top of page

Nisi Harrel

Twerk N Fab

Nisi Harrel

Gabriel Flores  0:01  

Hello everyone and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I am here with the owner of torque fab. I'm really excited because this is I don't know how to to work to be honest with you I'm Niecy hurl. How're you doing?

Nisi Harrel  0:19  

I'm great. How are you?

Gabriel Flores  0:22  

This is, uh, this is the first torque entrepreneur I've had. So

Nisi Harrel  0:27  

there's not a lot of there's

Gabriel Flores  0:31  

so first, let's, uh, let's, let's introduce the world to you, Tunisie. And then we'll get going. So who is Nisi?

Nisi Harrel  0:38  

Hi. So I'm Niecy. I am the creator of torquing. Fab, which is funny because it was not working fab at first, but I'll tell you about that a little later. It's part of the, you know, the journey. So I am a mother and daughter, an entrepreneur, living here in Portland, born and raised. So I'm a native out here. Nice. And I have been an entrepreneur actually, for a long time. And that's just like, kind of my vibe. Yeah, it's like doing things I want to when I want to, on my own. Just me,

Gabriel Flores  1:14  

I like it. I like it. So. So let's, what did you before you said you're on.

Nisi Harrel  1:19  

So I mean, I, I hadn't my kids pretty young. So it was just kind of whatever jobs I could get. So I worked at a deli for a while until I decided to go to school, and actually went to school for massage therapy. So that was about 16 years ago. And yeah, I just even went into massage therapy and worked for people for like, a few years, and then just started doing my own thing. And realized I liked working for myself. Oh, yeah. So I did that. I still do that. So yeah, that's my main job. It's like, my passion is health and fitness period. So yeah.

Gabriel Flores  1:55  

So let's, let's talk talk about torque and fed. Yeah. What is it,

Nisi Harrel  2:00  

you know, torque and fab. Now, what it is, I don't even want to say it's like a dance format or dance fitness format, it kind of became like a movement of body positivity. So it just kind of manifested on its own. I just had the intention of bringing a style of dance that we didn't have out here that I noticed a lot of people really, really wanted. And so I was like, Well, why not just do it myself. So you know, you see the need for it? Might as well and that's kind of how it started.

Gabriel Flores  2:36  

So is it is it kind of like a, like a exercise studio or it's

Nisi Harrel  2:41  

almost like a fusion of dance fitness and dance studio dance like choreography. So I have a background in teaching, like hip hop classes. So I I taught like, what is it called? like hip hop? Cardio. Okay, yeah. So I was doing that in the fitness kind of community and teaching dance classes taught like hit classes, pilates, all sorts of different fitness formats, and I really enjoyed doing it. But I was like, I don't know how to take torque when you know, when the idea came about, and make that accessible to everybody. Because if you do dance, I don't know if you've ever tried to dance fitness class, like, you know, Zumba people, you know, that's a good example. Like people have to kind of like copy. And you know, come up with the routine or, you know, recreate it. But when you do dance fitness in the gym, each song typically is like, a different movement that you're doing and you're just kind of keeping up. You don't really have to do the moves. It's like more about moving your body, right? Whereas choreographed fitness, or choreographed dance, you're kind of building on an eight count. So have you ever heard people talk about studio dances like 5678? That's how they kind of do that. So it's like, and then to just someone who doesn't know dance, they're like, What the hell was going on? I don't know how to do that. And you know, it's not really supposed to be about sweating and like, the fitness part of it. So I wanted to kind of bring both together. And that's how I came up with the idea.

Gabriel Flores  4:20  

So why why? Why did the concept like why did you Why twerking in particular?

