Building a business takes time; something many people tend to forget or ignore when they hit the ground running with a genius idea. It takes money, time, effort and it takes a lot of patience to build a business and a brand, to bring in customers or clients, to engage the community and to build a solid reputation with a firm foundation. However, that’s precisely what Sami D. Sweeney did only six years ago. She spent some time thinking about how she wanted to spend her life. She wasn’t idle about it, either. She graduated from college in 2007 with a finance degree. Her boyfriend at the time, whom she later married and now calls her husband, planned a move to Nashville, Tennessee, where she decided to come with.
The move sent him to law school, but it kept Sami looking for a job in finance. When she was unable to fine one in the Nashville area, she decided to train and take a job as an instructor at a little fitness studio. It might not be where she found her college degree, but the studio was a location she felt quite comfortable. She’s always been a huge fan of fitness, and it’s something she regularly and actively partakes in for not only her own general good health but also her enjoyment. When the concept of becoming an instructor at a location called Pure Barre was offered to her, she took it and ran. It wasn’t long before her instructing was recognized and promoted and she became more advanced and more talented, taking on additional training and classes to become a master instructor. It was less than three years after she moved to Nashville, and shortly after her wedding to her husband that she made the decision to begin her own business and moved to Seattle.
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, she left her husband in Nashville to finish up his law degree and moved back home for a year; he joined her after that when he was finished. In the time she was in the Pacific Northwest by herself, she borrowed nearly $200,000 from her father and began to build her brand. Her decision was a good one, and not one that was thought out in the spur of the moment. If there was one thing that Sami knew about the Pacific Northwest, it was that the location was perfect for this still very new type of fitness studio. The people in the Seattle area spend a lot of time outdoors; a lot of time doing things that are fit and active. However, with so much rain in the area, she also thought that a Pure Barre experience in Seattle would also help her provide a different type of physical experience for residents. It would allow them to cross train, get fit and healthy indoors and in a way that combines the experience of yoga and pilates with ballet; something that was catching on in other parts of the country but had yet to make its way into Seattle.
With the expectation that it would cost her approximately $40,000 for franchise fees for two studios, and she signed a contract with the brand that would enable her to open four of them as the exclusive Pure Barre owner in the Seattle and Bellevue areas. She did her homework before ever leaving Nashville, finding the perfect location for her business and she was able to open up her first Pure Barre studio right after she made her big move. She even opened her second studio later the same year. It was 2010 at this point, and things were looking really good.
However, it’s not always that simple to open a business and not see some hiccups here or there. With the loan from her father, she was able to open her first two fitness studios and planned on opening up her second two soon after. However, that’s when she was forced to relocate her first studio, which was a significant expense that she was not expected and that cost her a lot of money, leaving her feeling down and out for some time. The neighbors of her building caused her a number of issues, unhappy that she had people coming and going from classes on a regular basis, loud music playing and instructors with microphones. She had to find a new location, one more appropriate for a business such as hers, and she had to move. The move was expensive, and she was further in debt than ever before.
Fortunately, Sami did not allow that to take its toll on her for too long. She worked hard, harder than she’d ever worked in her life, and she was able to pay her dad back the nearly $200,000 she owed him in less than two years. She opened her third Pure Barre in 2012 using only cash from her other two studios, and three more Pure Barre locations in the area by 2014. She used cash from the business and she borrowed another $300,000 from the bank to do that. She’s currently not paying herself, only taking quarterly distributions. She will continue this way until she’s paid off all her business debts. Her husband handles all the legal work for her business, and the two are working hard to keep it going, to keep it successful and to work on making sure they are providing what the community needs in terms of fitness and ability.
Of her numerous Pure Barre locations, Sami teaches dozens of classes each month, encouraging her instructors to join her so that they are always learning new techniques, refining their teaching skills and able to work hard on improving themselves daily. More than 1,300 classes are taught daily in her locations, and she is able to keep her studios going through hard work and dedication.
Her story is inspiring; making it possible to learn just how much she is able to do with her life. What we’ve learned from her story is that there are a few valuable lessons that go hand in hand with opening a business and becoming successful in such an endeavor.
The first thing that Sami did was understand just how much hard work it takes to open up a business. She knew this going into it, and she didn’t let that deter her from opening up her Pure Barre studios. In the span of four years, she was able to open six studios, pay off half her debts and work hard to allow herself to succeed. She began working on her business before she ever even moved home to open it. She worked hard on her homework so that she was able to create the most comprehensive game plan available to her, allowing her to open up her studio without much hassle and with a lot of success.
Another of the most important factors with opening up her business was location. Sami knew that she had to find a location where there was not already a Pure Barre presence so that she could corner the market. She also knew she had to find a location in which the business would appeal to the people in the area. What is more perfect for her type of business than a location in which people love to live an active lifestyle and find their health important? It further helped her cause that she was considering an area in which people already live active lifestyles but are often forced to stay indoors due to the weather. This allowed her to corner the market in indoor physical fitness that’s both fun and satisfying to her customers.
Sami was very surprised to learn that she would need to relocate her first studio the same year she opened it, but she worked with that and made it happen. It was costly and not something she planned for, but she knew what it would cost to open a business, to open another business, to move that business and to continue opening her Pure Barre locations. She knew she could do it, but she knew that the financial expense of that unexpected move would cost her time and money; and it did. However, instead of putting herself further into debt to open up her additional locations, she simply worked harder to pay off her debts so that she could begin working on opening up new locations using cash flow. She succeed in doing that, and very likely will not have much longer before she is able to pay off the rest of the money she owes to the bank for opening her last few franchises.
The one very important thing that Sami realized when she opened her business is that this was not a get rich quick deal. The most common misconception that many people have is that opening up a business automatically puts at your hands indispensable income that allows you to live a life of financial freedom. It does not; it requires you pay back debts, you take very little money up front and you work hard to become successful. When a business owner goes into business knowing that he or she will not get rich quick, it’s going to be prove far more successful. What many people do not understand is that it’s difficult to open up a business. It takes far more hard work than many people are actually willing to put into the business, especially after they realize just how much effort it takes and how little financial freedom it provides in the early days.
Sami did things the right way; she didn’t go into business to get rich. She went into business to be successful and to help others achieve their fitness goals. She went into business so that she could be in control of her own destiny, and also so that she could enjoy the time she had with her family when she finally decides to have one. She is successful, and she will become more successful as time wears on. However, she understood before she opened her six Pure Barre studios that she would not be rich right away, that she would work very hard at all times and that her business would overtake most of her life. She is fine with all of that, and that is why she is successful.
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