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The Interview — Becca Licht

By Christy Knell
October 17, 2021

You get the sense that Becca Licht does her research. She moved to Dobbs Ferry (good decision #1) and wasted no time locking down one of the newest commercial storefronts in her new hometown (#2) in order to open barre3 Rivertowns (#3).  

Before she even opened, she was written up as Best Mind-Body Workout in Westchester Magazine, and because of her creative marketing via free public classes all over the area, she had a healthy membership right from day one

But the pandemic was not something in anyone’s strategic plan. barre3 was forced to close for many months (along with all other small gyms) by the governor’s mandates, and Becca has since been powering through to re-right the ship. “Some of this has been hard to put a positive spin on recently,” she admits. 

Add to the mix a new baby, and Becca certainly has had one memorable year, but a year that has informed how her business will inevitably grow and thrive. We connected with her to hear more about franchise ownership, building community, and her work-life balance.  

Tell me about what you were doing before deciding to open barre3 Rivertowns. How did you decide to take that on?

I was working in business ops at a startup focused on women’s health. I loved the mission of the company, but it was the wrong spot for me professionally. We’d also recently moved to Dobbs Ferry, where my husband and I knew ZERO people, and I had been mulling for months about the idea of a job that involved more physical activity and ownership over my day-to-day. Exercise had been a constant centering force for me, not only during this startup job and suburban move transition, but for the 8+ years in the city prior to that, so finding a way to integrate that into my work-life seemed a dream. Barre was what stuck for me after a college rowing career, after my knees didn’t like long-distance running and other parts of me didn’t take well to spinning or yoga. This big jumble of ideas—”I like this type of workout,” “I want a chance to meet new people and form a community in this new place I’ve just moved,” “I want to use business-building skills I developed through my first jobs,” “I am looking for something I can wake up and go to bed feeling passionate about”—all converged to this idea of opening up a barre studio here in town. 

What goes into opening a franchise? 

Barre3 is a small franchise that grew from the original studios in Portland, OR, to about 150 studios across the country now. I decided to franchise because without prior experience in the fitness industry, I was looking for structure and the strength of a brand. Barre3 was aligned with my goals of building community first and also leads with a kickass workout that felt like a really complete package. The company and network of other studio owners around the country have been incredibly supportive peers along the way, in what can feel like an isolating journey to build, open, hire, teach and run the whole studio. A franchise provides a standard set of operating instructions, which include things like specifications on what a studio looks like and what programming we offer. This structure has been helpful from designing our space at 42 Chestnut Street, to supporting the training of my instructor team, and yet I’m glad barre3 is a small, agile enough company that any owner like myself is also given the freedom to operate our business as we see fit for our market—and adapt it, again and again as we have all had to throughout the pandemic. 

What were some surprises you had along the way to opening day? 

I thought opening the studio was going to be the hard part! I was lucky to find a committed team of instructors and operations staff, including folks devoted to childcare, who all dove into creating a welcoming and warm space for the community. I recruited and trained the team and worked with my landlord/general contractor to build out the space into what I hoped it would be, and we were able to open our doors on the timeline I had originally hoped for. We enjoyed amazing energy in our classes and got to host a number of events for the community as well in our first 9 months open—from a panel on how to support new moms, to a sound bath, to sessions demonstrating injury prevention and physical therapy tips. 

So we had / are having a pandemic. Tell me how you made the pivot to virtual and outdoor classes, what ends up being better about them (if anything), what’s still difficult and what changes you’ve made along the way to adjust and grow.

Are we? I hadn’t heard 🙂 We shut down our in-studio operation for over 6 months on March 15, 2020, and were up and running with some sketchy Zoom classes by March 19. It was a necessary pivot as we were all sheltering in place, and fitness studios in New York state were not permitted to operate indoors at all until September 2020. We’ve gradually gotten better at hosting Zoom classes (shown above—the one-year anniversary class), with a big upgrade last November allowing us to use our studio sound system and a consistently high-quality camera, and have found that some members who had been regularly attending in-studio class before the pandemic love the flexibility. It also reduces the hurdles to trying a new class—you don’t need to drive in your car to somewhere new, find parking, introduce yourself, etc—you can sign up online and join in from your own space, even as a last-minute decision. Our outdoor classes have also been a wonderful addition to the schedule, with a chance to move on the waterfront with the sound of the wind and the water adding to the overall workout experience. 

We have been operating a schedule of in-studio classes with safety protocol for just about a year now. Our safety protocol for clients includes filling out a health questionnaire and showing us proof of vaccination, and on our side it requires us to sanitize every prop and surface touched by anyone in between classes. We upgraded our air filtration system to MERV-13 hospital grade filters, and we leave our studio door open during classes to maximize air flow. We have also continued to keep capacity low despite all business restrictions being lifted—all of these measures, we feel, are important to keep folks safe and comfortable in taking class at barre3. It is absolutely still difficult to get folks to try the in-studio experience after a long time away or to try it for the first time if they haven’t been doing indoor activities.

What do you do for marketing / how do you reach potential members?

Prior to opening, we hosted free classes for the community wherever we could find, including HudCo, Brrzaar, Compass, a dance studio, a private home, a karate studio. These days, since working out indoors is dicey except in the space we can control, we still look to partner with local businesses where we have something mutually beneficial to offer. We try to offer at least one program or offering in the studio or in someone else’s space monthly, and all of our current members are able to bring any friends or family to their first class for free. Our goal is to bring people to the studio to try class once—and we offer a good experience so that we can take it from there. (Shown above—the second anniversary class outside at Dobbs Ferry Waterfront Park)

How does your work mix with motherhood these days? How do you take care of yourself (mentally and physically)?

It’s been a different challenge than I expected! We aren’t able to offer childcare in the studio currently due to the pandemic (Ed note: no longer the case—now they do!) so I find myself working before he wakes up and after he goes to bed and on weekends more than I might have planned to. As the owner of the studio, it’s also on me to make sure we can operate at the right hours, and I’m the backup instructor in the case of illness or other substitution. I am fortunate to have an incredible part-time nanny, extremely supportive family, and a committed husband who make it possible for me to teach classes and be present for my studio team, to say nothing of my studio manager Allie Carolei and studio instructor mentor Roula Raad who have taken on so much of the leadership in the last nine months.

What’s your vision for your business and work now? What are your favorite offerings at the studio these days?

My vision is to keep offering a space for movement and for community gathering just as long as we are able to do so. As the pandemic isn’t yet over, it’s hard to see the shape that the fitness industry will take on when the dust settles, so to speak, and so I expect that in order to stick around we will continue to evolve the business. The future definitely includes hybrid (livestream + in-studio) classes, and other than that I can’t quite predict yet. But I’m sure that I will make change when I can and when I need to.

We recently adjusted our schedule to hold pre-dawn 6am classes 3 days a week and as much as I don’t love the 5:15 alarm, it is AMAZING to get a workout in before the sun comes up. Changes my perspective for the entire day. 

Try out barre3 with their new client special—3 classes for $49. Or join as a member and get UNLIMITED classes for $149/mo!