Spiked Spin’s Briana Owens wants to build a legacy. That’s why she works so hard. And while juggling a full-time advertising career with running a fitness studio is a sizable undertaking, the “future-focused entrepreneur” has her sights set on the bigger picture.
“When I say ‘future-focused,’ right now I’m considering my future children and the legacy that I want to leave,” she says. “That is why I think I’m able to make some of the sacrifices [I make] or find the time to balance a full-time job with building Spiked.”
Spiked Spin is Owens’ flourishing seed — once an offering of spin classes hosted at 10 Hanover Square and now its very own brick and mortar located in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Conceived with the idea of “generational health” in mind, Spiked Spin aims to bring the boutique fitness experience to underserved communities while transforming the way Black people navigate health.
“I started to look at the statistics of Black health and wellness, and they are terrible,” Owens shares. “Black people, and this is just things that we know, but we are leading in basically every category of preventable diseases.”
Enter Spiked Spin, which is just one of the ways she plans to make an impact within her community. It’s about more than staying in shape. Owens intends to educate, and with Spiked, she’s shifting the narrative by being an example for all generations.
“Me living a healthier lifestyle helps me to teach my grandma new ways to approach eating, and obviously my children will have a very different perspective of what health looks like within our community,” she says. “When I say ‘generational health,’ it’s really changing the mindset, in the same way that we have to change our mindset with money and finance into generational wealth.”
Owens' endeavor comes at a time when Black women are rapidly infiltrating the $4.2 trillion wellness industry, which up until recently, struggled to serve the Black female demographic. As the presence of Black wellness influencers expands and companies collaborate more with wellness influencers of color, the Queens-born rider is helping to usher in the wave of Black women making a difference where — as health statistics show — it absolutely counts.
“We infiltrate and kill every space and this is just the next opportunity to do that,” Owens says.
Congratulations on the opening of the new studio! How was it?
Briana Owens: Thank you so much. It has literally been amazing, but definitely one of the most challenging things that I’ve done. I don’t know if you know this, but I still work full-time, so I just feel overwhelmed, but I’m working it out. I’m trying to make it through early Q1 because I’m getting married in January.”
“Thank you so much. There’s just so much going on. I’m hoping that after the wedding and things settle I can just do Spiked full time.”
Let’s start at the beginning. Who is Briana Owens and what was she doing before Spiked Spin?
“This version of Briana Owens I think is a very driven, future-focused entrepreneur. I really have been just looking at life through the lens of ‘this is a season,’ and I try to keep reminding myself of the bigger picture and my long term goals.
That’s really where I am right now. I think I’m a future-focused entrepreneur and strong woman. I can’t leave that off because I think that me being a woman, I credit a lot of my abilities, too. I’ve seen so many strong women before me, and I know sometimes that narrative has become negative — like we have to carry everything. But I kind of wear it as a badge of honor because, whether we like it or not, things have to get done. I truly believe the strength from my mom and my grandma is what’s carrying me right now.”
Can you tell me a little bit about your mom and your grandma? What were some of the biggest lessons you learned from them?
“My grandma had children young. I think she had her first kid at 18. And my mom had me young. She had her first kid at 19. And so there was that generational cycle of young mothers and they still had to make everything happen. They were young, single mothers. I think knowing that I was raised by women who were in some of the worst circumstances and created new opportunities — so my grandma ended up working for the city and was able to retire after working in New York for the police department for like 30 years, and then my mom was able to graduate college when I was in third grade. Now she’s a CFO in Georgia working in finance.
I always kind of knew that the only limit was yourself and whatever the life is that you want to create, if you’re willing to put in the work and do it, it can be done. I saw it with my own two eyes. I saw my mom work at the post office and then she would come home, drive me to school, then she would go to classes, then my grandma would pick me up and I would come home and she would be there. It was like everyone was all hands on deck through those phases for us to be where we are now.
That’s kind of how I look at life. I realize that there are gonna be phases of complete sacrifice or you need help or you need all hands on deck, but it’s all for the bigger picture. If you can stay focused, stay grounded through those phases and not give up, it’s always gonna be beautiful on the other side. And I saw it. You know what I mean? So I think I have a different with hard work, sacrifice, and the necessity for it.”
When did you know you wanted to enter the fitness and wellness space?
“My background is in digital advertising and I started on the agency side. It just so happened that my teammates and I love to work out, so sometimes we would go to ask to go to all of these cool boutique fitness classes.
From there, I took a class and I literally hated and I didn’t go back for a full year. Everyone was like ‘Briana, you’re being ridiculous,’ so I go back and I became kind of obsessed. I was going all the time. Any time I could get into a studio I was trying to ride. I think it’s because of my background in dancing. It’s the rigor and intensity of being a track athlete but with the cool, rhythmic aspect of dancing and I feel like that was that perfect combination that I love.
Long story short, I became obsessed with it and I was doing it all the time. I was starting to have this feeling of like, ‘Hm! Maybe I want to be an instructor.’ I took a class and this woman came up after like, ‘Have you ever thought about being an instructor? You ride really well.’ So I was like ‘Mm! Maybe this is a sign.’ Within like a week span, I found the program she recommended and registered to get my license to be an instructor. It was so fast and it just so happened that they had a course that same weekend so it literally happened very quickly.
