Owning your business is hard, but it’s even harder when the state mandates you to close temporarily because of a nationwide pandemic. During this crazy time I’ve been amazed and so proud of how Stephanie, a great friend of mine, has overcome the cards she’s been dealt and has continued to maintain and operate her business, The Bar Method, successfully.
Stephanie is the owner of two Bar Method studios in Boston, MA. The Bar Method is a gym that offers classes that combines ballet moves with core conditioning, yoga, Pilates, and weight training. Her passion for the business and dedication towards her instructors and members is what makes her a total #girlboss.
Tell me more about YOU, the dedicated and hardworking Girl Boss behind the business.
My name is Stephanie Smith and I’m from Boston, MA. I grew up about 20 minutes outside of Boston, went to Boston University for college and have lived in the city ever since. I think of myself as a true Bostonian! My favorite hobby (turned career) is barre. I also love spin, reading and travel.
When I’m not at the studios I’m hanging out with my fiancee, Sean and dog, Meika. We were supposed to get married this November but pushed it to next September because of the pandemic.
Tell us more about your business and how you became a Girl Boss.
The Bar Method is a franchise with almost 100 studios across the US and Canada. I began taking classes at The Bar Method studio I eventually purchased years ago. I used to dance for the Boston Celtics and some of my friends from the team started teaching at the studio. They recommended I take a class and was immediately hooked.
Here is a breakdown of the actual class: Every Bar Method class starts with a warm-up, upper-body exercises and push-ups in the middle of the room, followed by a sequence of leg and seat work at the barre and core exercises on the floor. The method predominantly uses your own bodyweight for resistance along with a few basic props – free weights, mats and a ball. The result is a graceful, strong dancer-like body, including sculpted arms, flat abs, a lifted seat and elongated thighs, as well as improved posture and body alignment.
I love how The Bar Method is safe enough for anyone at any age and will work for every body type and fitness background- no dance experience needed! It’s also so effective that I still leave every class feeling sore.
A few months after starting classes I trained to be an instructor and have been teaching since 2015. In 2018 I purchased the studios from the previous owners and have owned them for about 2.5 years. Purchasing the studios was a long process, but to sum it up I acquired an SBA loan and had the studio leases and franchise agreements transferred over to me.
What does it mean to you to be a #GIRLBOSS?
I think that being a girl boss means that you never give up. During these crazy times there have been moments where I have wanted to throw in the towel, but running a small business means that you keep going: for your clients, staff and yourself. You show up every day and work really hard to keep everything moving. You surround yourself with a team of people who lift you up. You aren’t going to be good at everything and can’t do it all so hire people who have a different skill set than you and will round out your team. Your team, drive and love of what you’re doing will keep you going every day!
What do you love most about running your own business and being a Girl Boss?
I love that every day is different so I never get bored! One day I am teaching 3 classes, the next I’m responding to clients and staff via email, doing payroll, and running reports to make sure we’re on track to hit our revenue goals. I also am able to make my own schedule so I feel like I’m able to balance my personal and professional life.
What I love most about being a Girl Boss is that I’m defying stereotypes. When I purchased the studios I would get asked if I had any help buying them: Did my husband or boyfriend help me? Did I have a partner or investor? I am proud to say that I did this all myself, and it often surprises people. Even in 2020 I still think people doubt women’s ability to run a business on her own and I’m proud to say I am doing that. I hope I inspire other women to do the same.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in being a business owner?
In the pandemic every single day is a challenge. Back in March when everything shut down we pivoted our classes to completely virtual. Instructors taught classes from their homes a few times a day to our members on Zoom and Instagram. Everyone had to quickly adapt to the new environment and the technology of teaching from home.
We were able to reopen July 13th at 40% capacity with partitions between each person. We take clients temperatures and thoroughly clean each section after every single class. This has all been an adjustment for me and my whole staff. On top of that I am trying to get sales back up to where we were pre covid and cut costs where I can. The biggest challenge right now is getting the bills paid and making it to the other side of this. Every single day is a grind and running a small business during the pandemic is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Is there a moment during your career that stands out to you and validates your decision to become a Girl Boss?
Recently I had a client email me that when she moved out of the city she joined a different barre studio. The other studio emphasized attaining a bikini body and being skinny and sexy. She came back to our online classes because she felt Bar Method Boston emphasized a healthy body image.
This was the best feedback I ever received and helped me remember why I became a studio owner: to help people feel good about themselves. I don’t think anyone should workout to please someone else or attain a body image they see in the media. I want my studio to empower clients to workout for themselves to feel strong, centered and happy. I love that the Boston studios are part of the healthy body image movement.
What advice would you give to aspiring Girl Bosses?
It’s important to be passionate about your business, but don’t let that passion cloud your judgement. Do your research and make sure the time and money you’re putting in will make sense in the long run. Create a business plan to prove you will be profitable over time. Look at similar businesses in your area and talk to as many other owners as you can to find out what they like and don’t like about the job. Remember that you won’t be passionate about everything in the day to day: you might be cleaning your store’s toilet or dealing with an unhappy client. After researching and talking to people decide if this is truly the path that you want to take.
After you’ve done your homework, you will get a lot of feedback, advice, and opinions about how you should start and run your business. You may get pushback from family and friends because they will think following your dream is risky. Listen to their advice but ultimately remember that you are the boss. When I was first starting outI second guessed a lot of my decisions since I was young and new to studio ownership. Own your choices and remember that you know what you’re doing.