By Amy Leclerc, barre3
At barre3, we are in the people business. We are changing lives, all day, every day — which is both a huge honor and an enormous responsibility. And while we absolutely love being able to grow our brand and our impact through franchising our studios, we’ve learned a lot along the way.
Sadie and Chris Lincoln launched barre3 with one studio in Portland, Oregon, in 2008. In the eight years since then, we’ve grown to more than 100 studios around the country (and in Canada and the Philippines). The numbers are big, but — and this is key — we’ve been incredibly careful and deliberate about how we’ve grown, every step of the way. From day one, we’ve grown one studio at a time.
We’ve also held true to our barre3 mission as we’ve grown. Our goal is to help people live their healthiest, happiest lives, and our approach is guided by three pillars: Exercise, nourish, and connect. It’s not just about how hard you work out or the numbers on the scale. It’s about nourishing your body and making connections in order to lead a balanced and happier life. Because our approach depends so much on personal connection, the franchising model is ideal for us. Rather than have our studios be corporate-owned from thousands of miles away, they’re owned by people who are deeply rooted in and care about the community. Our owners connect with their clients from day one, and they see them grow in their practice and in their lives. The connection is authentic and lasting, and it’s why our clients are always raving about the sense of community they feel with barre3.
"It’s not just about how hard you work out or the numbers on the scale. It’s about nourishing your body and making connections in order to lead a balanced and happier life."
There are a million factors to consider when opening a new location, and of course we do extensive research to cover all our bases. But in the end, the success of each barre3 studio has everything to do with the owner. It goes back to our point about being in the people business. The most important thing about barre3 — the thing that sets us apart from the crowd and that we’re the most proud of — is our culture. It’s the people teaching our classes, running our front desks, and holding babies in childcare who make barre3 the warm, inviting, vibrant place that it is. They create an environment so special that clients often tell us they consider the studio a second home. The owner is the first and most important part of this puzzle — and that’s why we take great care in choosing each one, in each city or small town.
"Rather than have our studios be corporate-owned from thousands of miles away, they’re owned by people who are deeply rooted in and care about the community."
When we meet a prospective owner for the first time, we’re looking for three essential things. First and foremost, we’re looking for a true passion for barre3. Oftentimes, candidates take a ton of classes, subscribe to our online workouts, participate in our company-wide challenges, follow us rigorously through our social media channels, and sport our gear. They participate in barre3 because they love it, and it’s that genuine love for the brand that is driving them to take the leap into ownership.
In many cases, our owner candidates are already barre3 instructors, which brings us to the second thing we look for: the ability to teach classes. Our owners are in no way behind the scenes. Each one is a strong presence in the studio, teaching classes, greeting clients, and generally setting the tone for the environment.
And third — but still hugely important — we are looking for business-savvy leaders. We want people who can really leverage all of the resources we provide at our Home Office, and bring them to life in their community.
"Our owners connect with their clients from day one, and they see them grow in their practice and in their lives."
Our owner criteria really hasn’t changed much in our eight years of franchising. We have, however, refined our process and profile checklist — coming a long way from our original vetting process, which was essentially taking candidates out for tea after one of Sadie’s classes!
When we meet candidates today, we devote a lot of time to getting to know them before approving them to open a studio. Our process includes a series of in-person interviews and auditions. We have our leadership team spend time with prospects to get to know them as people, not just as prospective business owners. In many ways, we’re looking for the intangibles. How do they approach the world? Do they address problems or turn away from them? How do they interact with the general public? Spending time with candidates in this way is one of the most important things we do here at barre3 Headquarters in Portland. It’s a lot like dating — if the energy and connection aren’t there, it’s not a good fit!
"It’s a lot like dating — if the energy and connection aren’t there, it’s not a good fit!"
We spend all of this time upfront because once we franchise to owners, we give them a lot of room and autonomy. We provide them with a blueprint, access to 24/7 resources, ongoing training, and an incredibly supportive owner community, but ultimately we are committed to empowering them to run their own businesses — and we recognize that there are different ways of doing this.
The franchise model works well for barre3, and we attribute a huge part of that success to our thorough owner-vetting process and our 24-7 owner support. We also have the luxury of corporately owning eight of our own studios, which serve as real-time models where we can test new things. It’s all about setting them up for success. If we give them the right tools, we can step back and let them do what they do best.
When Sadie and Chris opened that first Portland studio in 2008, they realized their dream. Today, they are honored and thrilled to be able to empower others to realize their dream careers, too.
Amy will be in NYC on June 23 hosting a franchising Q+A at the West Village studio. Visit www.barre3.com for more info.
Amy Leclerc was one of Barre3’s first instructors in Portland, OR, and is now VP of Sales and Marketing. After almost a decade in NYC, she is back in Portland, but recognized the need for a barre3 studio here in New York, and co-opened the first studio in NYC, barre3 West Village. Amy loves barre3 because she can dedicate time, whether it be 10 minutes or 60 to her body and her breath. Amy and her husband have a 3-year old son, Blaise, and baby girl, Ludivine.