How I Built This: Barre 3: Sadie Lincoln

  • The opportunity for Barre3: The boutique fitness is a $30 billion industry. [2:52]

  • Sadie has complete control: Barre3 has 130 locations all around the world. It is privately owned by Sadie and her husband Chris. [One outside investor] [3:09] 

  • How Sadie started in the fitness industry: She was hired by 24-hour fitness. She ran all the group exercise in 25 gyms. When she started at 24-hour fitness had about 50 gyms. When she left 11 years later they had 430 locations. [7:40]

  • She reported directly to the founder: Mark Mastrov. He ignited interest in her because he gave her all different kinds of projects: sales, brand strategy, traveled all over the world to work in his other businesses. It was the ultimate learning experience. [8:40]

  • I was part of a booming business. I was making a great salary: But I didn’t feel good. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. I didn’t feel alive inside. [10:48] 

  • I started doing yoga and I had this moment of clarity: I’ll never forget it. Maybe I’m not failing fitness. Maybe fitness is failing me. And I’m probably not alone. The fitness industry is booming but it’s not working for the vast majority. Obesity is on the rise. People are more stressed-out than they ever have been. People are lonely. They are not finding belonging. A strong community. [12:37]

  • Chris pulled a spreadsheet out: It’s a model of how we could sell our home and possessions and move to Oregon. To not work for a year and put every single penny into a dream job. It might fail but we don’t care. Let’s just try to build a life for ourselves that will feel free. That was the spark to building Barre3. [15:06]

  • Nobody knew what Barre was: No one knew how to pronounce it. I had a tag line to describe what it was: Where ballet bar meets yoga and Pilate. [19:56] 

  • How Barre3 got their first customers: I was teaching free classes at Wild Oats (Whole Foods). The day I got my permit to open I sent an email to the community that was coming to the free classes 12 people showed up and paid. I will never forget that moment. I thought: This is going to work. [20:50] 

  • The business started with just Sadie and her husband: She opened the doors. Checked everybody in. Taught every class. Cleaned the bathroom. It took about 16 months to become profitable. [24:10]

  • Most of the franchisees were clients: They came to barre3 loved it and wanted to open one. . . Instead of raising more money [they didn’t want to be beholden to institutional money] we decided the model should be franchising. They own 6 locations and have 124 franchised. [28:45]

  • I’m not focused on growing the company: We have paused franchising. We are being still. It’s hard to be still. If you think about a company like it was a person we have decided to meditate for a moment. To be still. Why? We started to be approached by institutional bankers. Pure Barre was sold for $129 million. Investors are looking for who will be number 2? I want to be a rebel. I am seeking other founders who are going at it alone. I want to protect what I have vs making it giant. I want to show the business community that you can do it that way. There are not that many people saying that in the business community. [36:08]

  • Is it hard to work with your husband? I couldn’t imagine any other way. I have my best friend by my side. He gives me the courage to be bold. It just works for us. [41:14]

  • Full podcast here.