Image copyright Rebecca Gallant Image caption Ms Gallant spent years juggling study and several professional positions, as well as raising children
Toronto is home to a number of pioneering models for how to bring diversity into the mainstream.
Newly-opened Pilates studio Black+Fit is not one of them. It’s the first in Canada to offer Black-owned, Black-run, Black-branded training.
And the studio is well situated for all body types, shapes and sizes.
Image copyright BlackFit Image caption The studio has one black teacher, who teaches the studio’s fitness and Pilates sequences
“If you walk into a Pilates studio that’s filled with Caucasian women, we talk about athleticism, we talk about looking lean, we don’t talk about being Black,” says operations manager Kelly Slivka.
“It just created a language that was misrepresented.”
This is all part of the goal of BlackFit’s founder Rebecca Gallant, who has been spending years trying to redefine what it means to be a Black-owned business.
“I knew that I didn’t want any more Black-owned businesses in my own city to be taken from me,” she says.
Image copyright BlackFit Image caption “I knew that I didn’t want any more Black-owned businesses in my own city to be taken from me,” said founder Rebecca Gallant
“I thought, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, because you can’t see this is possible, where Black runs your business.’ So, I started to look for the opportunity. I mean, it’s a non-trivial dream, to be a Black-owned business in Canada.
“I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, I thought I could find someone to partner with, that had the same drive and determination to do it.”
Ms Gallant wanted to avoid selling or licensing out the Black+Fit brand – one she created to bring something unique and meaningful to mainstream fitness.
Although she has a background in yoga and Pilates, she really was looking for a way to “weave” a brand of fitness that honoured herself and her family heritage and values.
Image copyright BlackFit Image caption “I wanted to honour myself and my family heritage and values,” explains business owner Rebecca Gallant
“I couldn’t just think about myself, my family,” she says. “The brands that I was trying to create wasn’t always based on what was marketed as Black, and that had to change. That’s why I wanted to start a Black+Fit brand.”
Ms Gallant eventually partnered with some personal trainers with a background in that particular martial art, but not as the certified Black Pilates teacher that Black+Fit operates under.
“We have the focus of being a Black business, but we are all international, Canadian women that have all brought different experiences,” she says.
Image copyright BlackFit Image caption “We have the focus of being a Black business, but we are all international, Canadian women that have all brought different experiences,” says Rebecca Gallant
“We’re strong women, strong business women, strong moms, strong Black-owned women.
“So, there’s this whole cross-over. I’m not trying to outdo any other business that’s existing in the market. I’m trying to inspire other Black women to create Black-owned businesses that are productive and profitable.”
Since opening in May, Black+Fit has won over customers and brought in larger orders through local Pilates studios.
“I want to see more Black businesses, and if Black fitness is going to come to the forefront and be a part of the national fitness movement, it needs a place to be in it. It needs to be with other businesses that aren’t commercialised, but that are business oriented and you can be very successful,” Ms Gallant says.
“I think it’s cool to see Black fitness finding a place in mainstream fitness, being acknowledged and encouraged.
“There’s still a cultural issue when people see African Americans not coming through mainstream fitness establishments, so I think Black+Fit gives them that opportunity to see that Black fitness is a healthy and a fit lifestyle.”