WHO: Mimi Washington, founder and CEO of SEYA CrossFits & Wellness Center and HÁBITAT Event Space
Q: Tell us about your day job. It’s not at SEYA or HÁBITAT, is it?
A: My day job is providing business development, proposal writing and other management consulting services to firms that do construction for the federal government.
Q: How did that lead to running an events/wellness space?
A: I have always been an athlete and found CrossFit a few years back. I had a vision of a wellness center with offerings that would help athletes recover from training and taking a yin/yang approach to fitness in that there has to be a balance of training hard, but also recovering properly. Having an event space was never on the radar but happened by chance because I ran into some structural challenges with my building, which ultimately lead to 3,000 square feet of open space I needed to find a use for. Quitting my day job was never part of the equation, and as most business owners know, sometimes the end result is totally different from what you originally imagined.
Q: How do you manage these two occupations?
A: On an average day, I am up early to meet clients throughout the Baltimore/ D.C. area. I head to SEYA in the evenings to coach a couple classes, then workout myself. A few nights a week, I attend an event at HÁBITAT or elsewhere to support other businesses, owners, friends and causes I am passionate about. A typical day consists of at least three outfit changes for each place. I get asked all the time how I make it work and the answer is I just do. I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and honestly, I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t working.
Q: You’re so dedicated to the city. Did you grow up here or get charmed by it later?
A: I was born in Vietnam and immigrated to Florida when I was 4. My father fought with the Americans during the war and was subsequently assassinated by the communist party when my mother was pregnant with me. I was the youngest of eight children to a widowed mother just coming to the U.S. My childhood is the reason I have no issue with working hard, because my mother worked two jobs my entire life.
Q: Did you pick the location for HÁBITAT and Seya, or did it pick you?
A: A little of both. I began looking at spaces in 2014. At the time I knew I didn’t want to be in an established neighborhood but one that was up and coming, not overly developed and had some grit to it. When I initially saw the building, which is on Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown, and its potential, I knew that was where I wanted to be but did not move forward due to the amount of work it needed. Throughout the process I had several other buildings that made the final list and had an offer on a different space, but the SEYA building was always there in the back of my mind. Ultimately, I think it chose me. The working-class feel, the neighborhood, the grit and grind it represented was everything I had been looking for from the beginning.
WEB EXTRA: Our March cover was shot at SEYA CrossFits & Wellness Center and HÁBITAT Event Space. Check out these behind-the-scenes photos.