(HARLEM – April 15, 2020) – You gotta love her hustle and her determination. With a smile on her face, she and her team have made a commitment to see Harlem Cycle survive COVID-19 … no matter what.
When HBJ first spoke with Tammeca Rochester a week ago, she had an excitement in her voice. A week later, she is just as motivated. Prayerfully, state and local officials will soon report that enough progress has been made flattening out the spread of the Coronavirus that businesses can re-open.
Closed since March 15th, Rochester knew that she had to pivot. She said that Harlem Cycle “had to reinvent itself within a week.”
And that she did.
Like every other business owner impacted, she had to make some tough decisions and immediately so. After all, the pandemic forced most everyone to have to go back to the drawing board. Who could foresee life as we know it change before our very eyes?
Yet, Rochester was also clear about the alternative. She knew that her business’ survival would only result from her taking a pro-active stance.
“Since then, we created on-demand workout videos,” said Rochester. She continued, “We created Livestream workouts – from our living room to yours. And we shipped out bikes to clients. Additionally, we partnered with some Harlem restaurants and shared recipes.”
She said that she tapped into the business ecology across Harlem and collaborated with some strategic partners, like the restaurant owners.
“This is the first pandemic of this magnitude where we couldn’t have people in studio,” she stated. “Clients are familiar with workouts here at our studio. For us, it was a huge challenge to make that transition. Our clients love cycling. They love the group experience.”
Pivot: That’s where Rochester and her team decided to ship bikes to their clients who don’t have a bike at home.
Rochester said that communalism is a huge part of the cycling experience that Harlem Cycle presents. So, in order to effectively engage her clients now, she had to bring that same vigor online.
“Our Instagram movement parties, for instance, are getting people familiar with seeing us off the bike. This is to drum up excitement for the mat-based classes we are currently Live streaming.”
As a result of this adaptation, Harlem Cycle now has new clients tuning-in from other countries, including Mexico and Canada.
“Building an online component wasn’t at the top of my mind,” she admits. “But, it’s opened up a different audience, one we would not have thought of. Now, we’re actually in a position to grow globally.”
She said that now her thoughts include how to incorporate this all together when they are able to re-open.
Harlem Cycle is a classic example of a business facing a challenge head-on, and turning on the dime.
“When the pandemic shut us down, we went into strictly survival mode,” she said. “You can’t stay idle.”
She said that times like these reiterate the need for strategic partnerships such as the one she’s building with the owner of Women’s World of Boxing. She said that positive press doesn’t hurt, either.
“I think there has been a lot of press focused towards restaurants, coffee shops, and hair salons, for example, to help make sure they get support during this time,” said Rochester. “However, there is no press for fitness studios. We’ve been left out of the conversation and grouped in with large gyms making it even harder to survive.”
She added, “It’s concerning that there is no relief for Black-owned businesses because these relief stimulus loans mean you must have a lending history with a bank, which many small Black-owned businesses do not have.”
She said that the $2 trillion stimulus package “doesn’t apply to Harlem Cycle because I have a lot of independent contractors. Those details keep us out of there. We’ve been pushed out of this. No rent relief from landlords. Our rent is still due.”
So, what’s her message of inspiration to others? “Hang in there! This is the time when I actually think humanity is pulling together. I see clients purchasing gift cards, whether they need us or not. I’m seeing humanity pivot for the better.”