Nisi Harrel  4:26  

So I was teaching hip hop. And it's so funny to say out loud now. There were a lot of ladies, particularly older ladies that were like, your butt shake so much. How do you get to shake like? And I was just like, I don't know. I could try to teach you. And so like little things like that happen all the time. Yeah, that's exactly what it was. Like customers

Gabriel Flores  4:56  

need. listeners. It's so important. It

Nisi Harrel  4:59  

is And then like in California, I would follow like dance people in California, Houston, Atlanta. And like, people were talking and it became like this big thing. And in that dance culture, and I was like, Man, I wish they have classes up here like that. And I did take a booty popping class. Oh, there you go. One thing I found. It says it was the only one and I think she moved out of state. And so, you know, it wasn't really accessible to anybody out here at all. So I just figured, why not? That's, and like, what would that look like? And yeah, you know, I wrote it down just like, what would the moves look? Like? How would you apply that in dance choreography, versus just repeating the same types of moves to burn calories and fitness? And honestly, if you did that in torque, your back would probably hurt. So would your legs because you're, you can only use so many body movements and muscles to on repeat before you're just exhausted.

Gabriel Flores  5:59  

Does that make sense? So So let's kind of talk about that a little bit. Because I had never knew that you'd have to kind of get it makes sense to kind of create a choreograph, you know, 30 minutes set or something like that. How did you kind of begin, do you have like a career in dance as well,

Nisi Harrel  6:16  

I don't. And that's kind of the funny part too, is like, when I was younger, I loved dancing. So in the I'm born in 84, so 80s and 90s, like MTV, and VH. One was huge. Go at me know, like, Hey, baby, and like Janet Jackson was always dancing on TV, and like, all this stuff. And so I would copy. And so I taught myself how to dance, you know, I could keep a beat, it just was a natural thing for me. So I was always drawn to just dance and music. And it just kind of became a thing for me. So I could pick up routines pretty quickly. And so when I became an adult, taking dance fitness classes, I was on it pretty quick, I would be able to get the choreography, you know, choreography, and even freestyle. And so it just was a fun thing that made me feel happy. So that's why I would do it. And I think because of that, when I came and did my own thing, when you love what you're doing, it just kind of flows. And yeah, it just came together. And I did start also taking other people's dance classes a lot more. And that kind of helped me clean up and my skills. Being an instructor helped me learn my counts. There's, I mean, with Tik Tok, and YouTube and Instagram, you can watch all sorts of choreographers. And so I was just in it, because I really wanted to learn like, How can I take these different moves, kind of almost Frankenstein them into my own thing? And add my own flavor? That is that would embody like, torque, what torque is?

Gabriel Flores  7:53  

Yeah. So so once you once you created the process? How did you kind of morph it into a business? How did you start that process? Because you kind of mentioned, okay, now you had a plan? Yeah, once you plan, where do you go?

Nisi Harrel  8:06  

So I think with my background, just in massage therapy, knowing body mechanics, knowing the business aspect of it, because with massage, I had to learn as I went, like I, the spa clothes that I was at, they gave me my clientele list. And I had family and friends that were backing me up financially to help me get things going, and just do my business. So I did it. But then you don't think about things like business licensing and you know, all the things you need for the state and tax lien all the stuff advertising, like I learned as I was going, so when I wanted when I wanted to put talking about together, I thought like how can I start this the right way, you know, get an LLC, do I want to get a trademark, you know, all these things so that I can just start it the right way, and structure it the right way so that it will just I don't have to go backwards as it was going forward, if that makes sense. So I put the plan together, talk to some people. I had a good network and community and just got everything going.

Gabriel Flores  9:13  

Now why was it important for you to kind of because I think this is a great, great topic. Why was it for you important to kind of make that determination about like, should I go LLC? Why was it important for you?

Nisi Harrel  9:25  

Just because I knew I wanted the business to be mine, just my own thing. I'm doing it and if I wanted to grow it, then I could grow it from there. You know, so I already had everything protected. It was its own entity and I really saw with social media, the importance of branding, and I knew that you know, just like with massage or fitness or anything, I can't do something forever, physically, but if I want it to continue what will that look like besides beyond me? You know if I wanted to make this a business where I have other Teachers who I, you know, teach how to do what I do. And then they, you know, bring that out to everybody else. So I wanted it to be able to be buildable like that. So it can grow in that way. So it was important for me to like really brand, torque and fab. Yeah.

