Confessions In History
The Pole Academy wasn’t always what you see today. It wasn’t always on Congaree Rd nor was it a self-standing studio. Few know the true history of what TPA used to be and how it’s grown. Not all know the changes, the hardships, the advancements and the legacy of what was built and continues to grow. This is that story. This is the beginning.
My name is Jax and I am the owner and lead instructor of The Pole Academy of Greenville, SC. I am a daughter, girlfriend, pet parent, friend, teacher, therapist, and mentor with purple hair and no official degree except in my Strength, Beauty & Confidence. I skipped college to run an Academy - okay, play on words - become a self - operating entrepreneur and business-owner by the age of 27. It’s scary. It’s hard. It’s amazing. I love it.
To better understand how TPA has grown into what you see now - you have to understand the background and history of this legacy. There are studios a dime a dozen across the globe and some are better, worse, closed, trying and everything in between but TPA is unlike any other - at least to my students and I. TPA is our sanctuary, our haven, our stress-relief, our home. I don’t go to ‘work’ everyday - I go to my pole family & friends. Whether I have but a moment with them or ongoing years with them - they are the foundation.
Hi again. My name is Jax and I used to be a stripper. Hence the phrasing *used to be*. Don’t even begin to get it confused with anything other than a job - which is what I treated it as. Did I sleep with men for money? No. Did I go home with clients? No. Did I take my clothes off on stage in front of an audience? Yes. Did I make customers feel better about themselves and manipulate their wallet? Yes. Did I hate my life? Sometimes. If I had never been an entertainer/stripper/exotic dancer (whatever the politically correct term is these days) then there would be no pole classes, no current Jax image, no TPA. I want you to understand not what it’s like being an exotic dancer but why I fell in love with this sport and how it’s grown within my eyes and society. My first night ‘dancing’. Hah - if that’s what you’d call it. My first night watching the stage, figuring out how to get a lap dance, finding out how the strip club business works and wiggling around on stage awkwardly was my first night. I went in fully in ‘costume’ not knowing they had dressing rooms (good thing it was ‘school girl’ attire and you could obviously tell I was a newbie) and picked out music I sang to in the car. I was given my first lap dance and instructed how to give a tolerable dance. Awkward. I watched stage figuring out what moves or techniques to execute. How to take a dollar is strangely foreign - go figure. I sat with one guy believing he’d just had me his wallet after a certain amount of time. (It doesn’t work like that, FYI.) So I watched the dancers, one after another, perform their best struts, stunts, etc. Then I saw her. Amora. I’m proud to say ‘Amora’ is a real life friend to this day and I owe my jaw-dropping aweness to her stage presence and wanted to essentially ‘grow up’ to be her. What does this have to do with TPA you ask? Everything. Dancer after dancer pranced around doing a sexy two-step (which I couldn’t even execute) and rolled around flaunting topless tidbits and whatnot. Amora though - she was different. She had style. Swag. Control. Sex appeal. She twerked in mid air! That’s impressive - admit it. She took the stage with command, popped her booty, owned her style and that’s when the pole action hit. Not only did she have a perfect figure (from dancing hours on end every night alone but jinkies!) but she climbed a 16(ish)ft pole with ease. She air-walked, flipped upside-down, hung on with but a single leg, slid down with control, twirled out of a handstand just to scoot backwards on her knees to take a tip like it was almost routine and boring. So - SO - much grace and fluidity and barely batting an eye. “I have to do that” I thought.
I was hooked. I was in awe. I loved the art of pole dancing. I began to search YouTube videos - not just to dance better on stage (which I desperately needed) but to further my experience in the dance world. There was a certain art that was within pole dance that I didn’t think everyone saw. I have tattoos all over my body and colored hair - I can see a hint of art - even whilst drunk. Come on now. There weren’t a lot of YouTube videos on pole dancing or tricks at the time but I watched every one I could find on repeat. I couldn’t execute half the moves because I didn’t look nor feel like those dancers. When I first spun on a pole and attempted to climb, I was approximately 190lbs. I couldn’t tell you exactly because I hated the scale and myself too much to know. I couldn’t lift myself up. I couldn’t climb. I could barely hold on a full rotation around the pole to spin! I started to become inspired by a few ‘pole celebrities’: Felix Cane, Jenyne Butterfly, Becca Butcher, Zoraya Judd and Karol Helm’s infamous videos. I drew stick figures on sheets of paper with the name, how to get into the move, and the names of all the crazy poses (I don’t randomly make up the “Fireman Spin nor the “Butterfly”…jeez.) With that, I would go into ’work’ (yes, the strip club) early and practice the figurines. Early bird patrons, the staff and even the other dancers would ask me questions about the moves, what I was doing, how I was progressing, etc. I was so excited to show anyone and everyone new trick/combo/pose, etc. The feeling of nailing a new move was indescribable. It still is.
