I grew up sitting in a circle surrounded by women who love me. It dawned on me recently that my circle has expanded to include my company. How I’ve raised barre3 is, in many ways, a mirror of how my mother and aunties raised me.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s, my mom and her four best friends banned together to create a village to support us kids around their common core values. They intentionally broke the nuclear family mold. As single mothers, they figured out a practical and rewarding new way to raise their children together. It has been over 50 years since they met, and today we continue to be a strong village. In addition to my mother’s unconditional love, I am blessed to have four “aunties” and five “siblings” whom I consider my family — and always will.
Our secret to staying close is the same as my secret to running a healthy business: We are aligned around and devoted to a set of core values, and we take the time we need to engage with those values. As a family, our core values are a love of nature, a dedication to self-awareness and a commitment to supporting each other. Growing up, we often came together in a circle. It was a safe place where everyone was seen, heard and free to be vulnerable. Often our conversations were rooted in our dreams, because that was an entry point to looking inside and talking about what mattered most to each of us. As part of the counterculture, my aunties inspired a fierce rebellious spirit in me. I learned that copying others, following prescribed ideas about what women should grow up to do, means you don’t get to learn about yourself — and you won’t have the courage to stand up for what matters to you. I have the women who raised me to thank for the drive I felt to start my own business.
I run my company, which offers full-body, mindful workouts in the studio and online, like my family circle. During every training for new instructors, we literally sit in a circle. This is where we reflect on our common core values like making sure everybody in our community is welcome, giving generously to ourselves and to the people we work with and committing to being real by focusing on body positivity rather than being attached to unrealistic ideals. The circle is also where we talk about what defines us as an organization. Inevitably this conversation leads to a discussion about how our approach to movement is a metaphor for how we live our lives. When you hold a posture in a barre3 class, you’re building muscles in an isometric contraction, firing the muscles without movement, but you’re also learning to be still and listen to your body. When you work with small movements, you’re doing more than building strength and breaking plateaus. You’re also strengthening your willpower and ability to stay calm in the face of chaos. When you choose to modify a move in class as we encourage, like taking your plank pose at the barre to lift pressure off an injured shoulder, you’re standing up for what’s right for you.
Barre is fast growing in the increasingly competitive landscape of boutique fitness. Because of this, I’m often asked if I worry my business will become a passing trend. It’s a fair and important question. It’s why I’ve consciously built barre3 to evolve, adapting our exercises based on the latest research and discoveries around health and wellbeing. The postures we string together in our workout, our studio design, our marketing campaigns and the leggings hanging in our retail displays will all change over time, but our core values will remain constant — and they’re what will keep us together and strong. The only thing we’re attached to is our love of learning new ways to teach our clients how to be empowered and move in a balanced and rewarding way. Body positivity and prioritizing wellbeing will never go out of style.
Just as my mom wasn’t attached to what a typical family looks like, I’m not attached to what a typical barre class looks like. Instead, I focus my energy as CEO on creating an environment that empowers each of our clients to look inside for answers and make their barre3 experiences exactly what they need. From my mother and aunties, I learned the power of taking time to understand and support women. I spend a lot of time listening, reading comments on our online workouts, teaching and observing the people who walk through our studios. I know who needs a community like barre3, because she tells me. She craves an environment where she’s given permission to reach outside her comfort zone, learn, adapt and most importantly lead from within — and I’ve made it my mission to give her that.