When Haley Stone launched WERQ Fitness in 2011 her goal was to empower others through movement. Since then the Glencoe resident has started a new fitness craze, featuring choreographed dance classes set to popular Top 40 and hip hop music.
Stone’s WERQ (pronounced “work”) classes are all about putting the fun in fitness and are taught in 36 states across the country. This spring, Stone will also be hosting a series of charity events across the country to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, including an event in Glenview on April 29.
DailyNorthShore spoke with the fitness guru to learn more about WERQ and how it all started.
DNS: How did WERQ Fitness come about?
HS: I have always been interested in fitness and taught classes when I was in college. I started WERQ Fitness in 2011. My first class was just me an a few dedicated fans. I decided to do something new with Top 40 and hip hop music and every week more people joined my class.
DNS: How did you grow the business?
HS: Eventually I started a training program to train other people to be instructors. We now have 1,000 instructors in 36 states. Myself and five other dance professionals create choreography for the program each week. We upload new choreography onto our website for instructors to teach. It is all pop and hip hop driven.
DNS: What are the classes like?
HS: There are typically about 15 songs in each class and the classes are non-stop. We have repetitive athletic and dance moves that are fun. You do not have to be a dancer to understand the choreography. We have seen many people with zero dance experience in our classes and come out saying its their favorite workout.
All of the classes are Top 40 and hip hop music. They are also non-stop, we don’t stop to break down the choreography like you see in many classes. The goal is to keep people’s feet moving and we achieve that with non-stop dance. The classes range from 45 to 60 minutes and are offered in gyms, studios, YMCA’s, JCC’s and colleges. It fits into a lot of different places.
DNS: What inspired you to start WERQ?
HS: I’ve taken dance since I was four years old and enjoy sports activities. I like inspiring anyone to dance and I think we all are born with a dance beat within. I also wanted it to be athletic and fun. I really just want to have fun when I work out and we aim to put the fun element first. If you have fun then the calories will follow and if you are looking forward to the class it is easier to go.
DNS: How has the company grown?
HS: When I first started I lived in Chicago. I moved to Glencoe five years ago after I had kids. The growth of the company has been really organic. It grew from Chicago to the northern suburbs, to Michigan, Wisconsin, South Carolina and D.C. It very much started in Chicago and is rooted in the Mid-West.
DNS: What is your fitness philosophy?
HS: I gravitated to dance because of the joy I see people experience. My role is to show people enjoyment in movement and how it is empowering. It spills over to other aspects of your life. My mission is to open the door and make exercise fun and light and that will ultimately lead to empowerment.
DNS: Tell me about the fundraising WERQ has planned this spring.
HS: I have always had a passion for fundraising and charity work. We call it charityWERQ, which is the nonprofit fundraising arm of the company. We fundraise year-round. This April and May we are partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Chicago and nationally. I will be leading a class at Glenview Park Center with five other instructors on April 29. We’ll be donating our time and Glenview Park Center is donating their space. We expect about 50 to 60 people to take a class and the ticket money will go to Big Brothers Big Sisters. We should raise about $1,500 for that event but we hope to raise about $15,000 for all of the events.
DNS: How did you choose Big Brothers Big Sisters of America as a partner?
HS: I thought about goals for myself and my company. We wanted to choose a nonprofit that touched many generations and worked in the community. We honed in on Big Brothers Big Sisters because childhood obesity is an issue and because of its work with youth and the impact that they have on the adults they partner with.
DNS: What’s your goal for WERQ moving forward?
We are in 36 states now. We want to bump it up in regions where we are and there are still tons more places we have yet to go. We want to be a household name. My overall mission is to get people to come together and feel empowered by movement and activity.
For more information about WERQ or to register for charity classes go to www.werqfitness.com