I am a self-taught pole dancer. Still - how does this relate to TPA you ask? I’m now a teacher and here is why. I had no proper training, spotting, technique and I risked injury to the fullest extent. (Especially learning in 8’ heels.) I bought an X-Pole for my home via Karol Helms’ website. I practiced / trained as much as I could within a day until the bruises (pole kisses) and calluses on my hands objected. I figured out where to place my hands, legs, feet. I figured out how to spin, how to pull and push. How to fall. How NOT to fall. Living through trial and error was the biggest push to overcome new moves and combos and to keep pushing myself. There is always a risk but when no one in your area is teaching and social media is limited - you make due with what you have. Because of these occurrences I’ve learned to read body language and muscle engagement - or lack their of. There were many years of learning from myself before I taught any other person under my instruction. About that….
As a dancer you usually swaps clubs and bounce from one facility to another or at least that is what happened in my case. There were a few scenarios that I went back and forth between a handful of clubs for various reasons. The only reason why anyone could remember me was the tattooed girl who did some ‘cool pole tricks’. Every time I bounced to another club questions arose of ‘Where did you learn that?’, ‘ You look so good!’, “You’ve lost weight - what’s your diet?”, “Dude, your pole tricks are awesome! You’ve gotten better!”. Well - I’m a stripper. My diet is alcohol, Waffle House & Taco Bell at 3am and leftovers. I watch YouTube videos online and practice on my pole at home. Pretty basic, huh? Until the question arose - “OMG - you’re amazing! Show me! Teach me! How much do you charge?!”. Well now - I haven’t thought of that.
Light bulb! Well, I have this pole at home. I started with super basic moves like how to spin and use my body weight. It was hard but I learned how to control it. Now there is a curriculum in place. I invited - rather made appointments - with my dancer friends who watched my progress and wanted to learn. I started with basic holds and spins that I had learned under the preface that I had no proper training nor experience teaching but I was willing to share with the girls what I had learned. It was a VERY slow process. Like - 1 person a week for a 1 hour time slot. It was something I could schedule before work, and easy to accommodate. One person a week went to 5 people a week to 10. Some cancelled. Some rescheduled. Some just didn’t show up. I’m super OCD so I had to lay down laws or at least guidelines (as I was still figuring this whole thing out) as I went. Don’t waste my time. Be courteous. Not too much to ask for, right? My Facebook page was for me, my boyfriend at the time, and posting pix of my pets. Not great when you‘re stating to run a legit business. I made a secondary page - Jax Pole Spencer to create awareness of what I was teaching, appointments, etc.
Hi, I’m Jax - random appointment maker, stripper and a dozen other titles. I know how to break down a pole trick and show it to my friends who properly make appointment with me and show up to their ‘class’. I run a Facebook page that I add every single female in Greenville on and message them about what I do. Then I get my account frozen for spamming. Oops. So I keep my regular appointment and give out my cell # to make contact. I teach fellow dancers and a couple random clients I meet on Facebook. One or two appointments a week - with one cancelling isn’t a job. It isn’t security. It’s stressful. I met a few really awesome people and a few people who couldn’t read a clock to save their life but I enjoyed sharing my love for pole with those who appreciated it. The longer I kept at teaching, the more I grew fond of my hobby. I learn more and more every day *how* to teach. How to keep someone else safe. How to run a ‘business’ of sorts. Waivers, cancellation fees, tips, appointments - everything kept on file. I like to be organized - can you tell?
Fast forward. A couple years into teaching I move apartments, I switch a couple ‘real’ jobs, previously mentioned boyfriend leaves and here I am with a 3 bedroom apartment with 1 room modified into a ‘pole studio’ complete with mirrors, a sound system, lights and my first pieces of merchandise saying ‘ The Pole Academy’. Where did that come from you ask? A good friend and I were spit balling ideas and as much as she wanted to be apart of TPA and it’s entirety there was a conflict of interest and that friend backed out of the future chaos that was going to ensue. There were many ideas between friends, students, family and others of what name to brand as the clients grew and the name became an issue. The Pole Academy. Earn Your Degree in Strength, Beauty & Confidence. Name & tagline - check! A logo was created by a friend of purple and white swirls taken from a recent ‘photo shoot’ and by photo shoot, I mean a friend with a camera in my new (and empty) studio room. The instructor you know as “Kilo Kitty’ was met at what we called “the old apartment” which is the first apartment I ever taught lessons. She and others followed me to the new apartment and watched TPA grow from an idea to merchandise, apparel, a logo and a statement. I was secured on social media with a Yelp! Account, a LivingSocial voucher, new students left and right and booked weeks in advance that there were waiting periods for a private lesson - including parties. Yes, parties. New apartment - new opportunity, right? Guess again.
