Dawn grew up in Midlothian, Virginia with her parents, her dog, and two older siblings. She spoke highly of her family and is very grateful of the support system they’ve been for her over the years. As we spoke about her childhood she told me, “I was always overweight. I was never small. I was always big for as long as I could remember.” Dawn’s story is so compelling because she went from a size 16(210lbs) all the way to a size 6 in one year. She not only taught herself the value of dedication to fitness, she now inspires people all over the world with her message! She said it to me very simply, “If it’s something you want to do you’ll find a way. If it’s something you don’t want to do you’ll find an excuse.”
I met up with Dawn at her house in Midlothian, Va. She greeted me with a warm smile and embrace, “Heyyy! C’mon in!” When I entered it was easy to see that Dawn had been busy at work. I saw SWEAT apparel, book bags, and a laptop log into dawn-archer.com. Her website is dope and what’s even more impressive is that she developed it herself. As a fellow developer, I had to give her kudos for her graphic design skills! Dawn is the creator and instructor of “SWEAT.” The SWEAT tour is her challenge to herself to teach her class in ALL 50 states in one year! Thus far it’s been nothing but success with only 10 cities to go. Dawn has almost 200,000 followers on Instagram and has received national coverage for the SWEAT movement. Being featured in HLN, The Positive Controversy (@KristenLPopeTV), Cosmopolitan Magazine, and even sat down with @KarenCivil. Dawn is a talented entrepreneur with more skills than just fitness. Hard work turns to SWEAT in this week’s #ShineHard conversation.
So you mentioned that you were overweight your whole life, What was your turning point? When did you say enough is enough?
Dawn: I went to school in Atlanta and racked up a whole bunch of school loan debt. I was down there for five years and got my degree in three. Came back here because I broke my ankle. I started painting because I couldn’t find a job. I was a portrait painter for a little while and then I was making wedding gowns as a seamstress. I was at the point where I wasn’t making any money doing that so I taught myself graphic design. I felt like I couldn’t make any money in Richmond so I moved back to Atlanta again. The second time I couldn’t find a job and I was really depressed. To the point where I was sleeping like 90% of my day. I was away from my family. I was broke. I was depressed. It was like a nightmare. I realized I couldn’t control anything in my life. I couldn’t control relationships. I couldn’t control money. My life was out of control and that’s what got me depressed. And it was like nobody could understand because I had such a big support system. It was like, “Why are you like this??”
It got to a point where I was like, “OK, I can’t control anything, but I can control what I eat and I can control my exercise.” So that’s what I started to do and it became an addiction. Working out made me happy. I didn’t see any change at first, but then slowly I started to see change. And ya know, most people stop after 5-10 days, if that! Because they’re like weighing themselves every day, trying all these get slim quick things that are temporary. I haven’t weighed myself in over two years. I have no idea how much I weigh. It’s not important to me. I’m not looking for results, so I don’t have the opportunity to get disappointed. But yeah, that’s when it all turned around for me.
What is your passion and when did you know?
Dawn: I have a lot of different passions. I don’t have just one. I like to help people, I like to give back. It makes me happy to see someone else happy. Being able to spread hope! When I was depressed it was like I didn’t have any hope. I owed $118,000 in school loans, unemployed, away from my family, just out of a seven year relationship. I had lost hope. I just felt like, “What is the point?” It was bad and it was only like two years ago. I got to the point where I was like if I make it out of this I promise I will give people hope. Since then, people have told me, “I get out of bed because I see your posts.” That is what it’s all about to me. Giving that one person that inspiration.
Who did you look up to as a kid? Who inspires you now?
Dawn: My grandmother. Well, all my family. My family has always been really strong, very family oriented. I have a huge family. My grandmother has always been the soul of that. You need food? You go to grandma’s. You sick? You go to grandma’s. I broke my ankle and I was in a wheelchair and crutches for like 4 months. I didn’t go to my parents house, I went to grandma’s house! We hung out every day. She just turned 83 yesterday. I spent the whole day with her. My family is my inspiration.
Tell me about the SWEAT Tour and how it got started..?
Dawn: I had just typed up my resignation for my job in Atlanta. I called my mom and said, “Mom I’m coming home. Can I sleep on your couch? I’m gonna teach class in a parking lot.” It was March 2013. I went home, put all my stuff in storage, and I started teaching in the parking lot. It was like four or five people at Rockwood Park. My family, my cousins, people they told. I had my boombox and if my boombox didn’t work, I would play music out of my car with the windows down. I did my classes at 7pm everyday. That way women, after they put their kids to sleep or got off work, they could come to class. Street lights were on. It went from 10 people to 40. I remember one night I went out and it was like SIXTY people. I was in awe like, “I can’t believe that just happened.”
