People have asked me how I got the courage to start my own business. "It seems like such a huge risk!" they tell me. Before I started Barre & Soul, it felt scary to me too. In fact, the thought of starting a business gave me nightmares.
In these nightmares, tumbleweeds blew through an empty studio where I sat, weeping at the front desk, writing out rent check after rent check, nothing to eat but dust and shame as I slipped into financial ruin. I was potently afraid.
The part I feared most about opening a barre and yoga studio of my own, was signing a lease. Leases are a big commitment, a legally binding, enduring, long-term arrangement for people who don’t mind being tied down and who have enough money in the bank to float a few bad months, or years. When I was in the early days of Barre & Soul - signing a lease felt like signing my life away.
Naturally, the first thing I did was sign the biggest, gnarliest one I could, on the most expensive street in Boston, because that’s what badasses do...
JUST KIDDING!!!! What I really did still took a lot of guts though!
first I had to realize this:
I would rather suffer failure than regret.
Knowing that, I got started with the first in a series of progressively bigger risks.
The first step toward creating my business was to quit my full time job, which had been draining me of my energy and passion. Before I quit, I lined up enough teaching gigs for me to make the bare minimum income that I needed to get by. At the time, these steps alone were plenty scary.
Shortly after that, I officially launched my business by pitching Barre & Soul as a branded barre program to be delivered at Lexington Power Yoga.
It was a win-win! LPY would get stellar barre instruction from a seasoned pro, and I would get a place to teach barre with total creative freedom to build my business and begin training and hiring a staff, without the pressure or the risk of signing a lease.
If all went well, I could offer the service to other studios, expanding to multiple locations – in the back of my mind at the time was the comforting idea that this might just work without me ever being on the hook for rent. (No nightmare tumbleweed studio! No eating dust and shame! No rent checks!)
When I came to LPY with the idea, it only existed on paper. When they said yes, I scrambled to make good on what I’d promised. I was Barre & Soul’s only teacher. I was also the web designer, marketing department, and janitor. I didn’t know if it was all going to work, but I knew I had to give it my all.
Next I pitched this program to another studio in my home-town of Melrose, MA. I was shocked at the owner's reply: "I haven't really told anyone this, but I'm thinking of moving. Would you like to buy my studio?"
I learned her business was thriving; she had years’ worth of financial reports to back it up, and I knew that adding barre would only increase its success. It was a risk, yes, to take on my own studio and finally do the thing I’d feared the most – what I’d consciously avoided for so long - signing a commercial lease, but it felt like the next appropriate risk. I couldn’t not do it.
After the Melrose studio, I grew braver. Portsmouth, NH was my next stop.
This was my first time opening a new location from scratch, with no existing clientele. It was daunting but I felt the market needed what I had to offer, and I fell in love with the space, which I felt I could afford, so I did it. I closed my eyes and prayed that I would attract the right staff and clients, and that the whole thing wouldn’t blow up in my face. Luckily, it worked.
My risk tolerance is always increasing – little by little, success by success. After that studio, I was ready to sign a monster lease on an expensive piece of property in Harvard Square. I had worked my way up to this; it wasn’t my first move, but to say it was intimidating would be an understatement.
The construction alone took months and cost much more than the previous studios, combined. We opened Harvard Square in July, the slowest time of year, when most of the students were away. Things were (terrifyingly) quiet for the first month. But when September hit, the students started rolling in, and it was clear the studio was going to thrive.
Next month, I'll open my fifth location, located in Brookline on the B.U. campus, and yep, I have two other locations in the works.
I have a vision for Barre & Soul’s continued expansion, for the powerful communities we have the potential to bring together. Its scary and sometimes it keeps me up at night, but it's worth it. I’m getting there one studio at a time.
I have a vision for a book I want to write. I’m writing it one page at a time, and you're reading a page right now.
What is the BIG, scary thing you want to do? What is the first small, scary thing you can do to inch towards it, in order to eventually achieve it?
When that first step isn’t scary anymore, take the next biggest risk you can stomach. Before you know it, you'll be amazed at what you've accomplished.