Dana Aghassi has been working with We Rock the Spectrum since 2011 and is now the owner of We Rock the Spectrum – Agoura Hills.
1. How did you hear about WRTS?
It was probably about 4 to 5 years ago — right when the first We Rock the Spectrum was started in Tarzana — that I found We Rock and met Dina. My oldest daughter, Breanna, started fitness classes with Coach Kee, so I started coming to the Tarzana location a lot. That’s how I got introduced! At the time, I had my second daughter, Bailey, with me. She was about a year old. I was a medical assistant, but I wasn’t working because I just had Bailey, and I needed a part-time job. So I asked Dina if she was hiring for the camps she was having during the summer, or maybe I demanded “You’re hiring me!” but either way, she said yes! I started helping out with the camps and worked my way up from there.
After camp was over, I became a part of the gym staff, and then eventually I managed the gym myself for a while. Once We Rock the Spectrum became a franchise and the corporate office opened, I started helping Dina with fundraising for the new gym owners, and eventually earned the title of “Director of Marketing and Sales.” In my wildest dreams, I would never have thought that I could hold the title of “Director of Marketing and Sales” and also be the new owner of We Rock the Spectrum – Agoura Hills.
2. What’s your professional background?
I was a preschool teacher for a short time and then I decided to enter the medical field. I went to school to become a medical assistant in 1997, right before my second daughter was born. Then, when Bailey was born, I couldn’t continue working full time while being a mother of two. So I needed to find a part time job, and that lead me to We Rock the Spectrum!
3. What inspired you to become a franchisee?
After working for WRTS for four years, I’ve seen that our mission to help children in the special needs community and on the spectrum, by providing them a safe place to be, is something that communities need. I’ve been doing this for such a long time, that I’ve gotten to see the impact. It’s a very rewarding job. It’s just great being there for parents and providing this opportunity for them, and you can see right away how much it helps their lives.
Until recently, however, I was still hesitant that I could own my own gym. If it wasn’t for Dina, I don’t know that I would have thought it was possible. I met Dina about 5 years ago. At first she was just my boss, since we had just met, but she started helping me with Bailey and the more we talked and hung out, the closer we became. At the time, I was really worried about Bailey’s speech as she was around 18 months and wasn’t talking. Dina suggested I dropped Bailey off at the gym, and within a month of going consistently, all of a sudden Bailey’s language started to explode and now she’s doing amazing in kindergarten. After everything we’ve been through, Dina is really like a sister to me now — a part of the family. If it wasn’t for Dina, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t think I was capable of owning my own gym. She helped me really understand how to interact with special needs kids and kids on the spectrum, and without her help I would have never been able to overcome some of the natural hang-ups I had. Without Dina, I definitely wouldn’t be prepared for owning my own gym, so I can very much say I wouldn’t be where I am today if she wasn’t in my life.
4. How do you see WRTS benefiting your community?
I’m in a unique situation because I bought my gym from a previous owner, but everyday I still see people coming in, amazed that we exist and excited for what this means for them. They’ll walk in and start thanking us for the opportunity that we’re providing them and their families. I definitely see a big difference when it comes to their children and their children’s behavior. That feeling of relief they experience when they realize this is a place that understands if your child might act out or what-have-you. And it’s great just being here and being for them!
5. Three words to describe yourself?
Outgoing. Caring. Funny.
6. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to become a franchisee?
I would tell them that they are getting into an incredible opportunity by joining the We Rock the Spectrum community. Owners and Dina say all the time “We’re not in this for money” and it’s true, we’re not. We’re here to give back to our local community and the special needs community. It’s a very rewarding experience.
7. How has We Rock impacted your life thus far?
I’ve met new people. I’ve met great families and awesome kids. Every time a parent comes in and says “thank you for helping me,” or asks for advice, I mean, it’s impacted my life to know that we’re here for families that need it. I love being able to show them they can trust us and leave their kids here and that we understand their situations and needs. As I said before, it’s very rewarding.