Gabriel Flores  10:15  

So now, what you were mentioning kind of, you know, working with your friends and family after you got your clientele from your massage therapy. How did you use that revenue to kind of use the fun to work in favour? How did you end up funding this?

Nisi Harrel  10:30  

Yeah, I I am a believer in bartering. huge thing for me. Because I was like, I broke up just like this, you know, poor girl, you know, in Oregon. So it's like, I didn't have money from family like that. I built my own business, I had saved my own money. And you know, there were things that I would have to put money into, that were beyond what I could afford, sometimes. Especially the trademark, because I did get it trademarked. I mean, that was like, 13 $1,400 to do that. And people were like, why would you even do that? It's like, trust me. People still use printers. You know? Yeah, it's yours. Yeah. So you own that? It? Yes, exactly. And like, you know, if I want people to believe in what I do, I have to believe in it too, and has to be real and solid. So with that, I actually had a friend who was a lawyer, her trademark lawyer, and we bartered for services. Love, so it worked that way.

Gabriel Flores  11:31  

Now, you want to think you mentioned you kind of mentioned your upbringing, right? Living here in Portland. Let's let's talk a little bit about that. What What about your upbringing, kind of help define you as a person you are today?

Nisi Harrel  11:45  

Struggle. You know, Portland, Oregon, especially on the west side is very white. I am not white, I am actually black. And I am Mexican. And I grew up with the Mexican side of my family. So, you know, it was like, my grandparents lived in a trailer park. And I mean, I didn't, I knew I was poor. But I was happy, you know, as far as like, just the way we lived. Because I had so many family members and friends that loved me, and we were fed and taken care of, and things were good, you know, even when they were bad. But, you know, I understood that in order for us to have what we had, we needed to work together, you know, watching my siblings, getting them off to school, the cleaning, the cooking, like all the things. So I think growing up knowing that if you work hard with your community of people, which was my family, then we could survive. And so I think that kind of molded me into the person that I am now where I'm like, Okay, I'm I know, I can't do everything on my own. I know that things are going to be hard and struggle, and I can struggle, but that's okay. Because, you know, I'll get there eventually.

Gabriel Flores  12:56  

The struggle you I mean, you learn from the struggle. Absolutely. Right. Yeah. So what what would you say was kind of difficult starting the business. So you kind of went, you know, you lost your clientele or your, your other business clothes, right, the massage therapy, you're getting funding for this new, what was difficult kind of going in and starting this to work? And

Nisi Harrel  13:16  

I think like, that's a hard one. Because there was a couple things. multiple things. Yeah, by all means, I'm in the Dance and Fitness community, especially, there can be a lot of gatekeeping. So that was kind of a thing. popularity was a thing. And then just like this whole, like weird stigma behind torquing, that was a thing. So there was just a couple things that were kind of, you know, I got a little pushback, I think, and people weren't understanding. I mean, I don't even think I knew what it was either. At first, like what it was gonna be. I just knew I wanted to dance and people wanting to learn how to twerk you know? Yeah. So that's kind of how I just had to kind of push through all of that stuff, and really let people know that it's okay to shake your butt. That and I think that's probably how it became more of a body positive kind of movement was because I was had to reinforce so much like, it's okay, these things juggle, like embrace the juggle all the time. You know, you need things to juggle if you want to, to work and so or you don't need to have the biggest but to be able to to work and you don't need to know how to dance to be able to talk I was like, I was not trained to dance, I was self taught, you know, so all of those things. I think by relating to the people and having empathy with them. They were able to kind of feel confident and know that they can do this. So yeah, it kind of manifested on its own because of that.

Gabriel Flores  14:51  

I love it. Now what why is it so important for the individuals that do this, especially for you for them to feel confident?

