Choices are an essential part of Studio Barre's brand: from the choice owner Shannon Higgins made to enter college instead of dancing professionally to choosing to make online barre fitness available to anyone.
From ballet to barre
When Shannon Higgins was 18, she needed to decide whether to go to college with a ballet scholarship or enter the world of professional ballet. Faced with the realities of what full-time dance would do to her quality of life, Higgins decided to enroll in college, majoring in marketing.
As her career began to grow, she acutely felt the absence of dance in her life—and about the same time, a new workout akin to ballet training was starting to trend across the country. While barre is commonplace now, it wasn't when Higgins first encountered it.
She was hooked—and decided to become an instructor. And then franchise a location of a national brand in 2008.
"In 2008, when the economy was tanking, and everything was changing, we needed to come together more, and boutique-style fitness gave you a community," Higgins said. "It gave you an opportunity to be seen and a chance to be accountable to somebody. I knew at that point that boutique fitness was 100% where I wanted to go. We collateralised our two cars; I borrowed money from my family and opened my doors."
Building a “famchise”
Higgins' business grew—and in 2012, when her franchise license was up for renewal, she decided to pass and forge out on her own. Over a weekend, Higgins and her family rebranded her studio, and by Monday morning, Studio Barre was born.
“When we did go out on our own, it was a little scary,” Higgins said. “We completely rebranded, re-educated everyone, and we reopened our doors. That year alone, we grew 5%. What I found was that what we were doing was speaking to people in a way that we knew he hit the mark.”
Success followed Higgins, and she faced yet another choice: how do you expand your reach, meet demand, and do it in a way that stays true to your brand? She was hesitant to build a franchise model, but she couldn't manage everything herself. In the end, she decided to create what she called a "famchise," a franchise structure that ensured that owners were engaged with the corporate office and had buy-in on significant decisions.
“From that point on, the rest is history,” Higgins said. “We right away started East and West Coast, and now we're in the middle of the country. And even though we're all spread out our 19 locations, we're all one big family.”
Bringing video onboard
Then, in 2020, that big family had to figure out how to stick together during the COVID-19 pandemic. Higgins knew that whatever Studio Barre did needed to ensure that her location owners felt supported and not set adrift in an ocean of doubt.
Like many fitness entrepreneurs, Higgins hoped that the closures would be short-lived, but as the weeks and months rolled on, she realised that Studio Barre would need a long-term solution for franchisees and clients. They had tried streaming on Facebook pages, Instagram Live, and via Zoom, but nothing was the right fit until Higgins turned to Mindbody, her trusted partner of 12 years.
"Over the years, Mindbody grew just at the same time I needed them to*," Higgins said. "Because of that relationship, it brought us to the point where as a franchisor, I wouldn't consider anything else for my franchisees but Mindbody."
Higgins knew she could lean on Mindbody's fitness industry expertise to guide her through the unknown. So, when Mindbody launched a virtual wellness platform that offered a way for her franchisees to live stream video classes, she knew she'd found her solution.
Before Mindbody, Studio Barre could only invite clients with a class membership because they couldn't track or earn revenue from clients with class packs or new customers. As a business, Studio Barre was missing revenue opportunities, and as a brand, they knew they could do better.
“There's clients that do not have the ability to come into a studio, or there's not a studio around them. And that's not fair for them to not have that opportunity,” Higgins explained. “Now with live streaming through Mindbody, not only is it available in the Mindbody app for those 2.1 million users to find it, but on top of that, our own clients can go and buy one class. This gives us an opportunity to address those people that we couldn’t.”
With Mindbody by her side, Higgins knows that she'll be offering a best-in-class virtual experience to her franchisees and customers—both those that can come to a physical studio and those that will meet them at the virtual barre.
*The testimonials provided herein are provided by a subscriber of MINDBODY who may have been offered discounted software or some other incentive.