Entrepreneur Spotlight: Alyssa Lee Wilmot of The Movement Factory
Alyssa Lee Wilmot’s vision for The Movement Factory, a Pilates, Barre, Dance and Yoga specialty boutique studio in Lakewood and Rocky River, had been a work in progress for over three decades. From planning a studio in the basement of her friend’s house in third grade to finding a gap in the fitness boutique market when arriving back home from California as a young professional, the Cleveland native has spent her entire life enthralled by dance and movement. A graduate of the College of Wooster with a master’s degree from Mills College in California, Wilmot founded The Movement Factory in 2013 to provide Cleveland women with a space to feel empowered and strong as a non-intimidating studio open to different levels, ages and body types.
Start Early: Wilmot started her dance education at the age of three and has been dancing ever since. “My mom’s friend had a studio and I was always just dancing around and loved music,” she says. “It’s a fun thing for kids to do because it helps build self-esteem and spatial awareness as well as cognitive and psychological skills.”
Calling Off: While studying varied interests in college including dance, theatre, philosophy and political science, Wilmot took two semesters off from dance to pursue a career in law. However, it only took watching the Nutcracker with her mom and aunt to quickly realize dance was her calling. She says, “Where your talent is you have to go. We all have our own calling.”
Map It Out: From the time she was little, Wilmot had an entrepreneurial spirit. “I made a business plan for a studio I wanted to have in my best friends basement when I was in third grade. I drew the whole thing out and wrote down all of the classes we were going to have. I made a schedule with the times,” she says. “My grandpa was the building commissioner of the town we were in. I was so excited I put everything in a folder and brought it to dinner to have a business meeting. That was my first ‘made-up’ business.”
Foot in the Door: Wilmot believes having female mentors was crucial to her development as a professional. While in California, she worked as the office manager for two female doctors who specialized in podiatry and opened a small office at the time when larger medical facilities were more popular. “ I learned so much from them in terms of how to be a female boss, how to be a business owner and how to be kind when you have a business.”
Going Costal: After spending 10 years in California studying dance and obtaining her Pilates certification, Wilmot decided to move back to Cleveland for family and quickly found a void in the fitness boutique market. “There was a need for this in Cleveland. There weren’t as many boutique studios. It was really popular in California so then when I moved back here, I was like, ‘Where’s the place where I can just drop-in and take a class without this big commitment?,” she says. That’s when The Movement Factory was born.
Ethic of Care: Her experience in California not only shaped her ideas about Pilates but the way she approaches running a business. Rather than solely focusing on profit, Wilmot chooses to prioritize compassion as an entrepreneur. “Sometimes to be a successful business, you have to consider the individual,” she says. “The benefit of being a small business is that we have personal interactions with people, and we take personal situations into consideration. It’s approaching a business from an ethic of care versus an ethic of we just want to make money.”
Community Art: Although she didn’t know of Cleveland’s entrepreneurial community when starting her business, she quickly found it as she got The Movement Factory off the ground. Specifically as an artist, Wilmot has established a community with Nicole Dzurko of Revial Body Care, Freddy Hill of Freddy Hill Design and Gina DeSantis of Gina DeSantis Ceramics. “The artist community is really supportive.” she says.
Dancing to Wedding Bells: One of Wilmot’s favorite parts of her business is preparing clients for their first dance on their wedding day, and she’d like to continue growing this service at The Movement Factory. “I love bringing joy to people,” she says. “It’s that individual connection that is the biggest success.”
Jazz It Up: Although Wlimot has studied various forms of movement, ranging from dance forms such as Ballet, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop/Break dancing, Lyrical, Pointe, Liturgical, Belly dance, Modern, Contemporary and African dance; along with other forms such as Pilates, Yoga, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Basketball, Cheerleading, Fitness training, Cardio dance and more, if she could only pick one for the rest of her life it would be Jazz dance. “I just like the way it makes me feel. It’s a really good form of expression,” she says. “It’s my happy place.”
Make Cents: Cleveland’s affordable cost of living benefits residents and business owners alike. When considering moving back to California with The Movement Factory, Wilmot said affordability was a huge deciding factor. “I was going to move back but it was so much more affordable to create a business here,” she says.
Dream Big: While Wilmot hopes The Movement Factory can continue to serve people in Cleveland as a welcoming, safe, effective and non-intimidating place to exercise, she has lofty goals for its future. “My dream is to open up a Pilates retreat on the Mediterranean in the south of Turkey.”
Just Do It: When starting her business, Wilmot was inspired by a quote from her favorite choreographer, Merce Cunningham, an American dancer who was at the forefront of modern dance for more than 50 years, who said ‘The only way to do it is to do it.’ She says, “I think that’s the same with your business or your dream; you just have to do it.”
Next Steps: Although Cleveland has risen to a national stage because of its sports and food scene, Wilmot believes the city has so much more potential, and she is ready to start the conversation. “I really feel strongly to facilitate a call for Cleveland to be more forward thinking and progressive in terms of health and wellness,” she says.
Interested in learning more about The Movement Factory? Please visit here.