Sep 13, 2023

Amy Brown’s Business Stayed in Shape During COVID

The founder of Instaphysique considers her body of work

By Ed Goldman

Amy Brown is telling me about a three-week period during the COVID-19 crisis when she and her then-small staff would arrive at her Instaphysique studio by 5:30 a.m. to roll some of her patented Lagree Fitness machines into the parking lot in time for the arrival of her first client.

“This was in the summer, so we had to roll the machines back inside around noon,” Brown says. “Each machine cost me $15,000, and I sure didn’t want them getting ruined sitting around in the sun.”

Edgy Cartoon

Amy Brown

If you’ll recall, conducting business outdoors—whether you ran a fitness studio, a hair salon or a restaurant— was one of the few options available during the pandemic. The others involved your wearing a mask while business owners, stylists and restaurant hostesses, also wearing masks, took your temperature. It was a good time to own a golf course or tennis court, which didn’t even require players to wear masks—unless they stepped inside the clubhouse.

Brown’s fitness machines sit like sentries, ready to unfold and morph into spring-based Transformers in her 4,100-square-foot facility. Sited diagonally across from Pavilions Shopping Center, a popular upscale Sacramento landmark, and next door to Chef Bo, a neighborhood Chinese restaurant, Brown founded the business in 2016. It features both workout and recovery equipment. 

In 2018, she opened a second branch, in the city of Roseville, which is about half that size and is strictly fitness-focused. Between the two locations she serves 500+ members and occasional walk-ins, who come an average three times per week for a 40-minute workout she says is “low on impact, high in intensity.” Her eldest client is 75, she says, adding with a laugh “and she’s the toughest of them all.”   

At 5’8, the sinewy 47-year-old Brown is probably her own best advertisement for her workout facilities (as well as for following a vegan diet). Her marketing background and the contacts she made in her Southern California years have allowed her to personally handle nearly every facet of her business. 

Edgy Cartoon

Amy and a client 

“When I started, I taught a lot more of the classes, too,” she says. Now she has 29 employees (three of whom are fulltime) who provide individual attention to the maximum 15 attendees per class. She looks around at her multi-mirrored, exceptionally immaculate place and says, “It definitely helps that I love what I do.”   

In addition to the Lagree Fitness machines, Brown’s studio has small, tight-coiled trampolines to help people who have balance and posture issues (they’re not made to allow you to bounce very high or wide). Some of these, along with infra-red “body roll” machines that provide lymphatic massages are in the portion of Brown’s Sacramento studio dedicated to recovery.

Brown was recommended to me by two of her clients, one of whom, Sherri Ngai, cuts my hair whenever I run out of excuses not to do so. “It’s the best workout I’ve ever had,” says Ngai, who’s already on her feet five days a week running her hair salon, Shapes for Hair, in East Sacramento. “This helps give me the strength to do my work,” she adds.

On my visit, I watch two of Brown’s clients using the two body-roll machines, which resemble scaled-down paddlewheels (think land-locked riverboats) which the client sits beside and in front of as the wheels roll down their frames. The machines have proved especially helpful for people with health concerns that include lymphedema, swelling, and inflammation, according to medical sourced—and, of course, physical therapy sites.

As much as she’s helping people achieve fitness and recovery, Brown says a principal goal of her business is “community building. This is a non-competitive environment where people form a definite camaraderie, which can have as beneficial an effect on you as being in decent physical shape.”

Brown is a single mom. Her son, Jayden, is 11. When she returned to Sacramento a few years ago she lived with her own mom, Linda Brown, a retired teacher now 80. “That helped ground me and also gave me the chance to save money I’d need to lease my places and get loans to buy the equipment,” Amy Brown says. 

At present, Brown’s the region’s sole franchisee for the Lagree Fitness system. She says she “can see having five or so facilities” in the next few years to pepper the surrounding area, even though she has clients from as far away from Sacramento as Stockton “who are willing to drive more than an hour each way for a 40-minute workout.”

Brown’s background included stints as a marketing and communications consultant for the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council and spending five years as director of marketing and business development for the L.A.-based California Fashion Association. She also managed operations and marketing for the Hollywood Group, a performance and production studio located you know where.

I ask if she got into this business because she’d always been athletic or, as many people in premium physical shape will tell you, they started out as the opposite. 

“Oh, I was never heavy or anything,” she says, “but I also never played sports in school. I just got hooked on feeling better about myself and with my background in marketing and business, thought I could create something unique.”

While Instaphysique is now moving some of its own merch, like T-shirts and gift cards, Brown says, “It’s all about how people can feel better physically and also about themselves. That’s what I love about my work.” 

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).

Yes, Virginia

A Weekly Blog by Virginia Varela

President, Golden Pacific Bank, a Division of SoFi Bank, N.A.

photo by Phoebe Verkouw


Recently the prestigious Wall Street Journal announced its college rankings for 2023. Our local Sacramento State proudly stands at the 71st position overall in the entire United states, and in the California rankings, Sac State is in the 11 spot—surpassing renowned institutions including UCLA, UC Davis, UCSD, Santa Clara, SDSU, and Cal Poly SLO.

I congratulate Sac State leadership for fostering this achievement. And I am also delighted to welcome leaders Dr. J. Luke Wood as the new Sac State president, and Dr. Jean-Francois Coget as the newly appointed dean, of the College of Business at Sacramento State.

Since 2017, I’ve been a proud member of the Sacramento State College of Business Advisory Council. The BAC provides input and assistance to the College of Business as it seeks to fulfill its mission, weighing in on issues related to resource development, external relations, and strategic planning. The BAC is comprised of alumni, community leaders, corporate partners, and other friends of the University. Individuals selected to serve have demonstrated leadership in their chosen field, and are committed to the mission, vision, and success of the college.

The college is a supporter and promoter of small businesses through its Center for Small Business. Golden Pacific Bank, a division of SoFi Bank, N.A., recently provided a $10,000 grant to this endeavor.

Founded in 1969, the Center for Small Businesses is one of the oldest and largest of its kind in the United States. For more than 50 years the CSB has served more than 2,500 small businesses in the Greater Sacramento area, offering free technical management assistance in all areas of business (other than taxation, law, and loan packaging) to small for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

The services are provided by juniors, seniors, and graduate students under faculty supervision. These students are assigned to work with clients of the center as part of their coursework in various classes offered by the College of Business.

“We extend our deepest appreciation to SoFi Bank, N.A. for their generous contribution and ongoing commitment to community development,” said Dean Coget. “We value this partnership immensely and look forward to the positive impact we can create together.”

So do we, Professor!

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