Having grown up with the more traditional idea of a stable job after college, post-graduation Karen Lim carved out a successful career within the finance industry. Quickly noticing a lack of passion for the life she was leading, she began to realise that the corporate world wasn’t, in her eyes, either sustainable or balanced.
During that time, Lim met her now business partner and Co-Founder of Barre 2 Barre, Mylène Mackay. Bonding over their mutual passion for teaching Pilates, the duo began talking about launching a business together. The aim? To share their love of barre and its benefits with their growing community.
Starting life as a bootstrapped business, Lim and Mackay utilised the sharing economy by renting a space from a local dance studio and taught all of their classes themselves. They took time to build a community slowly but steadily, before moving into their own studio space in 2014 – which is when the business really took off.
Soon after, in August 2016 Barre 2 Barre launched a second studio in Singapore — aptly situated on Hong Kong Street. Meanwhile, the brand’s BarreAmped training center continues to grow in strength.
The centre, which qualifies participants to teach the popular BarreAmped exercise method which is taught at Barre 2 Barre, runs an average of 4 Teacher Training courses per year and has taught 80+ participants to date.
From a team of 2 to 24 employees across two studios, Barre 2 Barre is taking the barre scene head-on, as interest in the discipline continues to grow. Elsewhere, Lim and Mackay plan to launch an off-site Teacher Training programme in Thailand in September, and a European-based training course, in Amsterdam this July.
With Barre 2 Barre poised for further growth, here Lim talks to Welltodo about the driving force behind the brand, the importance of building a community and spearheading the barre movement in Hong Kong and Singapore
On the original mission behind Barre2Barre and staying true to that vision……
Our love for Barre 2 Barre and our passion for sharing this incredible, life-changing method is the driving force behind what we do.
From the moment we took our first class, we fell in love with the method because it simply works — you feel your body and mindset change right from the start.
We also resonated with Suzanne Bowen — the creator of BarreAmped — and her approach to wellness. It’s about aiming for excellence, not perfection and the workout is sustainable and welcoming to all fitness levels and ages. We have students from 16 years old to 65 years old killing it in class, side by side.
Our class and training offerings are constantly evolving as we work with Suzanne and various experts in the fields of fitness, movement and anatomy. So as teachers, we are constantly challenged and the learning never stops.
Now that we are over 5 years into this journey, it is our greater barre community that keeps us motivated. Expanding outside of Hong Kong and seeing our clients get stronger and more flexible, watching them move with ease and lightness and witnessing this transpire from the studio into their everyday lives — that’s what sets our hearts on fire.
On turning that vision into a reality……
Fortunately, Mylène and I bring different strengths to the table and we are so lucky that our strengths and personalities are a good match. Mylène has a strong background in sales, marketing and customer service, having worked at some of the best hotels in the world. I worked at one of the big four firms, so I oversee the business side of things.
Launching and sustaining a successful business is extremely challenging — all the elements of a perfect storm have to be present in order for it to work. But we place huge value on building a strong team.
It is very important to us that our team members are aligned with our vision and committed to our goals. Once that is in place, we have to take good care of them so they, in turn, take good care of our clients. It’s a never-ending and relentless process, but incredibly worth it when we see our community of happy and healthy clients growing and thriving.
On Singapore & Hong Kong’s evolving wellness scene……
Fitness and wellness are front and center in the region right now. It’s an exciting time for the industry and we are thrilled to be a part of this movement.
We opened our doors with 8 group classes a week in 2012. Now we have more than 70 group classes a week between the 2 locations.
On the growth of the boutique fitness industry……
Competition is always good for the industry as a whole, it keeps everyone on their toes and helps drive improvement — that way we all move forward together. To be informed about what our competitors are doing is good, but we try to not get carried away and instead focus on giving the best service and offering to our clients.
We also place a high priority on the continuous training and development of our teachers and team as a whole. Hype is great, but substance is more important. We believe in being ourselves, being authentic and being respectful of others in the industry.
On the decision to self-fund……
Both our studios are self-funded. We’ve received a number of investment and partnership proposals to date, but have declined as we are still refining our product and service offering to ensure that we are the best in the market. Not to say we wouldn’t explore investment and partnership proposals, but it has to be the right fit.
On navigating growth……
Growth is inevitable when you are passionate about your calling, the question is: how do we want to grow rather than do we want to grow? It’s a constant question and it improves our self-awareness as entrepreneurs, teachers and members of the fitness community.
On leaving an imprint on the wellness industry……
Bringing BarreAmped to Asia and helping to grow the barre community here is a wonderful experience to be a part of, and we hope to continue our work and spread health and happiness through barre.
We have some exciting projects we are working on that we cannot share at the moment, but our drive to constantly improve is what opens doors and helps us to move forward.
Karen Lim will be joining the Welltodo Founder Series in Singapore on 22nd & 23rd March to share her industry insights, business strategies and advice from challenges she’s faced along the way.