Get fit, have fun, do good
Good Sweat, Arlington's first social impact cycling studio, opens in Rosslyn
By Mary Dallao
It's a cold February evening in Rosslyn and Arlington resident Ali Hashemi is leading a free indoor cycling class from a vacant, ground-floor storefront at 1901 N. Moore St. The space may be sterile—even drab—but once the class starts, the surroundings don't matter. It's just you, your bike, the music and the words of Hashemi, an inspiring coach whose encouragement and positive energy keep you motivated to push yourself during the 45-minute session. Around you, others are breathing hard, working hard, sweating hard—so hard the windows become clouded with steam. When it's over, you feel a surge of well-being and satisfaction. It's that good kind of tired—the kind of tired that comes after an all-out workout that has liberated you from the day's stresses.
On April 20, Hashemi officially opened a brand-new indoor cycling studio, Good Sweat, at 1711 Wilson Blvd. Besides giving riders a tremendous fitness experience, Good Sweat donates a portion of all sales to local charities. While many fitness studios conduct occasional fundraisers for worthy causes, Good Sweat is the only social impact fitness studio in Northern Virginia that regularly gives back to the community. The studio supports three nonprofits per month, and riders will be able to choose which nonprofit will receive their percentage. Those Hashemi has supported or hopes to support include Arlington Street People's Assistance Network (A-SPAN), Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), Doorways for Women and Families, Urban Alliance and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
"I wanted to provide Arlington with a transformative indoor cycling experience in a place that was inclusive and welcoming," Hashemi says. "And I knew this community, in particular, would appreciate the opportunity to work out while also helping others."
Driven to do good
Good Sweat is the realization of a dream that took root more than ten years ago when Hashemi was living in Argentina and volunteering at an orphanage there.
Ali Hashemi, owner of the new Good Sweat indoor cycling studio in Rosslyn, has fun transporting cycles to her temporary pop-up on North Moore St. a few months before their opening.
"It was hard to see the conditions the kids were living in," she says. "I felt I needed to do something for myself and my mental health, so I started going to a gym and taking indoor cycling classes. I fell in love with it. I had an amazing coach, and after each session I felt rejuvenated, re-energized and refocused. Doing something good for myself helped me go out and continue serving the community."
Hashemi moved back to the U.S. and eventually made her way to Washington, D.C. She continued enjoying indoor cycling and became a part-time instructor at a few different fitness centers. She loved motivating riders and soon developed a loyal following. During the day, she worked as the Northern Virginia executive director for Urban Alliance, a nonprofit that provides work experiences for high school students that build their pathway to self-sufficiency. She was happy in her job and enjoyed going to work every day but aspired to take her career in a different direction. One day, she hoped to open her own indoor cycling studio with a social impact element. The venture would marry her two great loves: fitness and helping others.
"I had the idea for Good Sweat sooner than I wanted to admit, but I'm fairly risk-averse," she says. "My husband reminded me that I was spending all my time as a cycling coach motivating other people and telling them to go for it, yet I wasn't taking my own advice. He was right, of course. It was easy for me to tell other people to be brave and to go for it and to get uncomfortable so that they could change and grow. I needed to do the same."
Hashemi started looking for studio space in July 2017. She knew she wanted to be in Arlington, where she's lived since 2016. In March 2018, her broker, Neighborhood Retail Group, showed her the space in Rosslyn that would eventually become Good Sweat.
"I was really excited to be in Rosslyn because the neighborhood has grown and evolved so much in recent years," she says. "There are so many small businesses, experiences and outdoor events. There's a lot of positive energy, and I wanted Good Sweat to be a part of that."
A dream comes to life
Bringing Good Sweat to life has been a learning experience for Hashemi, who is a first-time entrepreneur. Her first challenge was securing funding for her new venture.
"Entrepreneurs don't talk about how hard it is to get funding," Hashemi says. "Starting a bricks and mortar business is not cheap."