Nisi Harrel  14:59  

I Think because when you think of twerking, there's a certain image that we all have in our heads, and it is very popular right now, especially. But you got to have, you know, the little waist and the big butt and, you know, beyond rhythm and be able to isolate your butt cheeks, and you know, all the things and I'm like, No, you know, actually have to, you know, and, and I think a lot of people didn't want to do it because of that, at first, like thinking like, they don't have the body type to do that. They don't know how to move in that way. And I wanted people to be able to like, say, No, I can do these things. And I can have fun with it. It can be sexy, it can be sassy in the body that I have. And I mean, my body's not even the ideal type of body either. You know, I'm five, seven, I'm 220. Like, people don't even think I'm to 20. But I can't. And, you know, I just have more of an athletic build.

Gabriel Flores  16:00  

I don't believe it. I don't Yeah, I

Nisi Harrel  16:01  

know, everybody thinks I'm smaller. I think it's because I lift. But you know, like the the waist hip ratio is not the ideal. You know, I was like, No, I got a belly. I've had two kids, you know, like, I have cellulite and stretch marks. And that's okay. That's fine. Yeah. And so I wanted people to feel comfortable and confident in their body. And I think if you don't it makes it harder to work. Yeah. Because you hold back, you know,

Gabriel Flores  16:27  

that's a very good point. In fact, I kind of made this a horrible analogy, but I kind of equate it to like karaoke. Right? Like, yeah, well, I don't care if you're a crappy singer. Just get out there and do it. Trust me, the more and more you do it, you're probably gonna get a better karaoke singer eventually. Trust me, everybody's gonna get better at karaoke. No one else will drink a little bit. Right. Now, what would you say has been when did you start this business first?

Nisi Harrel  16:53  

It was before the pandemic I want to say was 29. Teen 2018 was when I was kind of just starting it, I was still in the process of getting things trademarked and LLC, but I wanted to get the classes going just to because that was what I learned with the trademark was like, start having classes, sell tickets to any workshops or events that you're doing, you know, create content and all those things. So I just wanted to get it going. And so I found a studio, rented some space out invited people that were already my students from my hip hop classes, my friends, and just their friends, and it just kind of grew that way. And yeah, just kind of kept going. And then you know, the pandemic happened?

Gabriel Flores  17:40  

Yeah, yes. Let's, let's talk about that. What what has been difficult about starting this business?

Nisi Harrel  17:45  

So I mean, it was it was so bad, because I had swapped to different studios. Just because I wanted to also support bipoc businesses, or like female owned businesses, that was just what I wanted to do. So I wanted to make sure I was at specific studios. So I had one on the east side, one on the west side. And everything had was kind of rebuilding, because I had swapped studios. And then, you know, the pandemic happened, I was like, Oh, great. And you know, during massage, that was all solid. I had been there forever. having my own business with that. But then that stopped too. And when you're an entrepreneur, and you don't have, you know, a job that pays you hourly, or salary or anything, like that's it, yeah, you're out of money. Luckily, I, you know, been working for myself long enough, I knew to save money. But, I mean, nobody knew how long it was going to last. And especially with fitness or a dance or anything where you're in studio, I was like, how are we going to dance or buy each other huffing and puffing, and there's a pandemic going on? You know, it let alone with massage, I didn't even know when that was going to happen because you're in close contact. So very true. It was pretty terrible. So I tried to keep things going with my following by going on live on Instagram, working with other instructors in the area that were teaching dance or any kind of fitness, and just doing mini sessions, you know, and people will just join so yeah, I was like it was bad.

Gabriel Flores  19:22  

You know, I do like the innovation of of going out in collaborate with the community. I think that's that's the beauty. I keep talking about this on this podcast is this community in general, is just how amazing it is when one of the committee members needs help how quickly all the other community kind of relatively round the individual. It's like, okay, let's do it. We're on the in this thing together. We're gonna figure it out kind of thing together. Totally. Now, in your perspective, what has been easy? Has there been anything easy about starting this business? And if so, what what would you say? It'd be easy.

