February 10, 2024
Millennial Finds Success With Pure Barre Fitness Franchise
In 2023, Allen’s first Pure Barre studio, in Greenwich, Connecticut, celebrated 11 years in business.
At just 21 years old, Ashley Allen started her entrepreneurial journey, and she now owns two Pure Barre fitness franchises. Pure Barre, part of the Xponential Fitness family of brands, is a boutique fitness concept that fuses Pilates, yoga, and ballet, offering a range of low-impact, high-intensity, full-body workouts that target strength, agility, and flexibility for people of all levels.
In 2023, Allen’s first studio, Pure Barre Greenwich, celebrated 11 years in business, and her second studio, in White Plains, New York, is approaching five. Now, at 33 years old, Allen has achieved more entrepreneurial success than most people twice her age.
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to study exercise science,” Allen shared with BLACK ENTERPRISE. “I had been teaching at a local Pure Barre for about a year and started thinking about owning one in my senior year (Fall 2021) at Temple University.”
While pursuing her undergraduate degree, Allen obtained a National Academy of Sports Medicine personal training certification and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) certification to expand her knowledge in the space. “After college, the thought of being in a big city was appealing, which is why I chose Greenwich, Connecticut, to open my first studio — just 45 minutes from New York City!”
Allen has entrepreneurship in her blood and applies much of what she learned to her own business. Her father owned a clothing store for many years and now owns a boutique hotel in Jamaica. “My father always had a monthly team meeting for his employees on Sundays. I would be a part of that meeting several times a year,” she recalled. “It was great to see him lead and connect with his employees. He was so motivational and positive, even when the business was struggling. These meetings were a great example of how to be a strong business owner.”
Allen also worked at a local arts and crafts store in high school. “I loved how hands-on the owner was at that store, and how much she cared about her employees. She was another inspiration to me as an entrepreneur.”
From Instructor to Owner
The path from instructor to franchise owner is fairly unique and provided Allen valuable insight into understanding the business. “I tried out my first class at the instructor training in Denver, Colorado. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, but was excited nonetheless, and thankfully, I loved the workout,” says Allen.
She continues, “Having experience as an instructor and still being one, and being so thoroughly connected to the brand, I can lead by example for my employees. Because I am so familiar with the programming and leading a great class, I can train strong teachers, and it shows across our studio’s incredible classes. There was no way of me knowing the true ins and outs of running a business until I actually stepped into the role — it’s a LOT of work — but being able to understand my employees from firsthand experience really helps on the ‘people’ and ‘community’ front.”
Fortunately, funding wasn’t one of the challenges Allen faced in purchasing her Pure Barre studio — she got support from her family and from a venture capitalist. That doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced other challenges.
“Hiring has been a big challenge, as is the case for a lot of small businesses. Finding and retaining top talent, especially when you need instructors who can command a room of 20-plus members, is tough. COVID was also a huge challenge. My White Plains studio was closed for six months and Greenwich for three months,” she recalls. “We had to get creative and keep our community engaged despite the shutdowns. We did virtual classes, connected with the members on social media, and eventually moved to outdoor pop-ups and events before operations could go back to normal. Whatever we could do to keep the doors open!”
Another challenge Allen had to overcome was opening her first location in an area where she was not part of the community. Deciding between opening your business in a strong market or in the community where you reside can be a difficult one — each has its advantages and disadvantages.
“It was a challenge not being from the area that I opened a studio in. Since I didn’t have roots in that community or have a lot of relationships with people, being a newcomer, it was hard to establish myself and build enough connections at first to grow my studio community. In hindsight, I was so focused on the people that were inside the four walls of my studio that I ignored a lot of potential prospects outside of the studio. I should’ve done some more community outreach and made my presence known in the area,” says Allen.
For now, she has no growth plans, choosing to focus on the two studios and clientele she currently has, but she is open to future ventures down the road.
Allen’s advice to BLACK ENTERPRISE readers regarding entrepreneurship is to explore the boutique fitness sector. “As people become more and more health-minded post-pandemic, I would recommend boutique fitness as an entrepreneurial option,” she offers. “We are lucky to live in a time where dozens of fitness and wellness concepts have a proven method. If you connect with a brand or workout and think others in your community would too, it’s definitely worth looking into opening a studio because you could be your own boss and make a positive impact on your community. I am lucky to do that every day with my Pure Barre studios.”
RELATED CONTENT: How To Fund The Franchise Business You’ve Always Wanted