With new advancements, you’d think I was heading in the right directions, yes? So many times did someone make an appointment with me directly and realize it was in a home within an apartment complex and they would cancel or just not show up which makes my time irreplaceable. I had parties make plans and come to my doorstep - freak out - and leave the property without even knowing what they were getting into. I get it. You arrive at someone’s doorstep and you don’t know if you’re going to get murdered but plenty of people teach piano, baby-sit, and extra circular activities out of their home. Somehow though, mine was different. It didn’t’ matter if my dog welcomed them or my cats stayed out of the way. It didn’t matter if I was on all social media with 50+ positive reviews or had a Living Social out with so many ‘Thumbs Up’. People were skeptical. Should I quit? No.
I went to Florida for an X-Pert Training Certification. The master trainer went around the room and asked where we were all from, why we were here an what we wanted out of the 2 day training exercise. “Hi, I’m Jax and I’m a self-taught pole instructor who has been teaching 3 years from Greenville, SC and I just want to make sure I’m doing it right and continue my education.”. Turns out - I had been right and I passed with flying colors! I continued to build TPA with more clients, apparel, merchandise, parties, and more until the day I was walking a student out and found *the letter* on my door. In not so many words was written - ‘It has come to our attention that you have been running a business though our property and if you continue you will be fined $1,500 a day for your services.” It’s over. I’m done. That’s the end of TPA.
No. It’s not. I will never know who cowered behind a computer screen and sent my apartment complex the name and address of my business and I never will. I have to face that fact and move on. I can only grow from the experience and move forward. I can only become pushed forward and show my ‘haters’ whoever they are the determination I have within myself as a person, teacher, student and woman that I can overcome any obstacle. I took the downfall of ceasing activity harsh and had to resort to bad habits (like dancing in clubs which I hadn’t done in years due to the fact of TPA growing so largely it was my sole job) and work harder than over to see my dream come true. I always wanted a full blown studio and to be a business owner. Guess the scary part was overcome quickly and the doors opening to TPA on Congaree Rd came even faster.
Hi. I’m Jax. Studio Owner. Self-Employed Business Entrepreneur. Teacher. Instructor. Therapist. Mentor. Friend. Pole Mom. Pet Parent. All other titles are welcomed - but that didn’t happen overnight. I went back to dancing as I mentioned. I gained most of the 40+ lbs that I had lost, back due to drinking and being depressed. I found a business partner who I wouldn’t trade for the world only to be denied every loan and proposition. Business plan after plan had failed. Banks gave us the run-around. I hated myself and what TPA had been leveled to. All my current students lost contact - waiting endlessly for our re-open. My partner, after months, eventually funded the new TPA and we signed the lease to the studio in May 2014. We had searched for funds, locations and back up ideas for months. We finally got the keys and got to work. By June 2014 we had our soft opening and by my 28th birthday of July 2014 we had our Grand Opening Party. I had a studio. TPA was a whole again. Mirrors. Poles. Flooring. Purple paint! All done at the handy-work of armatures with a common goal - re-open the doors. I’ve never personally sweated, cried or used my inhaler (yes, I’m asthmatic) more than in those 2 months.
With a new location, new Groupon and Living Social on the market, and new curriculum in place - TPA was back in action. Took long enough! Many students didn’t come back directly as they had lost momentum with their pole journey or whatever their case may be. It’s understandable but those who had stayed by my side have grown and become apart of something more than just a pole studio. Kilo who was once a student has more knowledge in the core foundation of TPA not just as seeing it grow but educating herself with training series and being in my head. She is the closest thing I have as a double and the simple fact that I can run a business and put my best friend on a legit payroll is an incredible feeling. I wake up every morning not hating life. I wake up thinking I get to meet new people who will take on an individual pole journey much like I had and see them grow. I get to unlock studio doors with a cute skeleton key with a bow in her hair because that it my key. I can say I’m tired, exhausted and that Twerk It! Tuesdays absolutely take all my energy out of me but I can also say that I own a studio - a dream I’ve always wanted to fulfill. I own a haven where people of all ages, sizes, genders and backgrounds can come together and relate to me. I can say I’ve helped people with their self-image, body weight, mental state and even saved them. Everyone comes to class at TPA for their own reason. To lose weight, become confident, feel sexy, release stress or just be apart of a small community that lifts them to a higher state just by walking in the doors. Either way - I’ve created a security blanket not only for myself but my students. Sure I have a variety of classes to offer and we love parties! Sure I love seeing new faces everyday and watching the veterans progress and unlock things about their body they didn’t know they could do. I love walking into the doors of TPA everyday and starting the coffee pot, turning on Christmas lights and playing music while I answer voicemails of new students wanting to be apart of what we offer. I love saying ’this is mine.’. TPA has a long way to go as it’s growing everyday but I’m game for the ride and I hope every person still reading this is going to join me.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for being apart of the pole community. Thank you for believing in & supporting The Pole Academy. Thank you for being with us and thank you for being you. We wouldn’t be here without you and we’ll never forget that. The Pole Academy wasn’t always what you see today. It wasn’t always on Congaree Rd nor was it a self-standing studio. Few know the true history of what TPA used to be and how it’s grown. Not all know the changes, the hardships, the advancements and the legacy of what was built and continues to grow. This is that story. This is the beginning.