I started teaching at a boutique uptown on 59th Street and then I started to just hate it. That was where I was like ‘Okay, something is off because I love to ride, I love sweating, I love dancing,’ but it did not feel authentic. I was downloading music that I didn’t really like, I was changing my voice. It wasn’t me on the bike. It almost felt like the same way I had to be at work, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to have to do this when I’m working out. It’s one thing to have to [codeswitch] in a work setting, but I shouldn’t have to be doing that [here].
So I was like, ‘I’ma try to do my own class’ and I invited friends. I sent an email blast and that was the start of Spiked Spin. I didn’t think of it as a business. I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t have these great, grand ideas. I literally was just like ‘I hate this feeling and I wanna be able to be my full self.’ From that moment, when I had everyone come I was like, ‘I get this.’ We all need to be our full selves."
Now that you’ve opened your new studio, what are some of the ways that you’ve been thinking about managing your time and taking care of yourself?
“I have to be honest: self-care is not top-of-mind for me right now [laughs]. My therapist and I were having a conversation and she was like, ‘Briana, you need to do something,’ and I realized that I do, but it goes back to my earlier point where I consider this a moment. I know that my life won’t be this hectic forever. I know that this is literally a season, and I know that there are gonna be so many things that try to break me and if I can just get through this season, self-care will be beautiful on the other side.
It’s exciting because I’m learning how capable I am. It’s scary because I don’t know how long this season is. I don’t know if this is a year, I don’t know if this is a month, so that’s where it gets crazy. But I do have people around me who give me moments: my fiancé, my best friend, my Spiked team — they know how much I’m doing and they try to do as much as they can to make my life easier, which for me helps for self-care. Because if I can just take an hour where I’m not in the studio, where I’m not at work and I’m just sitting in my living room, that’s what it looks like for me right now. It’s nothing fancy, it’s not going to get a massage. It’s literally just sitting with my thoughts for one hour with no texting or calling or needing me.”
Spiked Spin’s mission is motivated by the idea of “generational health.” Can you tell me a bit more about what generational health means to why and it’s become your focus?
“Generational health has become the focus because it’s really the impetus of — to my earlier point — how Spiked Spin became a business and not just a random class that I was teaching. And it’s because I started to look at the statistics of Black health and wellness, and they are terrible.
And so when I say generational health, what that looks like is starting somewhere to be the change for the future and past generations. I still love macaroni and cheese, I still love fried chicken — things that people associate with quote unquote Black culture — but also I understand that’s not the end-all-be-all of who we are as people.
It’s a tough conversation and it’s worth moving that needle. I hope that at some point when we look at those stats, we are not number one for preventable diseases, or we have shifted some element or aspect has changed or improved for the better. Otherwise, we’re just dying and no one cares.”
I think we’re on our way to shifting that narrative.
“Oh my God. Significantly! Like when I see it I’m very excited, but I also am aware that we are in pockets. This is another thing that I like to speak about. As I mentioned, it’s corporate America in this very cool New York City circle that I get to exist in that really exposed me to boutique fitness, but I never wanna forget that my cousins don’t live in that world. A lot of my friends don’t live in that world. So the things that are commonplace for us and become ‘Oh girl, you haven’t seen this? You’re not going to this class? You’re not drinking this green drink?’ That’s not at the forefront of their existence.
This is why I’m so happy that we have this studio and why I wanna be able to switch to Spiked full time. I see the bigger picture and those are the places that I wanna infiltrate. It’s less about reinforcing people who are already exposed to it and more about introducing it to people who don’t think about it. When you live in this world and you’re in these circles, you assume that everyone else knows what you know.”
What does infiltrating those spaces and getting this information to people who don’t have access look like for you?
“The thing about Spiked is beyond just classes, there will be an educational component, and it won’t be boring. I always am thinking about who my audience is: people of color, people who are from underserved communities, people who are not readily willing to make this crazy lifestyle change. That’s why it’s so important that it feels cool and authentic because that’s what they care [about]. I don’t want to create this stuffy experience.
It looks like me creating Spiked Spin and Spiked locations in their communities. That’s why the first location was in Bed-Stuy, and then we’ll go to Jamaica, Queens. We don’t need to keep going to the places that already exist. I wanna bring it into their communities but also make it just as beautiful as [a studio] on Park Ave and just as clean and just as pristine and really making them know that they are deserving — that WE are deserving of these kinds of spaces in our communities, and that they should be affordable. That’s what it looks like. It looks like crazy expansion into areas that most people don’t even think to serve or care to serve.”
What does it mean to you to be a Black woman in the wellness space, considering that mainstream wellness doesn’t typically prioritize us?
“For me it means impact, it means heavy responsibility, and it means opportunity to create change. I don’t take it lightly. I also acknowledge that I have a very athletic build, so I could definitely [get away with] being another fitness girl. Wellness and health for me are not about body image. It’s all about what’s happening inside.
I know girls who are so thin and to the outside world it’s like ’Oh my god, they look so great!’ but they are disgustingly unhealthy inside. And vice versa I know girls who can run a marathon but they’re bigger. So that’s why I don’t lead with body image as a Black woman in health. I really want people to understand that health happens inside of you. It’s not all about what you look like. They’re connected, but it’s more so about what you’re doing for your heart and the organs that are allowing you to function.”
Last question! What does being “Unbothered” mean to you?
“Ugh, ‘Unbothered’ is like the foundation of Spiked! Our saying is ‘Insult the Standard,’ and it really just means: Do your own thing. Forget about what everybody else is saying, don’t even pay attention to it, don’t worry about it, don’t consider it, keep your bigger picture in front of you, and that’s that."