Recovery Loan Story: Christina VanDam, Zeal Aerial Fitness

Although no one could’ve predicted a global pandemic when 2020 began, here we are. And unfortunately, several of our favorite local businesses have taken a hit during these difficult times. With closures, loss of revenue, and uncertain reopening timeframes, entrepreneurs across the country have found themselves in a serious rut, just like GROW client Christina, who owns Zeal Aerial Fitness.

Meet Zeal Aerial Fitness

Zeal Aerial Fitness is an alternative fitness studio dedicated to teaching aerial fitness—like pole, silks, and more—all in an environment that allows and empowers participants to feel strong, comfortable, and passionate. After giving aerial exercise a try back in Utah, Christina found herself inspired by the act of “flying.” In 2018, the opportunity arose for Christina to start her own business and bring her love for aerial fitness to the Grand Rapids area, and that September, Zeal Aerial Fitness opened.

After about a year and a half of success, Zeal Aerial Fitness was closed due to the Executive stay-at-home order that was put into place on March 16. Initially, Christina and Zeal Fitness attempted online classes—how most fitness studio businesses did—but soon found that online sessions weren’t going to work due to the specific equipment needed for the classes they offered. Unfortunately, several private parties and events were also cancelled, forcing Zeal Aerial to lose even more revenue.

“Never did I think that this would be one of the struggles I would face as a business owner. Like so many small companies, I reached out to various groups like GROW, SpringGR, the SBDC, and StartGarden to see what advice and assistance they were offering to local businesses. By receiving the loan from GROW, I am able to continue to pay my rent and utilities so we will have a space when we reopen.”

GROW is here to help

When Christina first came to us, our first suggestion, as it was for many clients, was to ask for a reduction or deferment on the rent of her business space. She was encouraged by her landlord to seek grants or loans as a small business, but soon found that her business was not large enough to meet the requirements for most federal aid; she was going to need assistance to pay the rent for her studio.

Christina is not alone. Nearly every business GROW works with in West Michigan has turned to us for financial assistance, help with deferring current SBA loans, and counseling to plan for their recovery.

“Christina’s situation, like many of our other clients’, needed a funding option to secure her studio space and not put her under. This is exactly why we developed our GROW COVID-19 Working Capital Loan program,” shared Kelli Smith, Lending Manager at GROW. “We heard from so many businesses that needed help, but who don’t qualify for state or federal loan and relief programs that are offered.”

Bonnie Nawara, CEO of GROW adds, “This is exactly what GROW’s loan program was created to do – to support small businesses that don’t qualify or meet all the requirements for traditional loan programs. These funds are critical to entrepreneurs here in West Michigan.”

Our COVID-19 Working Capital Loan

The COVID-19 Working Capital Loan  provides small loans from $1,000 to $10,000 to local businesses at a 4% interest rate. Zeal Aerial Fitness was provided a working capital loan to cover rent payments and get the business through the pandemic.

“I cannot wait for the moment when we can welcome new people into our space! We have decided to wait until the Governor moves Kent County to phase 5 to do that. We have added additional cleaning measures, 3 hand sanitizing stations, temperature checks, and clients will no longer be sharing equipment like they had in the past. Safety has always been a priority at Zeal, but we have had to pivot in our thinking of safety. It is a new adjustment for everyone.”

At this time, Zeal Aerial Fitness has a tentative reopening date of July 19, depending on current restrictions, and looks forward to welcoming back their students, friends, and all those seeking to fly. Learn more about them here