When Nancy Meyer and Nicole Wallen joined forces to open Barre Evolution in 2010, there were no other barre studios in Charleston.
“People thought you had to be a ballerina,” Wallen joked.Meyer had recently moved with her family from New York City, where she’d worked in marketing, and met Wallen in a barre class at Wallen’s Pilates studio. The two entrepreneurs saw the opportunity to combine their strengths and open the first Barre Evolution studio. Part of their success lies in the fact that they have a shared vision and a similar passion. They both come from business backgrounds and agree that while the work is intense – 12-to 14- hour workdays – they would never go back to a 9 to 5 job.
“The secret is that there is no secret,” Wallen laughed. “Running a successful business is recognizing that it’s not about you. It’s about our clients and the health and strength of the business.”
The biggest challenge of being a female-owned business is managing people, and part of what distinguishes Barre Evolution is their commitment to the ongoing development of their staff.
“We work hard to figure out the most effective way to motivate our instructors without being discouraging,” said Meyer.After teaching dance for 10 years, instructor Jess Ross came to the Barre Evolution Method two years ago.
“I love working for BE because they let me be the best version of myself,” she explained. “I am the happiest when I am teaching. Watching clients grow stronger, become more flexible and do something they couldn’t before is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.”
As women and moms, Meyer and Wallen have a greater understanding of the changing needs of their staff and strive to work around these needs, including pregnancy and family emergencies.
“You might not get this flexibility in a workplace run by a man or larger corporation. As a result, we have had a very high retention rate with instructors,” Meyer said.
A lot has changed in the last six years, and there are now four Barre Evolution studios, including a Greenville location. Their latest studio opened this spring in North Mount Pleasant, and, while continued growth is part of their plan, the women are committed to maintaining the boutique feel.
“We work hard to foster a community of women that is diverse and supportive,” said Wallen. “We love seeing how impactful barre and Pilates can be in people’s lives. Our students feel better about themselves, and they reward us every day by coming back and bringing their friends.”
TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS:
- Location is key! Spend time to research your location. Spend time and money to be an expert in your field. Continue
your education so you can innovate.
- Be prepared to reinvest everything you make in the first few years so you won’t have to take on debt.
- Don’t be afraid of change. Tweak your business plan as needed. Don’t stick with something if it isn’t working.
- Hire good people. Don’t hire teachers just because they have the cute “girl next door” look. Be picky and wait for the smart and genuine candidates to come calling.
- Don’t skimp on hiring a CPA, attorney and bookkeeper. These people are your best business advisors.
By Amy Mercer