and crying. But I was like, No, I'm fine. I'm coming over to help. I was like, No, it's just glass, and I just need to clean it up. And she she just hung up and I was like, Okay, good. Whatever. Literally Five minutes later, she's at the door with a broom in her hand gloves on. And then like 10 minutes later, there's two other business owners and they were here sweeping and cleaning. And I'm like, still like in tears trying to figure out what's happening and why this happened. And it was beautiful. It's like so it's such a dark moment and such a dark thing to happen. The community showed up for us and it was just like refreshing to see it and to like feel the love and to feel the warm because we haven't seen them in eight months. Like we haven't seen our clients in eight months not in person like that. And you know, even with our live streaming on demand, the numbers aren't the same. You haven't seen a lot of our people in a long time and they just literally like the outpour of love. I've gotten so many gifts and calls and people stopping in emails, text messages like, it's just been so amazing to see that level of support. So in that moment they make they made broke me down, but the love has really built me back up.

Jamila Souffrant 50:10

Oh, that's I, that's, that's amazing to hear. I'm so glad. And I know like we are so like, still unaware of what 2020 has to offer and all the twists and turns, and even not just but even just in the future. But like, what where do you see like, do you feel like after this, let's just say like, if we can see past this and things get back to normal, quote unquote, do you feel like people will want to, they get used to being at home doing workouts or that they will crave the community part of working together again.

Tammeca Rochester 50:39

So you know, everyone, everyone has their own theory, but to me, there is nothing that can replace group fitness, there is nothing that can replace community. And there is nothing that can replace like the push you get from being live with someone there to push you along the way. And so you know, it may be slow coming back, like I know, people are going to be a little timid and scared just because of so many unknowns during this time. But overall, I think in the end, we'll probably come out even better one because we are a small studio. Because you know, we've always been very meticulous about everything. And because we've also been so you know, towards the individualism and personalization of you know, who's who would what's what, as you're coming into the studio. And that's what people need, they need someone who care about them coming in. And I feel like we've been living in isolation for so long. We need to be around people, we need community and we need that. And so I think in the end, we'll be okay.

Jamila Souffrant 51:40

Yeah, yeah, I love that. And yes, I'm just thinking to like, because I take like when I joined my local gym here, and they have cycling and all the times like the music, I'm just like, like, it's okay, but it's not like what I want to hear. So I already know, like, I haven't taken one of your classes. Like when things open back up. I'd love to like come and do that. But it's just like I can imagine though like that energy like being able to vibe out like to music that you actually like listening to what like I'm assuming like you have a wide genre but you do like probably hip hop and

Tammeca Rochester 52:09

Wide genre, but you know the Jamaican in me and sneak in the playlists

Jamila Souffrant 52:16

I would want a whole reggae set. I need like

Tammeca Rochester 52:16

We have a whole reggae class. So Thursday night is that reggae rundown class, Sundays is soulful Sunday, where it's old school, hip hop, r&b and sometimes gospel. We have like soca,Soca Sunday, Saturdays too. We have hip hop Fridays, like we're we're about to music.

Jamila Souffrant 52:40

Love it. I love it. Okay, so to begin, please tell everyone where they can follow up with you and Harlem Cycle all the cool things you're doing online now. And then just like how they can support your business.

Tammeca Rochester 52:49

Yes, you can always find us online. Our website is harlem-cycle.com. You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook @harlemcycle. All the things we're doing our online, check it out on our website, you know, join our apple program. So even if you are looking for cycling classes, they are coming in early November, and they'll be on our on demand platform. But we also want you to try those mappings workouts. So keep moving. Keep doing those things so that you're ready for cycling classes when they're back Why? So you know, you can always check those out as well. Awesome. And I'll link all that in episode show notes. Thanks so much for coming on sharing your story. I loved it. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Jamila Souffrant 53:35

Okay, I hope you enjoyed that episode with Tammeca, I for one, am for sure gonna check out Harlem cycle once things get back to quote unquote regular and we can do things like that and feel more safe to be in person because I'm just like what a cycling class with reggae and Afro beats and the things that I like to listen to. Let's do it. So again, I love the conversation. hope you did too. Let me know what you thought of it. As always, just make sure you tag me @journeytolaunch tag @Harlemcycle to let us know what you thought of the episode.

Okay, now it's time for DCU Tip of the Week. Plan your meals in advance. If summer had you on the go and eating out more or ordering in more, fall can be time to cozy up with a slow cooker or stay in plan larger meals and freeze leftovers so you can still have convenience at home.

If you want to check out the episode shownotes that's where you can get links to anything that's mentioned and even get a transcribed version of this episode that you can read. Go to journeytolaunch.com or click the description of wherever you're listening to this episode. Now you can also still grab your free journeyer jumpstart guide by texting, launch to 33777 or go to journeytolaunch.com/jumpstart.

If you want to support me and the podcast and love the free content and information that you get here, here are four ways that you can support me in the show. One, make sure you're subscribed to the podcast wherever you listen, whether that's Apple podcasts, that purple app on your phone, your Android device, YouTube, Spotify, wherever it is that you happen to listen, just subscribe so you're not missing an episode. And if you're happening to listen to this in Apple podcasts, rate, review and subscribe there. I appreciate and read every single review. Number two, follow me on my social media accounts. I'm @journeytolaunch on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And I love love love interacting with journeyers there. Three, support and check out the sponsors of this show. If you hear something that interests you, sponsors are the main ways we keep the podcast lights on here. So show them some love for supporting your girl. Four, and last but not least, share this episode this podcast with a friend or family member or co worker so that we can spread the message of journey to launch. Alright, that's it. Until next week, keep on journeying journeyers

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What happens when COVID strikes your business and you have to pivot in an instance? Tammeca Rochester did exactly that and shares how she was able to keep her fitness business, Harlem Cycle, thriving during an extremely difficult time. 

Tammeca did not set out to start her own cycling studio, but when she felt the pull to do so, she listened to it.  Tammeca first started as an engineer then switched to the marketing field and then transitioned into running her business, Harlem Cycle, a cycling studio. She always knew she had an immense passion for helping people discover who they are and who they want to be, so when she passed an empty space for sale in Harlem on her afternoon run, it clicked in that moment that cycling should be brought to Harlem.  Tammeca knew what was possible and went after what she wanted. She came up with the idea for Harlem Cycle in November 2015, signed her lease in February 2016 and held her first cycling class in April 2016. 

In this episode, Tammeca shares how starting a business is possible and the obstacles she overcame to make it successful. I hope you are as excited as I am to  head to Harlem (post COVID), hop on the bike, and take part in the magic of Harlem Cycle. 

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • Why you should take the leap and do what scares you 
  • The potential start up costs to a brick and mortar 
  • How to market your new business 
  • Ways to pivot your business during COVID and much more…

Special thanks to DCU for sponsoring the episode! Learn more about DCU by clicking here.

I'm listening to Episode 183 of the #journeytolaunch podcast, How To Transition from Corporate America to Entrepreneurship + All The Other Things They Don't Tell You About Owning A Business w/ Tammeca Rochester Share on X

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