Nisi Harrel  19:55  

I mean, the easy part is, I mean, I don't wanna say it's easy but like coming up with To the what I want to do in class, that's the easy part. Because I know like, what song I want, how I want the moves to kind of look, and I'm listening to it all week and coming up with stuff in my head, I get to practice it put it together. Sometimes I asked my friends like, hey, what do you think of this, and they give me feedback. And that's just kind of like the easy, fun part. The hard part is like getting the butts in the class sometimes, especially when, like, we're going, you know, going through the pandemic, some people were like, Nope, don't want to be around other people. When the masks were off for a little while, classes started to pick up pretty quick. And then mass came back. Numbers died again. So that part was like, it would have been easy, you know, to just bring butts into class. But I think because rendering kind of screwed it up. But yeah, just coming up with it. That's the easy part. Coming up with content for social media. That's the easy part. Surprisingly, because I don't know what I'm doing sometimes with marketing, and

it works though, like people like little video clips and cool flyers. And this is fun

Gabriel Flores  21:10  

for liking some of the things I post one meme, everybody loves that thing, right? I post videos of myself. Nobody likes.

Nisi Harrel  21:20  

Oh, what does that say about what's going on? See mine's opposite. It's like I post certain things. I'm like, nobody's liking my fire that I post myself shaking my button a video and every

Gabriel Flores  21:32  

that's the problem. Man, what would you say? I know, as a small business owner, what keeps you up at night?

Nisi Harrel  21:47  

Okay, I said this was the easy part was the choreography, but at the same time, I stress on it. Because it's like, is everybody gonna like it? When it's new choreography? I'm up like, Okay, do I? Am I going to remember? You know, the order? Am I going to remember my counts? Are people going to relate to what we're doing? Are they going to be able to execute it? And how many people are going to actually show up for it? Will they come back? That's one big one. And yeah, just if people are going to come to class, you know, I worry. Especially in Oregon, because like the weather, that's always a big thing. Like, if it's shitty weather, people don't want to venture out. Oh, it's it's like if it rains too hard. People don't want to come. By it's the weirdest thing. Depending on, if there's holidays, like all those little things you don't think of it actually makes a difference. So but mostly, yeah, choreography, I want people to love it. Because I love it. And it's very personal for me. So that part is hard. When I have new stuff inside.

Gabriel Flores  22:50  

Now, how do you how do you kind of market new stuff? Or brand new stuff? Do you do you kind of show off your dance moves? And like how do you kind of entice new clients to come out?

Nisi Harrel  22:59  

I've actually been thinking about doing that more. Yeah, do some tic TOCs. Like, I I can't do tic TOCs. I suck at it. I try to figure it out. I can't do it. And then I just get frustrated. So I'm like, Ah, but when I have people record certain stuff during class, or right after or something like that, no problem. People want to record me dancing, no problem. And then I use those things to create content. And that seems to do really well. Mostly, I just use a lot of the flyers that I have put it out there. I tag, I reach out to my friends and family and just people that take my classes and hey, can you tag me? Can you share this? Because I feel like the more traction that that gets the more exposure. Like last night, for instance, I had two new people in my class. Never seen them before. They'd never take my class before. And they were like, oh, yeah, we're from Utah. And we're just visiting this week, and we came across your page on Instagram, because we were looking at somebody else's page that shared your stuff. And that's how we found you. So that's cool. You know, it's pretty cool. So it happens more often than you think.

Gabriel Flores  24:10  

It's that organic marketing. And that's kind of like, you know, the podcast. So folks, you know, listeners, I'm sure if you do not yet shades of E on Instagram, please go follow. Because that's really where I tend to share a lot of the small business owners, entrepreneurs information. So like, Nikki and I were talking about it earlier. It's like, hey, moving forward, organically. I'm going to be posting whatever you post, I'm going to share that information. And then I'm gonna have a link to our episode, right? Because it's going to provide this organic impressions, right? And so like, Oh, I heard about you from the shades of entrepreneurship. And if I get one person in your class, heck yes. Yeah. Yeah, I totally agree. And if it's me, just don't keep that to yourself. That's the best way to do No, no, no. What what advice because you've said you've been an entrepreneur for some time. So what advice would you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Nisi Harrel  25:02  

