article-author
Hejira Shirdan

Life Lessons with Dawn Estelle Archer

Success is truly a journey. I am sure we will appreciate our celebrities more when we get to know some of the things they have experienced. I had the opportunity to interview one of the most successful women in her career- Dawn Estelle Archer. She is a health and wellness instructor as well as a fashion designer, with 193,000 followers on Instagram.

Where is your place of nativity?
I am from Virginia but travel all over the US with my Sweat class.

How long have you been in health and wellness?
I have been in it since 2012. But, I can say that I opened my business officially in 2013.

How did you get into this field?
Living in Atlanta at the time, I was overweight and depressed. I have tried fad diets like slim fast, Jenny Craig and weight watchers but nothing worked. I decided to focus on something that “made me feel better with no real expectation of losing weight,” “making a lifestyle change” rather than having a quick fix. That was how I “stumbled” into the field of health and wellness! I didn't only become a participant, but also became an instructor!

Was it always your plan to be in this field?
With a degree in Fine Arts, I was working as a graphic designer intern. I felt undervalued and “walked out'' of there. On getting home, I started my fitness program in a parking lot, charging just $5 per person for my class. Later on, this business became branded as “Sweat Fitness.” Initially, I had no plan to have a career in health and wellness. I even preferred to be “broke'' at home with my family than to be here [in Atlanta]. At that time, I was broke, depressed and going through everything alone. I was never into fitness! You can imagine me “faking cramps” so that I can get out of any physical activity. I never thought this would be the path I would tread on in life. Initially, I just wanted to help others through my journey but quickly discovered I could live frugally off the income I was making in the parking lot. Leaving my job with “negative income,” I saved a total of $40,000 from the money I was making solely from those parking lot classes behind a building in Richmond, Virginia! That was when I decided to include more people from other places in my classes.

“I saved a total of $40,000 from the money I was making solely from those parking lot classes behind a building in Richmond, Virginia! That was when I decided to include more people from other places in my classes.”

<> What is your brand?
I have a wellness brand with several entities within it including screen printing, nutrition consultations which include grocery shopping trips, reading nutrition labels and meal planning on budgeting, the fitness classes, eBooks, and DVDs all available on my website www.dawn- archer.com

What made you decide to add clothing to your business and when did you begin creating clothing to promote your brand?
While on tour for my class, I would wear the tees that had slogans like “I used to be 210 lbs” or “Sweat” on them. People started asking me to make them tees to wear to the gym, and I felt very confident! So, while in Colorado for a class, I decided to put in an order for 500 pieces and posted online. Interestingly, they sold out within a few hours! From there, I decided to go ahead and invest in my screen printing equipment and started printing my brand of tees. Now, I offer tees, sweatshirts, pants, bags, etc. on my site.

What’s your vision for your brand?
I desire to get more into live coaching, not just to focus on fitness alone, but helping people release emotions and stress. “Spirituality and being able to talk through things” had been a significant part of my journey. Therefore, I want to be able to help others one on one in this area as well. One of my most popular slogans on prints is “Forgive + Live”. People seem to love my catchy phrases and proverbs. That alone gives me the drive to continue developing my clothing business.

I see you have over 193k followers on IG, what do you think contributed to growing that following and what sets you apart from other fitness professionals on social media?
I believe my transparency on social media has allowed me to grow. I share the good along with the bad including dealing with “scars on my legs from obesity”, having a bad day, etc. I am relatable to people and allow myself to be vulnerable. Despite not having an extensive fitness background or education, through my personal experience, I try to keep my sessions relatable and straightforward for the average person. That’s what people want. I am aware of what has worked for me, and that is what I share with people.

What’s the message you want to share with our readers?
Keep moving! Do not always have results as your priority. A lot of time you can grow and become a better person without the scale moving. I will tell you not to focus on the result but a lifestyle. You also need to be consistent as you move.

For future business owners/ fitness professionals:
Do your research! Then, find a business mentor. I began “organically and kind of winged it.” Fortunately for me, I succeeded but would have had fewer ups and downs in my business if I had a mentor. Mentorship would have given me a better plan and structure.
Be prepared to pay taxes! That was my biggest struggle with having a business of my own. When you leave a job to create your own, you will become responsible for things you may not be aware of before. These include liability insurance, permits, taxes and other legalities that you need to build your business and legal acumen. You also need to acquire knowledge about business. I have been a hustler and could “make things happen” but didn’t have a business background. That missing part was what I needed so that I would struggle less as a new business owner.

Lastly but not the least of Dawn’s message:
On the 12th of March, 2017, I was absurdly informed through an email that I was HIV positive. I had an understandably difficult time dealing with this change in my life and even attempted suicide. Now after two years of dealing with my diagnosis holistically and naturally, it has become a new chapter of my journey to spread a message to people to “get tested and protect yourself.” I believe God did not just give me this platform to show people they can work out and have fun. It isn’t happening for no reason. I want to bring awareness to the community about protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases.
And that was how She became a household name! So many of us admire celebrities without knowing their ordeals in life. Knowing some of their stories helps us to appreciate them better. More so, we have been able to recognize the importance of determination, focus, mentorship, and optimism. It was a pleasure to meet and interview Dawn. I wish her much continued success in all areas of her business and life! Follow @estellearcher on Instagram.