- The ballet-inspired workout craze founded by dancer Carrie Rezabek Dorr began offering franchise opportunities in 2009.
- Today, there are over 550 Pure Barre studios in the United States and Canada servicing some 550,000 clients, with 95% of franchises owned by women.
- Two successful multiple-franchise owners say that it can be hard work, but worth it to make your passion your business and help build a community.
- In order to make a serious profit, they suggest leaning on other franchise owners for support and hiring a stellar team to run the show, as well as tracking key performance metrics and leveraging social media marketing.
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Founded in 2001 by dancer, choreographer, and fitness guru Carrie Rezabek Dorr, ballet-inspired studio workout Pure Barre has grown into the second-largest boutique-fitness concept in North America.
Since launching its franchise opportunity in 2009, the company now boasts more than 550 studios with 550,000 clients across the US and Canada. According to the company, membership sales have increased by an average of 75% year over year, and since 2015, Pure Barre has seen 25% client growth and 35% revenue growth.
Many franchise owners started as Pure Barre devotees before taking the plunge to buy into Pure Barre, which was acquired by boutique workout franchise brand Xponential Fitness in 2018.
Business Insider spoke to two owners of multiple Pure Barre studios to understand how they spun a love of dance-oriented fitness into successful businesses — and along the way have created strong and supportive communities.
Make sure you know where your finances stand and have a plan for finding real estate
Massachusetts native and 35-year-old Liz Roberts had always wanted to own her own business. A graduate of Babson College with a BA in entrepreneurship, she worked in finance before having her first child. After that, she decided that she wanted to be her own boss.
“It only took one Pure Barre class for me to realize that this workout technique didn’t exist where I lived and that I needed to open it as soon as possible. Five years and three kids later, I am currently opening my ninth studio,” Roberts said.
Roberts opened her first studio in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 2015. First-time franchisees go through a highly selective application process that includes a liquidity test proving assets greater than $90,000 and a minimum net worth of $300,000. After the first franchise the application is expedited, however, franchisees still need to meet financial liquidity requirements.
The initial start-up cost ranges from $198,650 to $446,250, which includes the franchise fee, furniture and fixtures package, and pre-opening instructor training. On top of that, there is the real-estate cost of leasing or purchasing a site. Once the business is up and running, Pure Barre takes 7% of gross sales as a royalty fee, while marketing is a further 1%.
“Even though we had a business plan that we provided to Pure Barre when we bought the franchise, as a new business it’s hard to get loan. We used all [of] our savings, opened a lot of 0% credit cards to get us through the first 18 months, and then borrowed from my inlaws,” Roberts said.
It takes around three to five months from signing a franchise agreement to opening the studio doors, but there’s a lot of hard work in between. Roberts said that the most time-consuming part was working with real estate agents to find a suitable location that was available at the time and obtaining build-out quotes to make the space into a functioning studio.
“But after all of that, cash is king is the key [to] understanding your business. When you’re starting out, you have to be prepared to pay yourself last,” she explained. “It took three months before I could pay myself, even though my first studio was profitable from the first month.”
Lean on other franchise owners for support
Roberts said that having connections with other franchise owners like herself has been one of the best things about her work. Some 95% of Pure Barre franchisees are women led, and 27% own multiple units.
“I’m good friends with a number of other Pure Barre franchise owners, and I really appreciate having a team of entrepreneurs I can tap into for advice, guidance, or simply friendship,” she said, adding that she tends to meet fellow franchisees at Pure Barre’s annual convention or regional meetings.
“Say for example I have a client with a unique complaint — they’re the ones I go to for advice on how to handle it, and vice versa,” she explained. “We also talk a lot about employee issues, such as how to drive people to do their best work and make it a win-win arrangement, or the best way to restructure compensation in a way that is mutually beneficial to their goals and the studio needs.”
Roberts also noted that because franchises are in different areas, they are not usually in direct competition and therefore you’re able to share marketing tips rather than having to generate ideas on your own.
Find the right people to join your team and empower them with constant feedback
Roberts said that one of the best pieces of advice she ever received was to “hire slow and fire fast.”
Roberts also said that hiring is the hardest part of running her business. She mostly uses LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram as well as advertising to their existing client base to find applicants. In terms of ongoing staff management, she proactively discusses employee performance with her studio managers.
“We discuss who on our team are adders, subtractors, multipliers, or dividers. Having this categorization and [these] discussions help me mentally prepare for who I need to grow, maintain, develop, or let go,” she said.
Roberts has found that it is critical that employees feel that they also have a say and ownership in the studio.
“I say to managers, ‘This is your studio, give me feedback and your opinions.’ It’s not my way or the highway, and they are happier — that translates into a positive culture in the studio.”
Roberts added that since as a company they are promoting strength, confidence, and community, maintaining a positive culture has been crucial.
“I don’t tolerate any negativity,” she explained. “There are over 100 women who work for us, and our motto from day one has been that gossip doesn’t exist in the workplace.”
