City officials and community members celebrated the grand opening of a new woman-centered fitness studio in the burgeoning Old Redford neighborhood today. Dawana Vickers, a Black woman, Detroiter and military veteran opened her new studio, thanks in large part to assistance received through Round 11 of the Motor City Match (MCM) program.
DawanaFit is one of several Black-owned businesses to open in the recently renovated Obama Building at Grand River and Lahser, located at 22000 Grand River Ave, Suite. 500. The now-open building sat vacant for years and received its name from a portrait of former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama that once adorned the outside of the building and is now on display inside.
As a military veteran, mother and a native Detroiter, Vickers started her fitness company as a way of providing women in Detroit with a welcoming and inclusive fitness environment. The studio aims to provide close attention to its clients and encourages them to build a strong connection amongst one another.
“Motor City Match is all about helping people make their dreams of owning their own business come true,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “I can’t think of someone more deserving of having that dream come true than Dawana. She’s served our country and now wants to serve this community in a new way and we are so very proud of her.”
DawanaFit prides itself on providing women with more structure and attention than competitor gyms. Vickers will also be launching a 30-day crowdfunding campaign that seeks to raise $15,000 from supporters and potential class participants who are eager for a new wellness community in Northwest Detroit.
The campaign will serve as a way for the studio’s supporters to ensure long-term success and will allow Vickers to purchase and install additional workout equipment. Contributors to the campaign will receive perks at different levels, including DawanaFit’s popular workout bands, custom t-shirts and hoodies, and an allotment of guest workout passes.
After being stationed in El Paso, Seattle, Bahrain, Virginia and South Carolina as a member of the US military from 2009-2014, Vickers returned home to Detroit, where she faced a difficult transition into civilian life. While working various entry-level jobs in retail stores and warehouses, she began to take her own emotional health, nutrition and fitness more seriously. While making improvements to her well-being, her results gained the attention of individuals who wanted to make similar lifestyle changes. After realizing her passion could become a career that helped others find fulfillment, Vickers began training other women in strength building and conditioning.
DawanaFit received a business plan award from MCM, which includes a $1,000 cash grant, as well as technical assistance. After winning the award, MCM also helped secure DawanaFit’s current location.
“After a few years of developing my clientele and personal brand in various work environments, I decided that it was time for me to acquire my own dedicated studio,” explained Vickers. “Motor City Match was recommended to me by some colleagues of mine. This program has been crucial in connecting me with my current location in Old Redford, accessing important financing, and in formalizing my business strategy and operations. The coaching and guidance they have provided to me has been priceless.”
The Obama Building, originally a historic bank building, was recently renovated by The Platform at a cost of $3.6 million to support local entrepreneurs with affordable, move-in ready commercial spaces. Currently, all retail tenants are local Detroit enterprises owned and operated by Black women.
“The Obama Building is evidence of our commitment to equitable development in Detroit,” said Peter Cummings, The Platform’s executive chairman and CEO. “It was important for us to reduce barriers and help first-time and expanding entrepreneurs reduce upfront costs and open their doors quickly.”
The Obama Building was the first development in Old Redford funded by the Strategic Neighborhood Fund (SNF), a partnership between the City of Detroit, Invest Detroit, neighborhood residents, and corporate and philanthropic donors to strengthen Detroit’s neighborhoods.