20 November 2022
We all have days when we fantasise about rethinking our career choices. We spoke to Sarah Emblow, our first Barrecore franchisee to hear about why she left behind the corporate world and launched her own Barrecore studio.
When Did You First Start To Think About Leaving The Corporate Life And Becoming A Fitness Entrepreneur?
It was 2008, I was on maternity leave after my second child and my circumstances meant I was gifted with time to think. Since being 18, it was the first chance I had to step out of my daily work life, get off the commute treadmill and think about what life I wanted to go back to. Before my break, I had ambitious career plans and a clear path of career progression. However, whilst it was all on hold, I asked myself the following questions: What am I doing? Why am I doing it? What do I really want?
On the surface I had a great job and I'd done what was expected of me - climb the career ladder, work for a supportive company and had prospects lined up, but on the inside I was unfulfilled. I didn’t feel I was using my full potential and I was in a job where I wasn’t making enough of a difference, but I didn't have a clue what else I could do. I knew for certain I didn't want to do my boss' job and the thought of doing my own for another 30 years filled me with dread.
I’ve always been someone who dreamed of running my own business and like many entrepreneurs had a lot of ideas, but for various reasons had never put any of them into practice. My 9-5 was a safe bet and up until this point I didn’t dislike the job I was in enough to take the leap. I read that Brits work on average 469 hours extra unpaid every single year, and so I first decided that I was going to put this extra time into myself. That week, I sat down and thought, what do I love?
How Did You Figure Out You Wanted To Open A Barre Studio?
Once I started to think about my career next steps, I applied the same approach when I was 16 years old in my first career session at high school. I spent my time figuring out my strengths, my values, my goals, my interests and how I envisioned my life to be in ten years time. I asked myself, what I would do if I knew I could not fail? I wrote it all down- what I could see, hear and feel in my ideal life, who was there and how/where I spent my time. I knew that I wanted to be the master of my own destiny, in control of my own life and that I wanted to
be my own boss.
Next, I wrote down a list of companies and brands that I had an affinity to- brands that inspired me and ones that I wanted to connect with. This is when I became really interested in all things wellness, particularly boutique fitness and the barre fitness phenomenon taking over the US.I slowly made a plan that allowed me to get into this industry and create a different life for myself and my family - a life I wanted to live.
..And Then You Found Barrecore?
I first discovered Barrecore when I returned from maternity leave and was working in London. I began taking classes as a way to de-stress and escape at the end of a day. Almost immediately, I was hooked on the method and inspired by how quickly I was seeing results in both my body and mind. I felt confident and more energised after each and every class! I just couldn’t believe that Barrecore classes were not yet available across the UK.
I started thinking about opening a Barrecore studio all the time. I always believe that if an idea truly won't go away, those are the ideas you should pursue. However, I was neither a fitness instructor or a ballerina - in fact the grand total of my ballet experience until that point was school dance lessons and these stopped in Year 9! My solid grounding was in business, specifically people management, leadership, talent management and Human Resources. I felt very confident in those areas, but to take the leap into owning a Barre studio? That seemed very scary!
I figured what came along with a franchise - the mentoring and support you get with the model, that what I didn’t know I would pick up along the way. In most careers, experience comes on the job, so whilst I didn’t have all the skills at the moment, I knew it was a case of saying ‘right, I’m going to give this a shot’ and develop along the way. I truly believed that if I opened a Barrecore studio in Manchester then everyone else would love it just as much as I did. So, I decided to approach Niki Rein (Barrecore Founder & CEO) with this proposition and the rest is history!
After You Decided To Make The Leap From Desk To Barre, What Happened Next?
Initially I was still doing my current job and I planned on doing that for as long as I could manage both. That meant coming home from the office and working on my Barrecore business plan after the children were asleep and doing the instructor training on my days off. It took about 5 months to get the contract signed and another 4 months to get the studio opened. To be completely transparent, during the initial stages, I was pretty nervous! I kept thinking what if I fail? What will people think? What if I lose all the money I've invested? How will I tell my boss? All I knew was the industry I worked in and I was (embarrassingly) nervous to lose the status of being a “Head of Department” and my attractive package of perks.
In hindsight, while these were the things keeping me awake at night - I needn't have been so worried. Whilst I was anxious about what my friends and colleagues would think, I soon discovered everyone wanted me to succeed and in many ways, they were envious that I was brave enough to follow my dream. The risk of losing all my hard earned savings was very real, but I was prepared to take the risk in return for the lifestyle that I wanted. At the end of the day, I figured the worst thing that could happen would be that I close the studio and would have to get another job. However, I was fine with that, I had a good CV and if I had to go back to HR at least I'd have given my dream a shot.
What Would You Say To Those Considering Leaving Their Day Job?
Transitioning from 9-5 to full time studio life was a shock at first. The main thing that has changed for me is my working hours- classes are mostly in the mornings and evenings and weekends so your free time ends up being in the afternoon. Then the middle of the day is often dedicated to class planning, admin and private clients. So my working day is far from conventional .... but I love it! I work in my local village so it’s just a short trip into the studio on working days. This means I see more of my family and have more autonomy over my working day. It’s taught me that your career is how we earn money, how we spend most of our time and a way we contribute to society. Your career is and has to be more than a job.
What Are Your Top Tips For Anyone Thinking Of Making A Change?
Keep your CV up to date and your skills fresh, the Barrecore franchise training gave me new skills that I hadn't experienced before. This kept my CV strong and I felt confident that I hadn’t “stepped off” my career ladder- I'd embellished my skills and my CV was even stronger than it was before.
Sarah’s Top Tips
- Don't expect to figure out what you want to do overnight. Do your research, be a customer, take a class and figure out what is right for you. Invest time working on your core values and uncovering your strengths- this will really help you when your plans get a little scattered. Become an enthusiastic reader of books, listen to podcasts with entrepreneurs from the wellness industry. But don’t just say you’ll do it, write it down in your calendar- when will you buy the book? When will you read it?
- If you don't know where to start, think about what you could do to discover. Reach out to Barrecore Franchising, ask your local yoga teacher for a coffee or if you have a friend with their own business, talk to them for ideas. In addition, feel free to reach out to me - I'm happy to help!
- While you are setting up your new venture, do it on the side. That way you’ll have as much money as possible for working capital when you launch. When the doors open, do as much as you can yourself- I was the cleaner, I taught many classes, washed the towels, managed the social media, did the accounts and much more. Being full on from the start was the best way for me to learn all aspects of my new business.
- Plan, plan, plan. I had to get my resources together, move house, get my kids to a more independent stage, etc. It was 5 years between deciding I wanted a change to launch, but only 10 months between discovering Barrecore to opening my doors. You've got to figure out how you can implement change fast when the right opportunity comes along.
- Don’t be frightened if you don't have a fitness or dance background. I had plenty of real life experience and was confident in my business and leadership skills so I knew I had something to bring to the table. It doesn't matter what job you do, you’ll always find someone more experienced than you are. I had to learn to ignore that and just focus all my energy on learning how to be an exceptional barre teacher and studio owner. At some point you've just gotta say “I’m Doing It”. Don’t wait until everything is in perfect order, just get things roughly where they need to be to go for it! We had family dinner on New Year's Day in 2014 and went around the table saying out loud our resolution. Mine was “by the end of this year I’ll have my own business”- we opened Barrecore Alderley Edge on November 3rd and it was the best decision I ever made.
If you're interested in launching your own Barrecore studio, or know of someone that would be, find out more about our franchise opportunities by contacting us.