I would say, have a plan, or an idea. And don't be afraid to like run it by people that do other things that you don't know how to do. Because my friend who did marketing, I mean, she helped me and gave me a lot of ideas and information. My friends who are dancers gave me a lot of information, people in management, people and all these other things that I didn't know about, but I knew was going to be important at some point for me. And I just soaked it all in, I asked people questions. I think being a good listeners are big, big thing, if you're going to be an entrepreneur, listen, soak it all in and see what you can apply to your business. But having that plan and asking the questions to people that knew the things I didn't know, really helped me out the most, and you gain support, because then you get to share your idea on what you want to do. And people are more excited about it too. And they're more likely to support you share your information, and help you build your business even and maybe even invest. You never know.

Gabriel Flores  26:08  

Yeah, now let's let's let's kind of, let's get specific about your industry. What what advice or what are some common mistakes? Do individuals have started in business in the dance industry that you want to ensure they're aware of?

Nisi Harrel  26:23  

I think with dance specifically, I think you have to, I think it's important to go and meet other dancers and go to other dance studios. Get to know doing socials, awesome way to do it to what is this a social like, dance studio, we'll have like a social dance social, okay. And you can just go to the dance, social, you'll meet other people that are there. And typically at dance socials, from a dance studio, if they do those kinds of things. It's not just students, it's also instructors, or people who are staff that work there. So I think it's important to kind of get into the community, see what's going on in your area, there's always people looking for even dancers for smoke, like videos, local videos, and stuff like that. I get asked that all the time. And I've met other dancers that way. And that's kind of helped me like, Oh, where do you teach? What are you doing? You know, you get all these questions asked and, and you get hooked up kind of with people in that community to support you. I've gotten so many gigs because of that. Go go dancing, private classes and things like that hired for corporate people who wanted to do community building through tour. It's really a thing, although

Gabriel Flores  27:40  

what kind of company is

Nisi Harrel  27:43  

actually you're familiar with it.

Gabriel Flores  27:47  

I'm gonna cut this short. I told you to tell people Oh

my goodness. So for the folks at home, Tom, how can we get in contact with a where's your brick and mortar location? How if they want to take a class? How do they figure it out?

Nisi Harrel  28:06  

Yeah, the, I think the best way is to follow my Instagram. So it's torque and fab. So TW E, RK, the letter n, f A, B, I post most of the updated information there because I am terrible at updating my website. But I do it, especially whenever workshop. But yeah, most of the information is always there, if I have pop ups, a change in the schedule, special guests or anything like that, or if I'm going to be dancing somewhere else, and people want to just come in support. So that's always the best way to go is through Instagram, I also have my website Tore that will have all the information as well as the locations and how to sign up. So if you're going to sign up, need wanted to do it through torque and Because then I have the links for both of the studios that I teach that. I mean, people can DM me too, and that's fine. But that's just the easiest way to do it on their own. Less admin work for me, which is nice. So on the east side, I teach studio E by V Mac V max Vitaly dot movement Art Center. And I teach her Wednesday nights at 630. And you sign up through them, but I have the link through my website. But directly it's V Mac And then on my Tuesday night class, that one's at seven o'clock, and that one's at slay studios in Tigard off of Highway 99. And so slays beautiful. I love our studio to beautiful owner. Shout out to Rodney. He's on the show. Yeah, definitely. I'm

Gabriel Flores  29:40  

talking about your studio.

Nisi Harrel  29:41  

I mean, just does great work with the kids. So I teach area Tuesdays and that one you would sign up directly through talking Perfect,

Gabriel Flores  29:50  

perfect Niecy. Yeah, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you. That was great, great conversation. For those listening at home. Please subscribe to the podcast. You can also find us on Twitter. LinkedIn Facebook and Instagram have a great night

bottom of page