I started to do the tour because so many people were hearing about my classes and saying, “Come here! Come here!” So I did a few sponsored events in different cities. Then it was like, “Mm I kinda just want to teach class in all 50 states.” So I started putting in my little captions on Instagram, I had 75,000 followers at Thanksgiving, “If I hit 100,000 by New Years Eve I’ll go to all 50 states and teach my class.” So people started to see it and I went from 75,000 to 114,000 by New Years… The next question was, “Alright, so where you gonna start?!”
Wooww! Isn’t it amazing how fast an idea can become reality? So where did you start??
Dawn: I sold my car and put everything I can in storage. I bought a one way ticket from here to Los Angeles. I set a date for every single weekend this year and some states I do Wednesday classes to help push it by. I planned it. I said when I get there, bring $10, I’ll announce the location 3 days in advance, and just come dance! I’m doing Alaska and Hawaii in December, and I even did Cancun.
What inspires you to succeed?
Dawn: My future self. I don’t wanna wake up every day and be like, “Oh My Gawd, I can’t even walk up these stairs” or “I have no energy.” I tell people, “Your future should motivate you.” It shouldn’t be a picture of someone or a goal weight. Your future health should be what motivates you to keep going.
Where did you hone your production skills?
Dawn: So I’ve been a seamstress, I’ve been a painter, I used to do hair and nails, I used to bake. I mean I did like everything. People always used to tell me, “Dawn you need to just do ONE thing.” Like the way I think, I get bored, my eyes have to be visually stimulated for me to stay motivated. I rather be doing two things at a time. It’s a scripture in the bible in Mathews 25:14 that talks about how God gave out talents. It talks about how he gave talents to three people. One person took their talent and used it for themselves, didn’t share it and God took their talent. One person buried their talent so they could keep it and hold onto it; God took their talent. The other person shared their talent with other people and then God multiplied their talent. I feel like that is my life, because I can’t just focus on one thing. I’m just always creating and that’s why I don’t sleep. *laughs*
Johnny: People will definitely try to marginalize you, but at the end of the day you Design Yourself.
So, what’s been the biggest challenge for you to stay in shape?
Dawn: Well fitness is my therapy, so I don’t think about it like that. I guess the biggest challenge is just dealing with life. Like recently, I’m going through a really difficult break-up and I can’t just come home and lay under the covers all day and cry. I gotta get up, I got tour dates, I got things to do, and I gotta smile when I see them. I gotta remind them that there is more important things than what I got going on. I still have bills, I still have to pay Sallie Mae over a thousand dollars a month towards school loans. I mean, everything gets in the way of you trying to be successful as soon as you get to that point.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Dawn: Supporting myself, because for so many years I had to rely on everybody. Parents to pay bills, sister and brother to transfer me money. I would say supporting myself, and maybe even more important than that is getting my family healthy! Because they’re eating healthy. They’re exercising. They’re changing their habits and coming to my classes. They’re getting in my clothes and getting my DVDs. So I would say I’m most proud of improving my families health.
What frustrates you most about today’s culture?
Dawn: They want quick fixes. They’re impatient. And I’m impatient too in real life, but I understood that this takes time. [Me: When you say “this” what do you mean?] Dawn: Like working on self. Mind, body, everything. You gotta get your mental right, because if your mental isn’t right you’re not gonna be able to give up sweets and all the bad habits. It’s important to change your mental and to get focused, and that’s more than even physical. You got those people who are like, “Oh I can go to the gym, girl. I can kick it out!” But when they get home and they get lonely, and they get horny, then they’re like, “OK I wanna eat everything.” Everyone wants those results until they find out what it takes.
What would you say is the #1 factor behind your success?
Dawn: If nothing else I’m consistent. If I have a goal I won’t stop until I get there. I might be doing five different things to get there, but I’m gonna get there. Like, I tell people, “If you do something every single day towards where you wanna be then you’ll get there.”
Johnny: I love that! I teach the same philosophy.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to grow their own brand?
Dawn: I would say to not focus on the money. When you get wrapped up in the money you get greedy. So many people in this industry are caught up on this money. Selling get slim quick products, because they’re getting paid from it. It’s not about that for me. When it’s all about money you get to the point where you’re not going for your mission anymore. Best advice is just keep working, be humble and, the money will come. I’ve never told anyone outside my family how much I’ve spent on the tour, because it’s not about that. Like, if I end this thing with one dollar, I don’t care. I will come back here and sleep on this couch and do classes in the parking lot, again. Do it from the heart or not at all.
Johnny: Absolutely! Purpose is stronger than object. Dawn, your work paramount. Thank You. Keep Shining! #ShineHardFamily