From instructor to studio owner, what you need to know

We see a lot of barre instructors who go through our program with dreams of starting their own studio; Charlene Causey was one of them. Her studio, Brilliant Balance, opened its doors to the Pueblo, CO community in January. As a former registered nurse, Charlene integrates her natural health and personal training certifications into her services at her studio and calls Brilliant Balance “a barre fitness and wellness studio.”

Opening a studio can be as challenging as it is exciting. Charlene recommends finding a good counsel. She consulted with Lisa Juliet, co-founder of IBBFA Barre Certification, among others. After being open for few months now, Charlene says she’s learned that there’s so much more to opening a studio than what’s on the surface level. “I’ve learned so much, and I feel like I’m really getting ready to take off now after getting some of the pieces in place,” Charlene says. We talked to Charlene about her journey to opening Brilliant Balance and what advice she has for others looking to open a studio.

When did you first start the process of opening a studio?

It had been my idea when I first signed up for Barre Certification [December 2014]. I was working at the YMCA and a yoga studio for a while. I had very limited hours at the Y and the yoga studio. I really wasn’t working much. So, it was always in the back of my mind, but I was really busy with going in and out of town. My mother was in Utah and my mother-in-law lives in California, so we were always going to visit them. It just wasn’t the right timing for me to do that.

In September, mother passed away. When I came back, I wasn’t getting more hours as I hoped and I decided I was going to start looking around. I was very casual about it at first. Some places were outrageously expensive, others were not suitable to be a studio. I decided I wanted a place close to home, and one Saturday I found a location without even looking. It felt like everything fell into place. It’s only four minutes driving time away from my house.

So,  that’s how it came about. It came together quick! I kind of wish I had more planning time because I needed to get moving. I really only had from the middle of October to the middle of January to do everything; three months. I think I would have taken four or five months, maybe even six.  

Why would have liked to have more time?

I’m struggling now with other things, like marketing. There are so many things to do and you have to really count the costs. When I say, count the costs, I’m not just speaking about money. It’s the emotional, mental and physical ramifications to opening any business. I got a point where I just said, “All I want to do is teach barre!” But there’s the facility, the scheduling, the paperwork, and the marketing–oh my!

The administration side took a lot of my energy. And that’s with getting some counsel. I contacted the local business development center. I contacted website builders just to pick their brains a little, get some advice and get quotes. And I know it’s just part of the process, but if I had time to do all of that before I even opened, it would have been nice to have that out of the way.

There are so many little decisions to make? Where did you start and how did you get through them?

Well, I got a little bit of friendly criticism from my mentor in California (a dear friend with a marketing and business background) because I belabored every decision. I was just very particular in selecting the colors, the motif, the layout. I suppose I over think things, but every decision was important to me because my studio is a reflection of who I am. When I consulted with Lise Juliet–who is so gracious and so sweet and so easy to talk to– she said early on, “Create an environment people will want to return to.” So that is echoing in my mind all the time. Every decision I make I take that into consideration.

I also made a spreadsheet, this is something Lisa and my mentor both recommended, with surrounding studios, their demographics, the amount they charge, and how their packages are broken up and that helped me set my prices.

Was there anything that helped you stay on track?

You need to have a “why.” Why are you doing this? Whenever you take on a new endeavor you take one whether it be a business or a goal you set, you need to have you “why” firmly in place. Remembering my “why” is what kept me moving forward. There are no other barre studios in town, so first of all, I wanted to give something back to my community. I have to forge ahead because there are so many great things about barre fitness and people may not know what that is. Then, my love of ballet goes back to my preschool years. Barre reinforced my love for the art and the grace of ballet, while I see anyone– no matter what age– can benefit from its principles.

Once you decide you’re going to do it, hang on to the “why.” Maybe sometimes you’ll be directed to change it or to tweak it, but that’s all part of the process.  

How did you know what classes to design for your studio?

It’s mostly from the clients. I had a request to do a barre-only class, no mat work, because some people were having difficulty getting up and down from the mat. It’s a total body workout, but everything is at the barre. I came up with a class designed specifically for seniors called, “Golden Slippers.” At the Y, they have “Silver Sneakers.” It’s just tailor-made for seniors, a little more frail or less balanced, but they can still benefit greatly from the principles of ballet. Then, I have a 6-week “Booty Camp” coming up after Easter. Along, with that I will offer nutrition guidance for people who want that too.

What resources would you recommend to those looking to open their own studios?

I had a lot of good counsel between my mentor and Lisa and even my landlord. Plus my husband did a lot of the leg work. I think that’s an important part of it, getting good people around you who are willing to lend you their ear and give some good advice and helping. It’s important to feel supported. I think a good counsel really crucial. I love the IBBFA forum because I can turn to that when I have questions that only barre-tenders would understand. I love having that at my fingertips!

What would you say to encourage others who are looking to open their own studio?

It’s really about gathering information and then really thinking about what you want to do. Every studio has it’s own design, it’s own flavor, so to speak. Try to have a business plan. That’s something Lisa suggested. I had one of sorts, then I reworked it into a simple, one-page business plan. Lisa gave me back her critique, which was really helpful. That mentor or confidant who has the experience to go to was a big help. I think Lisa told me this, but also I’d recommend, don’t try to be all things to all people.

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