The Survivors: 5 Common Denominators of Successful Studio Owners

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

As many studios (and small businesses in general) face the very real possibility of having to close their doors, when speaking to owners, I am often asked what I see as the difference between the owners that will come out on the other side of this and those that won’t.  Every studio owner is struggling right now, no matter the size of their company, financial backing, experience, expertise, or amount of business degrees… but it’s also becoming clear to me that there are common denominators between those that will remain powerhouses in the industry despite the enormous challenges.

With a decade in the wellness industry working for a variety of business owners, managing studios and gyms, and now in my role at BFS (engaged in constant conversation with the entire gamut of studio owners from very successful to struggling), I sat down to really analyze the commonalities among the leaders in the industry that will continue to thrive post-COVID-19. 

This is what I found:


The other ingredients on this list can be found, fought for, or learned but desire is simply there or it isn’t.  Don’t beat yourself up if during this exhausting time, your desire has waned. However, use it as an opportunity to evaluate whether your heart is saying yes to the fight, or that it is time to start a new chapter in your life. In other words, it’s important to weigh the difference between no longer having the desire to be a business owner and having a bad week.  It is, of course, normal to doubt if it is all worth it right now, so give yourself time to sit, meditate, and talk it out with friends, your BFS community, and your family. 

ACTION ITEM – Stay tuned for an upcoming article on owners that have decided to close the doors to their brick and mortar location and the other possibilities that this opened up for them.


In an industry dominated by women, is it surprising that a lot of people in our industry also lack confidence in their business acumen?  Not because we should, but because many of us are still rewiring ourselves to own our skills and strengths and express them freely.  When I started to write this piece and to think through the common factors among the incredible leaders that I have been speaking and listening to, the first thing that came to mind was confidence.  I immediately then walked over to my coffee table and picked up my copy of The Confidence Code (recommended to me years ago by our own Leanne Shear and now something I highly recommend it to you).  I went back to browse my copy with my highlights and notes in the margins from the last time I read it. The most resonant quote? 

There is a quality that sets some people apart. It is hard to define but easy to recognize. With it, you can take on the world; without it, you live stuck at the starting block of your potential.

ACTION ITEM – Read The Confidence Code:The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know by Katty Kaye and Claire Shipman.


From my perspective as a serial general manager for fitness organizations, this is where I have personally seen the largest difference between successful and unsuccessful business owners.  I’ve worked for and spoken to numerous owners that are confident, determined, and even brilliant, but so many of them don’t have self awareness and the leadership skills that self-awareness allows for…and there is always a ceiling to their success. Funny as it may be, despite the stacks of management books on my shelf (yes, I have many variations on how to be a good manager, the new managers toolkit, how to be an effective manager) my first reach when thinking about this topic was for Tina Fey’s Bossypants.  Through all of my years of managing a team, I always reminded myself to come back to one statement of hers that is so simple and will stay with me forever:

In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.

Tina Fey

You all know the MANY hats that you have to wear as a business owner, how could you expect yourself to be the expert in all areas?  You can’t be and shouldn’t be, so recognize your weaknesses and hire a team that fills those holes.  In our current climate of protest against racial inequality and fight for social justice, the idea of self-awareness in leadership is particularly relevant, and links perfectly back to our piece on the business case for diversity.

ACTION ITEM- Read The Business Case for Diversity by BFS co-founders Julian Barnes and Nt Etuk and Building a Profitable Business Through Diversity by Stacey Seldin.


There are many different ways to express this but I have always loved the word grit.  The sound of the word captures the essence so much more than other words we could use like determination or perseverance, because the reality is that having grit means you push, even through the unpretty, unpleasant, and sometimes ugly things in your working or personal life.  While I have always admired people with grit and this would have been on my list regardless, it is also no shock that this was one of the top words on my mind when sitting down to write this after recent conversations with the likes of Jennifer Maanavi, Kari Saitowitz, and Amanda Freeman. For example, after watching a conversation between Amanda and BFS editor, Leanne Shear, at the top of my mind was not Amanda’s high IQ (and she is undoubtedly brilliant) but instead I was awed by her incredible grit.  She will make it work, she will survive, and she will take her businesses, her team, and as much of the industry as she can with her.

ACTION ITEM – Read This Forbes article, which dives further into the characteristics that go into grit but the top takeaway for me is “It’s more about attitude than an end game.


A more polished way to present this could be resourcefulness but as a follow up to grit, scrappy seems a better fit.  This is an incredibly important ingredient to remember because it applies to everything from continuing education to basic tactics and tasks to finances. It may be easy to think that the leaders of the industry are able to make the strides they do, for example, because of serious financial backing but it is not always the case, and in fact, is not even mostly the case.  Founders like Andrea Lucas and Lisa Taylor, show us that scrappiness leads to success.  When COVID-19 first hit, Lisa Taylor was one of the first owners that we sought out to speak to for guidance during this unprecedented and the POV that she brought to the table when we sat down with her for a Fireside Chat proved why.  She knew how to find answers and help wherever she could and has kept Evolution Power Yoga moving forward as a result.

At BFS, we work to bring tangible, specific action items and resources to our community but sometimes it’s imperative to step back and look both at the big picture as well as internally.  There’s no right way to navigate this unforeseen landscape but if you want to keep fighting the fight and follow in the footsteps of those leading the charge, take their ingredients and make your own recipe for success. 


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Further Reading

How to Support your Clients and Maintain a Community During a Crisis

How to Support your Clients and Maintain a Community During a Crisis

Reading Time: 5 minutes With the advent of “Social Distancing,” how can studio owners proactively foster their community while protecting…
4 Recommendations to Impact Racial Inequities in Our Industry

4 Recommendations to Impact Racial Inequities in Our Industry

Reading Time: 3 minutes . Originally published on: 06/07/2020   On June 6, 2020, as George Floyd’s tragically shortened life…
Addressing Race in Boutique Fitness

Addressing Race in Boutique Fitness

Reading Time: 6 minutes .Empowerment Training Expert Leanne Shear sat down with Nt Etuk, Founder of FitGrid and Co-Founder of…
Building a Profitable Business Through Diversity

Building a Profitable Business Through Diversity

Reading Time: 4 minutes Originally published on: 06/11/2020 When my partners and I started Mariana Tek in 2015, we set…
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