Sarah Martin has been an entrepreneur for over a decade. In light of this, each month we speak with exceptional women entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. What are they passionate about? How are they successful? What tips can they give us to start our own businesses? Each Beauty in the Chaos feature takes a look at behind the scenes of each of these gals’ lives.
This month, we interviewed Rachel Tessalone and Paula Warford, co-owners of The Barre, a boutique fitness studio located off the picturesque main street in Wayzata, Minn. We were excited to learn that The Barre is a family business, like Beautiful Chaos™, as Rachel and Paula are sisters-in-law. In this feature, they give us a rundown of how they opened the very first barre studio in Minnesota, and how they continue to make it unique, relevant and successful.
What prompted you to open your own business?
Rachel Tessalone: When Paula first moved to Wayzata with her family in 2010 from New York, where we were both living, she was shocked to discover that there was not a single barre studio. Anywhere. In the whole state! We had been taking barre classes in New York for years and relied heavily on them as our daily dose of exercise and release – we had both fallen in love with the classes themselves, with the effects that they had had on us, body and mind, and both felt we could not live without them – the were completely unique as a group fitness class and irreplaceable to us.
That said, we both had been athletes and had ideas sparked over the years of how we would create barre classes differently, in our own way, if we could have the chance someday, and so when Paula moved back to the midwest, where I eventually wanted to end up again, as well, and made this discovery, we felt like it was an incredible opportunity we had to take!
This was our chance to craft our own unique, athletically-inspired, creative barre style, with the training and support from our mentors on the east coast, and bring a whole new genre of exercise to Minnesota – we were so excited to be taking our deep passion for barre to the next level and to be able to share what had been life-changing classes for us, with others in our community. We started taking the first steps and it became clear all along the way that we were doing the right thing, letting our passion drive us to carve out our own niche in the fitness industry and open the very first barre studio in Minnesota.
How did you become interested in barre classes?
Paula Warford: I’ve always been drawn to exercise! As a child, I ran track and loved swimming in the summers and played tennis, basketball, and was an avid figure skater during the school year. As I became an adult, exercise began to serve a more utilitarian purpose: I wanted to stay in shape. Over time, I began to notice that exercise had become more of a chore, just a means to an end, and it had stopped being what it was when I was younger. It had stopped being fun.
Everything changed when a friend encouraged me to do one month of unlimited classes at her barre studio in Westchester, NY. I was blown away by how difficult the class was, and I had thought I was in great shape! My arms were shaking as I gripped the steering wheel and my thighs were scorching as I drove home from the studio. The clincher for me came a few weeks later when my husband commented that he had never seen someone’s body change so quickly. Sold! Perhaps best of all, I rediscovered my love of exercise, becoming stronger mentally and physically brought the joy back into working out for me. It’s no longer just a means to an end for me, but an integral part of who I am.
Many barre studios have become franchises. How is The Barre unique?
RT: Because we are not a franchise, we feel that we are more in control of the way our studio grows and evolves and the way that we react to the marketplace. We are more nimble when it comes to responding to the desires of our clients – for example, we have developed three new class types in the past year that offer new ways for our clients to incorporate cardio into their barre routine because we talked to clients and took surveys and realized this was a desire they had – for us to become more of a “one stop shop” where they had more class type options to get both barre (strength and toning) and cardio, all at our studio.
In addition, we are able to empower our incredible team of instructors to creatively approach their classes, to rely on the strong foundation and training that we have given them, and then be innovative to keep our classes new, fresh and challenging. We really feel that this is our strength in the highly competitive fitness industry – the team of individuals we have at the barre is truly an exceptional group of women, and as a small business Paula and I were able to select the team that we felt most embodied the vision of our studio. They lead with passion and heart, and have an amazing dedication to our clients, which has trickled down into the community we have created.
Beautiful Chaos is a family business as well! What is it like working with your sister-in-law?
PW: Working with Rachel on the barre has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. It was her vision and courage that launched us down the path, putting in an amazing amount of time and effort in order to bring her fervor for barre to Minnesota. Running a small business with someone really allows you to get to know them on a different level. Working through challenges, celebrating victories (big and small) and tackling what sometimes seems like insurmountable undertakings together (like becoming an enthusiastic barre instructor when the just the thought of speaking in public makes you want to run the other way) puts your strengths and vulnerabilities on display for your partner to see in a way that most other people aren’t privy to.
Throughout the course of seven years, our partnership in launching and cultivating what has become one of the greatest endeavors in my life has allowed me to see Rachel for much more than the incredibly intelligent, fun-loving and gorgeous woman the outside world can plainly see. I get to see the intensely hard-working, creative, never-give-up side of her that wows me on a daily basis.
What advice do you have for women looking to open their own business?
PW: Work hard, know your purpose and follow your passion! It’s not easy nor is it comfortable being a business owner. ‘Regular’ work hours go out the window, so be sure to pursue something you’re passionate about. There will definitely be bumps along the way but if your pursuit brings you joy, go for it!
You (Rachel) used to work in New York City in the corporate retail industry. What did you gain from that experience that helps you today?
RT: I worked in product development, which is essentially creating and running a small business (a clothing brand) within a larger retail company, so the experience proved to be invaluable to me, both initially when Paula and I were creating our brand from scratch to today while we are running the business and evolving for the future. The area I worked in was a very numbers-driven aspect of the retail business, which is essential to the day-to-day operation of any small business, and it also taught me to constantly keep a pulse on the competitive marketplace and be prepared to react to changing conditions to keep your business relevant and in-demand.
What is your favorite “exercise” at the barre, and can you describe it?
PW: It is pretty much impossible to choose because I love them all for all the different purposes, but I will say that I absolutely adore the challenge of the thigh series because it pushes me beyond any limits I thought I had (pretty much every single class), and not only is it incredibly effective, but the mental gain from having the stamina and determination to stick it out really spreads into the rest of the areas of my life!
Do you have any upcoming events you’d like to share with our audience?
RT: Yes! We have on ongoing Super Saturday Series where we feature a specially-curated specialty class offered one Saturday each month, often featuring a local partnership in the studio that morning. Our next event is this coming Saturday, 3/17, featuring a class we call W.O.W. (Whittle Our Waistlines), a specialty class that tones and strengthens your entire body but focusing especially on core, oblique and back-strengthening movements throughout the hour. Our Wayzata neighbors Crisp & Green will be at our studio that morning offering samples of their Green Light smoothie, and we’ll have St Patrick’s Day themed gifts for those in attendance! The following Super Saturday Series will be Saturday, 4/21, featuring a class called BYOB (Burn Your Own Buns) – which, as the playful name implies, will be a seat and back-body focused class!
Finally, in 2017 we launched our “online barre,” featuring workouts that one can do at home, on the road, anywhere and anytime! We have workout options ranging from 5-60 minutes, and feature specialty-focused classes, beginner classes, strength training, cardio training, combination and more. This month, we are having a March (Online) Madness event with all kinds of fun things going on! We are releasing a specialty, travel-ready workout each week (helpful for those traveling for spring break – or just to do in your living room!), are running a 2 week special of unlimited access for just $15, and a photo submission promotion – everyone who submits a photo using the online barre on our Facebook or Instagram accounts is entered to win a free month of online barre access! Check it out: www.thebarrestudio.com/onlinebarre