She had saved some money, but not much, and her mother was her first investor. After seeking advice from several sources, she ended up getting a loan to cover startup costs from Dave Dockendorff at M&T Bank.
"I'm so grateful to Dave for giving me a chance because, really, who am I?" she says. "It's a risk to invest in a small business, and I'm not part of a chain so I don't have a track record."
Even with the Small Business Administration loan, she still had a gap in funding, so she launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise more funds. She was astounded and touched by the number of people who contributed. Many were former indoor cycling students. Others were old friends. Some were friends of friends. She raised over $25,000, which helped immensely with startup costs.
"Getting this off the ground has been scary every single day, and I think every entrepreneur feels that way, but when I see my amazing coaches and meet with my amazing staff or get to give A-SPAN a donation, I remember why I'm doing what I'm doing," she says. "And I know when Good Sweat is successful, it will be because this community is lifting it up."
How will she measure success in her first year? She says she'll be happy if Good Sweat has a loyal community of riders who love the rides, feel challenged and feel good about giving back to the community. She knows if the rides aren't challenging and inspiring people won't come back, so Good Sweat needs to consistently deliver the best classes they've taken. Culturally, she wants Good Sweat to be a place that focuses on what people gain by working out, not by what they lose.
"We're not going to have weight-loss challenges here," she says. "One of our core values is to always be positive, especially when it comes to bodies and women's bodies, in particular. If you come here regularly, your clothes are likely going to fit better and you'll have more muscle definition, but we also want you to leave in a better mental headspace than when you came. We care more about you feeling stronger, healthier, refreshed and energized—a better version of yourself."
"We're not going to have weight-loss challenges here. . . . We care more about you feeling stronger, healthier, refreshed and energized—a better version of yourself." – Ali Hashemi.
Getting ready for the big day
Two weeks before Good Sweat's grand opening, the space looks unfinished. It's dark inside, and there are paint cans and detritus everywhere. Several workers balance on ladders painting trim or adjusting light fixtures.
Two weeks before the grand opening, painting and tweaking were still underway. Would Good Sweat really open as planned?
"This is just our reception area," Hashemi explains.
Opening a door, she reveals the studio space. This is where "good sweat" will happen and it looks great, if still a work in progress. The bikes are here: a large fleet of top-of-the-line Stages indoor cycles solidly planted on several tiers facing the instructor's bike. They are new, and they look aggressive, gleaming, powerful. An accent wall is a deep, comforting shade of blue.
"I think I like the paint in here more than the paint we got for the reception area," says Hashemi, who admits that part of her entrepreneurship has involved more trips to Home Depot and Lowe's than she'd care to admit. "I may ask them to use this color out there, too."
Someone arrives to set up WiFi. Meanwhile, Hashemi's fielding numerous phone calls, all from contractors coming to work on the space. She seems certain she'll open in a couple weeks, even though it looks like there's still a tremendous amount to be done. She has her inspections scheduled, she says.
And on April 20, probably after working round-the-clock, she does open with a grand opening party featuring free rides throughout the day and lots of great food from nearby Rosslyn restaurants District Taco and Bethesda Bagels. In an Instagram post from that day, she thanks her family—not only her husband and young daughter, but her "fit family" who surround her as she cuts a red ribbon in front of the studio. The sun is shining and there are smiles all around.
"One of Good Sweat's core values is that we are more than a studio—we are a fit family and we live it every day by opening our doors to all," she says. "We hope you'll join our family as we grow and support each other."
Congratulations, Good Sweat, and welcome to the neighborhood!
To learn more, follow Good Sweat on Instagram or visit the Good Sweat website.
Photo at top: Ali Hashemi and her team hanging out near the Rosslyn Metro. Above, surrounded by her husband, daughter and team, Hashemi cuts the ribbon April 20. All photos by Setarra Kennedy except for the photo of the man on the ladder, which is by Paul Montgomery.