Track key metrics to anticipate problems before they arise
With her eight studios in Massachusetts and Connecticut (and one more studio on the way), Roberts’ company is one of the larger Pure Barre franchises.
“Our family of studios vary in revenue, community, and size. Each month, we average over $25,000 per studio in barre class revenue and over $4,000 in retail sales in our fitness boutique,” she said. “We are on track to have around 160,000 visits to our eight studios for this year. We will offer around 15,000 classes to service over 1,600 members, in addition to clients that are single users and visitors.”
Roberts said that she remains highly engaged with each of her studios, studying numbers through a weekly dashboard that she created. The dashboard highlights key metrics, such as member and class numbers, so that she can be on top of problems before they arise.
“A key factor I’ve learned in performance decline is simple attendance numbers. If it is dipping, that is a precursor to membership cancellation,” she said. Roberts tries to combat attendance decline by being an immediate presence in the studio to understand the reasons, usually to do with the studio culture, for falling attendances.
“Also, managers not meeting their targets is often a precursor to their performance decline — and that’s important, because their role is highly influential to the success of a studio,” she added. Monthly sales targets are a combination of membership goals, retail sales, and studio revenue. She tracks year-to-year, month-to-month, and week-to-week performance on conversion rates, inventory management, tasks performed, and attendance to effectively monitor and reset targets.
Treat members like family, and learn when to step back and let your team run the show
Husband-and-wife team Casey and Annie Gregersen bought their first Pure Barre franchise in 2016 after Casey joined Annie, a former Miss Montana and Houston Texans cheerleader, for her 100th class and, he said, “had his seat handed to him.”
Seeing the passion and results up close made the couple agree that it was a great business opportunity. But now, with four studios under their belt, it’s more than a business. They believe that being able to consistently bring in new business requires that they “treat each member like they are family.”
“We take the time to personally meet each new member and find out their fitness goals. We are actively creating a safe space where members can hold each other accountable to those goals in a welcoming community,” said Annie.
She believes that the most difficult part of becoming a franchise owner has been not taking criticism and bad reviews personally, but at the same time remaining humble.
“We are perfectionists at our core, and want to do everything ourselves to make sure that it is done correctly,” she said. “But now operating four studios, three children, and Casey’s full-time job, we have learned to go with the eb and flow of our studios, and to delegate tasks to our staff while we coach them so that we can grow and learn together.”
Consider taking the opportunity to turn around a struggling studio
The Gregersens opened their first studio in Midland, Texas. It grossed almost half a million in revenue in 2018, and as a result they have recently expanded their company to include three “turnaround” studios in San Diego.
“The first three San Diego studios we purchased averaged around 15 members on EFT (monthly payment) at each studio. Nine months later, we’ve grown our EFT to 135, 141, [and] 148 respectively,” the couple told Business Insider.
“Turnaround” opportunities are financial incentives offered by Xponential Fitness to existing successful Pure Barre franchise owners to help transform a struggling studio.
Xponential Fitness said in a statement to Business Insider that it cannot disclose the specific financial arrangements it makes with different owners. But there are still healthy returns to be had for startup studios under the Pure Barre model.
“We are consistently bringing in 20 or more new clients each month across all of our studios,” Annie said.
Utilize social media and other marketing and sales tactics to drive new business
When it comes to turning around studios, the Gregersons said that the secret to their success has been focusing on marketing and sales.
“Historically, the front-end employees were just running a check-in, but now they are much more sales focused and trained. We have learned to be constantly evolving, and a big part of that is managing the sales process,” Casey said.
Their targets are to convert 50% of leads to booking a class and 50% of people who attend a class to buy a membership. To this end, he said that Xponential Fitness has recently rolled out a better automated point-of-sale system to help with the sales process, which includes notes on clients and setting tasks to follow up on people who have been to a class to try to convert them into members.
“There is also the new Foundations class for beginners, which is slower and easier to follow. We are finding leads through actively promoting this class on social media, as well as grass-roots events such as setting up a table at a grocery or activewear-chain Lululemon, pop-up classes [in] public settings, and fitness events in San Diego,” he added.
He believes that Pure Barre teachers are the foundation of the brand’s success — so it becomes a matter of bringing in new people to experience those teachers in action.
“We found that the best way to turn around a studio is to be aggressive with marketing on Facebook and Instagram,” he said. “We are spending around $2,000 per month per studio. With these campaigns on top of everything else we are doing, we’ve doubled our revenue in each studio over the last 12 months.”
Gregerson said that their most successful social media campaigns use short video clips and photos of their classes that emphasize the local aspect of their franchise. He also strongly recommends trying a number of different digital marketing agencies to find the one that “is big enough to have the capabilities to run strong campaigns, but not too big to lose intimacy when working together.”
But the most important aspect of running a successful franchise, the owners emphasized? It’s simple:
“You have to have a passion for Pure Barre,” said Casey.
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