by jacqueline bender | January 1, 2015 | People
From fitness to facials, entrepreneur Shama Patel is ready to tackle 2015 with her fast-growing health and beauty businesses.
Shama Patel worked with her engineer father to create the rigging system for Air Aerial Fitness, whose silks were inspired by circus performers.
According to Shama Patel, Chicago’s notorious winters actually offer the ideal environment for new year’s fitness resolutions. “You can’t do too many outdoorsy activities, so you can work out a lot more,” asserts the 32-year-old Michigan native, who grew up playing tennis and is now serving up the gym alternative Air Aerial Fitness, whose innovative workouts sculpt and tone through suspension and resistance. Patel opened her first Air Studio in Lincoln Park last fall and has since added a location near her home in River North, a members-only studio at Soho House, and studios in Los Angeles and Charlotte. Next up? Along with a potential new location in 2015, Patel is now growing her entrepreneurial interests with Mud, a facial bar that will debut in January in River North.
The same competitive streak that first drew Patel to athletics is what sparked her interest in entrepreneurship. “I enjoy pushing myself to the max and challenging myself to be better,” she reasons. It all began in 2010, when Patel left her job as a Chicago corporate litigator to move closer to family in Charlotte, North Carolina, and open Flex + Fit, a studio (now closed) offering specialty workouts and healthy cooking classes. Says Patel, “I really wanted to do something on my own.” There, the concept of Air began to take form; inspired by aerial silks used by circus performers, Patel constructed hammocks to use for classes, working with her engineer father to create a rigging system to suspend them. “Aerials really did not exist in the marketplace in 2010, so we were very cutting-edge,” says Patel of her concept, which now uses the apparatus to combine elements of ballet, yoga, Pilates, and high-intensity interval training.
Patel—who used her litigation expertise to advantageous effect by even trademarking the term air—also plans to expand the fitness concept to Washington, DC, and Dallas. “I love evolving my business,” she says—and she’s always thinking of innovative ways to do just that, as evidenced by the Mud concept. “The breast-milk facial is going to raise some eyebrows,” she says with a smile, adding that the idea for the ingredient will be “either a catastrophe, or pure genius.” Mud’s mission will be efficiency, with each facial taking under a half hour. “People overcomplicate the most simple things, and I love bringing it back to basics again. When I have gotten facials done, it’s literally a game of ‘how many products can I lather on your face in an hour?’”
Like Air Aerial Fitness, Mud emerged from Patel’s two passions: a healthy lifestyle and venturing where other entrepreneurs have not. “I am of the opinion that entrepreneurship is not for everyone,” she says. “It’s a roller-coaster ride, which has the ability to turn your life upside down. It’s a route meant for those who have the ability to risk everything they have for a chance to achieve greatness.” She continues, “I’m an entrepreneur in every sense of the word.” Air Lincoln Park, 2217 N. Clybourn Ave.; Air River North, 676 N. LaSalle Blvd., 312-288-9614
photography by billy rood