Maybe it is possible to do it all.
At least that’s what entrepreneur Elizabeth Roberts thinks. She’s a mom of three young children and the owner of several Pure Barre exercise studios throughout Massachusetts. She got her Northampton studio up and running two years ago, and at the end of January she managed to open her fifth location in Northborough.
She’s used to finding balance at the barre and beyond — she juggles her time between her home office and the studios, communicating with staff, and sometimes even teaching classes herself. It’s a busy lifestyle, but it gives her the flexibility to spend time with her family. If her children are sick, she can stay home. If she needs to run an errand, the kids can come with. It’s hectic, but she likes it.
“I can’t imagine life any other way,” she says. “It’s amazing running your own business and having kids.”
Roberts always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. She went to college at Babson College in Wellesley, taking their entrepreneurship program, and then went to work in finance for a consulting company in Boston for a few years. It wasn’t until she had her second child, Annette, three, and fell into being a stay-at-home mom in Easthampton that she started playing with the idea of opening her own business. She always liked working, and the flexibility of being a business owner was appealing.
Business ideas, such as creating an organic baby-food company, came and went. But when Roberts tried a Pure Barre class in eastern Massachusetts, she fell in love with the workout, a ballet-inspired workout founded by dancer, choreographer, and fitness expert Carrie Rezabek Dorr. (Pure Barre became a franchise in 2009 and now boasts 460 studies across the U.S. and in Canada.)
“I filled out the franchise application on the car ride home,” Roberts says.
Only a few months later, in spring of 2016, the doors to her first studio on King Street were open.
From there, she met with contractors, learned about marketing. She reached out to other entrepreneurs in the area to ask for guidance and turned to the internet for support when she needed it. “There is no guide to opening your own business,” she says.
There were many restless nights: She poured everything she had into the business and had partnered with her husband, Frank Roberts, and her in-laws to make it work.
“It’s like always being outside of your comfort zone,” she says.
After only a few months, she was able to pay herself a salary and still keep up with her payroll. In their first year, she had just over 21,922 customers — and, now, that number is growing. Last year she had 23,000 customers visit the Northampton studio for a class.
“The community that we have built is just so wonderful,” she says. “It’s just such a positive place. People come to work out and then they feel good.”
Once she got the Northampton business up and running, she then applied for another Pure Barre franchise in East Longmeadow and another franchise in Concord.
Success wouldn’t be possible without a reliable staff, she adds: “I couldn’t do it alone — I have these wonderful employees who work for me.”
She says she also owes her success to simple strategies like asking for for feedback from customers through an online survey and then responding to their wishes. Small changes, like changing the volume of the music in the studio or putting a trashcan outside the studio, have kept people happy and coming back. The exercise itself is also addictive, she says: “By 10 classes you kind of become hooked.”
As for Roberts, she’s hooked on the business. “It doesn’t feel like work when you are so passionate about it,” she says.