About 5 years ago, Dax (my husband) and I were traveling about 30 weekends a year in various countries, teaching others about Swing Dance. We had been doing this for about 8 years when we decided to take our personal relationship to the next step: marriage and a baby. So naturally, the question popped up, “How are we going to support our family now that traveling is not practical anymore?”.
I remember this moment so clearly. I was 3 months pregnant and we were on our Homey-moon (meaning we spent our honeymoon doing blissfully NOTHING). Dax came home one day after being gone for an unusually long time. “Hey babe, I found a really cool loft across the street. Why don’t we open a local dance studio?”. My response, “Sounds good.”
And there you have it. The birth of the Lindy Loft. Within one month we became studio owners. But with this new venture, we had to design our lives around a few things:
I didn’t want to run a typical dance studio. I wanted to run a clubhouse. A place where people felt at home and there was more going on than just dance. If I was going to be there every day, I wanted it to be comfortable for me as well.
I wanted our family to be together as much as possible, especially in the evenings. If our son was in school all day, I didn’t want to sacrifice family time in the evening. This is tricky since swing dance classes typically happen at night when everyone is off work.
So we decided to make our dance studio our home as well. We got really lucky with the loft we found. We had permission to build it out however we wanted and it was a uniquely zoned building that allowed a legal, public business to happen. Most of the tenants in the building were also running their own businesses and living there as well. And this set-up was perfect….for a while.
I loved what this unique set-up had to offer. This environment allowed my husband to be as busy as a CEO and an accessible dad at the same time. With a baby, getting out and socializing felt impossible for me so when I had people coming to me it relieved so much stress. And if I was over it I could just go to my room. Being on the road for years, I didn't really have many friends. This was the first time I realized what it was like to have a home base. My son had car sickness so having a downtown location made going out for a happy hour while the baby slept totally possible. My son grew up eating dinner and watching dance class, talk about built-in babysitting! And to this day, music/rhythm is more ingrained in his body than most kids his age. The dance studio provided such a unique way of being raised.
And the students loved this idea of taking a class in someone’s “home”. People embraced our family and were very forgiving when the loft wasn’t the cleanest or a kid was running around.
But then our son started getting sick. At the height of it all, he was allergic to almost every food group with unusual, extreme allergic reactions as well as a future Asthma diagnosis heading our way. During this time I started to become obsessed with all things health. I was on the internet several hours a day researching and joining every free health summit I could. I knew there were three main causes of the decline of his health:
1. Being in an institutionalized daycare.
2. The environment he was growing up in.
3. His gut was in dire need of repair.
As amazing of a life the loft gave us, it started to show a lot of negative effects. We had 100 feet with street shoes walk on our floors every week (and almost that many butts on our toilet every month). Living in an old building, I came home to signs on our front door stating there’s a risk of lead, asbestos and all the other wonderful toxins that come with old buildings. Our beautiful, huge windows had no screens or filtration and downtown is under massive reconstruction all the time. The air was always dusty and dry. On weekends, the parties of our neighbors would send massive clouds of smoke into our bedroom (I swear one night we all got high because no one could sleep till 4 am). Dancing didn’t end till 1030pm most nights so no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get my kid to bed at a decent time and couldn’t even consider winding down myself till 11 pm.
Downtown LA has always had a homeless epidemic. But sadly, it’s getting worse. Drug addiction is switching to more violent types. Every week, I started to see or hear of some major form of violence. I had to be ready for an attack every time I walked out the door with my kids. My son started to notice people pulling their clothes off, defecating in the streets (legally I might add), masturbating near play structures, etc. And speaking of parks, most have cockroaches and not a lot of greenery. In fact, if I wanted to take him to real nature it would take over 30 minutes.
But we felt stuck. We had spent so many years building this community and business up. And we couldn’t afford to not have our son at the daycare even though it was making him sick.
So I started to change all the other things I felt were easier to do so. The biggest impact was his diet. After 2 months of the AIP diet (and another year of a general restrictive diet) he came off his asthma meds. We ripped up all the carpet. I bought expensive HVAC filters. We used face masks on extra polluted days. I tried essential oils and started asking students to wipe their shoes when they came to class. He started seeing a homeopath, chiropractor, ENT doctor and naturopath. He was doing better...until he started to get worse again. At this point, I had my second child and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I had many chats with my husband who agreed but also felt stuck like me. Also, add in the pressure of providing for his family. How would we make money if we closed our business? But I hated the idea of making decisions based out of fear. That has never been our way. Dax and I thought outside of the box to CREATE this life and we need to think outside the box to create our next chapter of life.
So after a year of the same conversations, listing of our dreams and making plans, we finally decided to just DO IT. We sold our house, closed the business, sold most of what we own, moved in with my parents for a year to cut all our costs to almost nothing so we can finally build our online swing dance business, RhythmJuice, the way we always wanted. We want to stop hustling, nurture our family and do fulfilling work. My son is now in a forest school and spends his day climbing trees.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret any of our decisions in the past. The loft taught me how to run a business. It gave me humility and respect for others the way of being a traveling dance teacher never provided. I learned the healing abilities of the community. Honestly, if you are a traveling teacher, you probably would benefit from running a local scene for a while. And if another family were to ask for my advice, I would suggest a live/work type set up. In my ideal world, having a property where the living space was separated from the studio but close enough for the baby monitor to reach would be perfect. And I would also be VERY CAREFUL to choose what neighborhood this business would be in unless you are willing to relocate as your kids get older and need more from their neighborhood.
And the beautiful thing is once we decided, spoke out loud our wishes and took action, opportunities came out of the woodwork. Due to two of our students wanting to keep the community and space we built alive, The Lindy Loft has been able to turn into a community center for our online business (a local venue that allows people to come together and practice/learn the material off Rhythmjuice). This is an opportunity we thought would be a few years down the road. And because of it, we are able to use the feedback from our members to build RhythmJuice the way it probably should have always been.
I feel so grateful.