To kick off our series of interviews leading up to our 1 year anniversary, we feature the three #womenentrepreneurs or #femaleentrepreneurs behind Barre 2 Barre! These three ladies are the best of friends in and out of the studio and definitely live up to the quote “She believed she could so she did”.
Read on to find out more about their journey into barre, what their future plans are for the studio, and tips they have for aspiring female entrepreneurs!
1. How did your journey into health and wellness begin?
Jessica: My journey into the sphere of health and wellness began when I was only four years old. My mum brought me to a ballet class in Jakarta – I remember how one of the girls was really mean and made fun of me (as I was a chubby kid). I begged my mum never to bring me back to that class every again.
Over the next few years, my mum then brought me to try out various sports – basketball, softball practice, swim lessons… but nothing really stuck. Finally, she brought me to tennis. The first lesson was horrible – I was made fun of because of the clothes I was wearing (apparently it looked like pyjamas). Thankfully, though, I had good hand-eye coordination due to the basketball and baseball practices I had gone for which helped me overcome my lack of self confidence or getting teased. From then till college, tennis was my sport was choice.
Karen: I was always considered to be an active individual. I’d wake up at 5am to complete my regular runs before I headed to work, and then to the gym after work for at least 30 minutes on the elliptical machine.
Ironically, I did not like to stretch because I found it to be a waste of time. Over time, however, I started to develop horrible pains in my back and neck and that made me realise something was horribly wrong with my fitness regime. I had to re-think my entire fitness regime.
I sought relief from getting regular massages, magnesium salt baths and eventually took up Pilates classes. Instead of high intensity, I adopted a “less is more” approach to my workouts. I started to look into alternative medicines (e.g. TCM, osteopathy, homeopathy), and tried to integrate mindfulness into all aspects of my life.
Mylene: Although I was always active and took part in competitive sports from my childhood days, it wasn’t until my early twenties that my eyes were opened to living a healthy life through movement and meditation by the mother of a good friend (an Iyengar Yoga teacher) to start and maintain my yoga practice.I was living in Boston, MA at the time and was completely hooked after my first class.
2. How did you get into barre?
J: When I started college, I was not as professional as the rest of the USC tennis team. It was at that point that one of my college best friends introduced me to barre fitness. I fell in love and was addicted to the shake and burn which was like nothing I had felt before. This resulted in me attending and signing up for many packages near my home in West Hollywood.
K: I tried barre on and off during my various travels while I was still in the corporate world. Each class would get me shaking like a leaf and it was incredible!
M: Completely by accident! I was living in London and doing a lot of yoga when I discovered the Lotte Berk Studio around the corner from my home. It was such a fun and challenging class with a different pace and feel to yoga. It was another eye opening moment for me and I immediately added barre to my weekly workouts.
3. What made you decide to change that dedication into something bigger? (starting a studio)
J: When I moved from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, I was on the lookout for studios that would give me that same barre burn. Thankfully, I found Barre 2 Barre – and found out that the founder of BarreAmped Suzanne Bowen actually taught the founders of the barre method that I had been taking in Hollywood, and both methods are from the same Lotte Berk lineage.
When I moved to Singapore, I could not find any barre classes that were up to the same standard that I had found in LA or Hong Kong. At that point, I begged Mylene & Karen to set up a studio in Singapore – little did I know I would be opening up the studio with them!
K: I wanted to be part of a community that would share the same health and wellness beliefs as I did. I was fortunate enough to meet my current business partner, Mylene Mackay, in Hong Kong. Together we started our studio in HK – in fact, I was teaching my first class while 35 weeks pregnant! Since then we expanded the studio to Singapore with Jessica and it’s been an incredible journey.
M: I’ve always known from day 1 when I began practising yoga that I wanted to do this. The seed was planted early on and was always in mind even when I pursued a corporate career.
I met Karen while we were both teaching Pilates at another studio in Hong Kong and we just clicked. We wanted to bring BarreAmped to Asia and the moment felt right to start our own venture. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and feel very lucky to have found the right partners in Karen and Jess. We often joke that we are each other’s barre wives, because it is very much like a marriage when you go into business together.
4. What is one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs?
J: I would tell fellow female entrepreneurs to support each other rather than compete – it only grows us stronger as a community. Instead of focusing too much on competition – focus on building a supportive community. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together and the more positive energy that gets fed into the community, the better it is for all female entrepreneurs and supporters.
K: Love what you do.
M: Don’t do it alone. Pick the right partner with the same values – this will give you the strength to weather the tough times as well as the stability to stay humble and real throughout.
5. Is it difficult working in a (primarily) female dominated environment?
J: I think difficulty in a female dominated industry really depends on where your studio is located. I also believe culture plays a big role – rather than whether the industry is female or male dominated. I have had many successes connecting with female entrepreneurs in Singapore and Hong Kong.
There are obviously hurdles when certain people are not as welcoming or open but there are also many who are more than willing to help and those are the ones you should focus your energy on.
K: Having previously been in a male dominated working environment, I wouldn’t say that working in a primarily female dominated environment is particularly more or less difficult. Every challenge that presents itself is unique to the situation at hand, and there are always appropriate solutions. Learning to deal with difficult situations, problem solving, and people management are important skills for every entrepreneur.
M: Only if you make it difficult for yourself. While there are challenges, I’m a big believer in surrounding myself with good people. Only good can come out of that.
6. What are your future goals for Barre 2 Barre?
J: For Barre 2 Barre, future goals would be to expand – for me, that would mean expanding in the S.E.A region; for Karen, it would be to expand and build up connections to both the North Asian region as well as Australia; and for Mylene (who is moving to Europe), it would be to build up a presence there.
K: Lots of exciting plans to grow and expand. More and more people are recognising barre as a genre of fitness, just like Pilates and yoga. There’s so much potential!
M:We have lots of exciting plans. The sky is the limit and it all revolves around growing our community of barre enthusiasts in Singapore, Hong Kong, and beyond.
7. What is your Favourite barre move and post workout snack?
J: My favorite barre move is actually the lunge. I grew up learning how to lifeguard and play basketball with an ex-navy officer and I remember lunges being the best way to build muscles (and it got rid a little bit of my the meat between my thighs). My favorite post workout snack is hydrating myself with water and a freshly pressed juice.
K: Wide second is my favourite barre move. My favorite snack would have to be greek yoghurt with chia seeds and banana.
M: I love them all! Whichever move I am doing at the moment is my favourite. I’m a barre nerd. My favorite Post workout snack would be the Breakfast Mule at Punch Cafe; it’s so hot in Singapore I am always looking to cool down after a workout.