D. Amaadi Coleman: From Suits to Sneakers

EWI Stories Vol. 6
Creating a platform for the stories of women entrepreneurs.
D. Amaadi Coleman: From Suits to Sneakers
How a love of movement led to entrepreneurship.
By Ally Jokl

Coleman tells me about her morning before our interview. Amaadi and her three sons wake up early three times a week to get moving together. Her boys are noticing results. During soccer practice the night before, one of her sons came up to her and said, “I’m not as tired as I normally am!” After the workout she squeezed in a call with a friend before hopping on Zoom with me for our interview. Like most days her schedule is packed, but Amaadi is always on the go.

Movement is ingrained in Amaadi. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Maryland, she reminisces on her early childhood. When she was four or five Amaadi, her mother and brother would rise before the sun and walk, jog or bike in the pre-dawn light, sometimes riding on a seat attached to her mother’s bike. It did not strike her as strange at the time. If it was time to wake up and it happened to be dark out, then it was time to wake up. She skated, played tennis, danced; she thrived in the constant activity. Maybe it’s only natural that Amaadi is getting her own sons up and active before school.

Amaadi is the founder of Fit Tribe Wellness. Entrepreneurship and fitness are her second career. She has an undergraduate degree in criminology and a graduate degree in public policy. She pursued a career in research and worked a desk job for ten years. In her own words she was a “data numbers cruncher.” Many people become more sedentary in college and their careers. As Amaadi describes this period of her life, I remember my time as a student when books and my laptop kept me from moving for weeks at a time. Activity never took a backseat for Amaadi though. “Movement and exercise and eating healthy, it’s always kind of been a part of my DNA,” she tells me, “It’s always been there because that’s how I was raised.” It was never about the aesthetic results for Amaadi. She loves moving for the exertion of running, lifting weights, playing tennis, and all her other activities.

Amaadi took her first Zumba class while working her desk job and fell in love. She approached the Zumba teacher and asked how to become an instructor. She became certified and taught part time for five years at her local YMCA. Teaching Zumba excited her and soon after she started teaching other programs like water fitness and senior classes.

Her mother became ill, and the woman who loved activity and who instilled this life-long passion into Amaadi slowly lost her ability to move. She passed away in January 2016. Amaadi was laid off six months later. The following year was a blur for Amaadi, “My kids were here, I took them to school, I fed them, I hugged them, I taught classes, I trained people, but I can’t remember much. It’s almost like I blacked out because of the mourning period for the loss of my mom.”

Losing her mother coupled with being laid off made Amaadi reassess how she wanted to live. She was already in a position of self-reflection, and she now had to decide what to do with her life.

It was time to seize the opportunity to make a major career change. She was already training people and teaching fitness classes part time. Why not live in her tennis shoes rather than taking off a suit to put them on each day? Passion and a drive to help others must be monetizable. Fit Tribe Wellness became official in December 2017. Amaadi offers personal training, nutrition information, online group fitness classes and her “Love Your Belly” program. The core values of the business are sisterhood, women’s holistic healing, and movement with an emphasis on empowering women of color. The values of her business reflect the values she grew up with and learned on her journey through life. Now she supports herself while sharing the sisterhood of being a mother, the holistic healing she studied, and the movement she had always known.

Fit Tribe Wellness’ most popular offering is Amaadi’s Belly Therapy. “Love Your Belly” is a six-week program under her Belly Therapy offerings for individuals and groups of women. Her journey with bellies began when she found out she had diastasis recti, an abdominal muscle separation, a few years ago. She did not think much of it at the time, but last year she put herself through a belly healing program. Her separation closed and some stretch marks faded within weeks. She knew other women would want the same results, so she completed more training and refined the program. “Love Your Belly” launched two days after her mother’s birthday this year.

Amaadi’s passion for this work is palpable. She says,

“It’s twofold. And the first part of it [goes back to sisterhood], we all kind of go through the same thing, especially mothers…They become pregnant and they just cherish this expanding belly and they love it and it’s this sacred, wonderful time for mom and baby that’s growing. And when the baby comes it’s like ‘oh, this is what I’m left to look like for the rest of my life?’…It’s not how it was pre baby. And then self talk quickly changes from this cherishing, sacred, loving, almost secret worship of the belly to this negative narrative that we have in our head of what our belly is always supposed to look like so that we can receive love either from ourselves or other people …in order for us to feel beautiful. And that’s ludicrous, it’s absolutely ludicrous. How magical the woman’s body is, it’s ludicrous how much negative self talk we have and how much pressure we put on ourselves…So, first step: self love and self acceptance. Love your belly!…Second fold, love your belly enough to heal it with the Belly Therapy. This is specifically for moms…love your belly unconditionally and also enough to heal it because pregnancy and childbirth is a very sacred yet traumatic thing that can happen to the body…It expands and it retracts, and there are symptoms that come out of that, that my program helps to heal.”

Fit Tribe Wellness has evolved since its inception. Amaadi participated in Empowered Women International’s Entrepreneur Training for Success (ETS) program in Spring 2020. She had received some free business counselling from the Latino Economic Development Center and heard about EWI through an email from them. Getting an interview and being accepted into to program was exciting. Her business changed on the first day of the program. Her trainer, LaDon Love, asked the students to say their names, the names of their businesses, and their business slogan or tagline. Amaadi changed her slogan after that first class based on feedback from her peers. Now her mission statement is “Creating Wellness Through Awareness.” She gained clarity of what her goals were and what she wanted to convey. It is so important to her that when I ask what success looks like for her, without hesitation Amaadi replies, “Carrying out my mission. I created that mission…and if I’m carrying out that mission, I’m successful.”

Graduating from the program was a rite of passage for Amaadi. She learned new skills as an entrepreneur, but the program offered so much more. It also gave her a new sisterhood. The trainers from ETS and some of her peers took her “Love Your Belly” program. She made a lifelong friend with a classmate as well. This is the friend that Amaadi chatted with before our interview. During the interview, she grabs a book, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, that this friend sent to her. The warmth in her voice as she talks about these women shows the depth of these connections.

Why should people support Empowered Women International? According to Amaadi it’s simple. “Because they empower women.” Her mission demonstrates how much she values this cause. ETS program participants receive scholarships for their tuition funded through donations and grants. Amaadi says, “I don’t think I would be where I am in my business at this moment if I did not take that program. And as a single mom, if I had not received the financial support to take the program, even if I did get the interview and got accepted, I wouldn’t have been able to pay for the program.”

Her new career is fulfilling in a way crunching numbers never could be. She now can see the effect her work has on people’s lives. Amaadi uses education to lessen the perception that there is a barrier to health and wellness, especially for women of color. Her priority is not necessarily to help people lose weight or get, as she calls them, “Michelle Obama arms.” The most important thing is that she sees the difference in her client’s lives. She gets a spark of joy when clients tell her that they have more energy or that they have one less coffee a day now. Before she lacked passion and did not feel her contributions were significant, now she knows the people she helps feel empowered.

Since our interview, Amaadi launched the “3-Day Love Your Belly Challenge”. The Challenge is for women who do not feel ready for the actual six week “Love Your Belly” program. She also offers monthly educational webinars on the basics of diastasis recti.

You can find Amaadi and Fit Tribe Wellness at https://www.fittribewellness.com/ on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram @fittribewellness. You can sign up for her bi-monthly newsletter on her website for tips and happenings EWI Stories Vol. 6 Creating a platform for the stories of women entrepreneurs. D. Amaadi Coleman: From Suits to Sneakers How a love of movement led to entrepreneurship. By Ally Joklabout women and fitness and Love Your Belly.