New England Patriots cheerleader Andrea Courtemanche would be the first to admit that before the COVID-19 pandemic, she wasn't necessarily working her dream job.
As a lifelong dancer, the idea of opening a dance studio stemmed back to childhood, with her studying business entrepreneurship and dance at Endicott College. Out of school, she landed her first job as an administrator and insurance coordinator at a physical therapy office, but knew the paycheck was a means of saving to one day be her own boss – even if she didn't have an exact idea of what she wanted to be in charge of.
Unexpectedly in March of 2020, she found herself with plenty of time to figure it out. Now, three years later, she's just finished up her second season with the cheer squad and is planning the grand opening of her very own business.
"That's when I became obsessed with health and fitness, during the pandemic," Courtemanche said. "You could either be worried about it or take charge of your health. So that's how I got super into it all and had time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life."
Vivant, set to open on April 1, is an all-in-one fitness, dance and wellness studio located in Warwick, Rhode Island.
The studio will offer wellness services and fitness classes that include Pilates, yoga, barre, strength training, adult dance, and "bounce & bike" – Vivant's signature class that incorporates the trampoline and spin bike to make for a killer cardio workout.
The concept isn't exactly what she imagined growing up, but has evolved to align with her current interests and values – a holistic approach to health and exercise that fosters community.
"It really was just one moment where it all clicked for me," Courtemanche said, recalling last September when a Pilates class on YouTube helped her connect the dots between all of her passions.
"It was always an idea in the back of my head, but I didn't know how I was going to put it all together into one business."
The initial thought was to get her Pilates certification, on top of the training she had already completed to become a Certified Holistic Nutritionist.
Courtemanche had been working out for several years, and saw how much Pilates changed her own life – not to mention, how trendy it's become in the fitness industry and the foundation it provides a professional cheerleader.
"I also had my certification to be a nutritionist, and have all these different interests, but didn't know how to do it all at the same time," Courtemanche said. "I love Pilates, but I want to be able to take classes where that's not the only option. I also want to be able to do cycling and yoga and dance with that same membership. I have all these interests, and can teach various styles of fitness, so that's how I came up with the idea. At that moment it just kind of clicked."
Coming up with the idea was one thing. Taking the leap is another, given that she'd need to support herself and this new venture financially.
Courtemanche had been stashing away any spare money she could save from her jobs as a nanny and Patriots Cheerleader, and not long after her plan came into focus, she found an affordable space in a great location with a lot of the necessary renovations already done for her.
"That was the big sign that I had to just jump," Courtemanche said.
"I have to do this. It's meant to be. They already had mirrors hung up. The floors were installed. Those are the biggest costs when it comes down to owning a studio like this, so that was the big sign that I had to just do it."
At just 27 years old, she knows she's taking a huge risk. Still, her confidence and conviction make it hard to bet against her – especially given the overwhelming support she's already received through her platform as a Patriots Cheerleader and having grown up in a small state like Rhode Island.
"The platform that I have being a Patriots Cheerleader and just growing up in a small state is so huge," Courtemanche said. "Everybody knows everybody in this state and it's just so powerful as a business owner."
An even tighter-knit community is what she's setting out to build – more so than a profitable small business.
Courtemanche thinks about the camaraderie she experiences with the squad, and how her teammates see practice as an escape from their everyday lives while working together for a common goal.
Not many girls who grow up dancing stick with it into adulthood, but she sees a way to provide that sense of belonging through Vivant's adult dance classes and the studio's other offerings.
To do so, she's hanging up the pom poms after two great years to build her business full time.
"I'm lucky I got to do this as an adult as a professional cheerleader, but I know a lot of people I grew up with dancing throughout my childhood who are all itching to do it again," Courtemanche said.
"One of the biggest things I want to do for them is provide a place where people can come and do what they love to do. It might sound cliche, but this business to me is not about making a profit. It's not about making money. I just want to help promote a healthy lifestyle that isn't strict or overbearing. I want to create a community where people can come after a stressful day at work and take a class, meet friends, connect with people and have it be their happy place. That's what I've been craving in this area. It's really about bringing my core beliefs to my community."