I first learned of Lise Kuecker on Facebook and have been a fan ever since. I’m super honored to do this Q&A with her!
I absolutely love your podcast and your career is an inspiration. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got started in the fitness industry?
Honestly? I got my start in fitness, when I moved to Boston and joined the Wang YMCA of Chinatown. Growing up in Covington, LA (population 8,000) boutique fitness wasn’t on our radar, but I’d been blessed to be a member of an amazing health club that opened my eyes to yoga, Pilates and modalities I didn’t even know existed. But, Boston, put me front and center with tai chi instructors (yes, I showed up late to work every Tuesday and Thursday so I could be there), yoga movements at Baron Baptiste’s studio, and Pilates that was well established rather than a novelty. When I moved back to Louisiana, I found myself searching for more, which led to a comprehensive Pilates certification, two years of yoga apprenticeship, flying off to Chicago for barre certifications and so much more.
As for me, I’m a mom of two amazing boys, Remy (age 12) and Kit (age 2) and the wife to a newly retired Army soldier, Dan. When I met my husband and realized that I would be moving every two years (or sooner), I leapt in the fitness industry, opening non-traditional studios inside of Intel and five brick and mortar fitness studios across the US, before opening Studio Grow. That sounds like a whirlwind, but it’s been 14 years of hardwork and strategy to make this happen.
What is Studio Grow?
Studio Grow is a consulting firm focused on the boutique fitness industry that’s grown from a one woman shop at my dining room table to a 40+ team member company that works in 34 countries. We have clients ranging from in-home studios to multi-9 figure corporations and our goal for everyone is the same: great profits, financial freedom and control of your life and schedule.
We started with a focus on sales and operational best practices, but as our client’s studios have grown we’ve expanded to helping studio owners hire and train their dream team, providing support in buying and selling studios, marketing their services and even building their online platforms. If it’s going to help your studio make money and grow, we’re here to support it!
Your mom is a big influence in your life and I try to set a good example for my two young daughters as a working mother and business owner. Can you share a little bit about your mom and how she was/is a good role model for you?
Donna Lynne is quite simply amazing. She’s “Momma” to me, but over the years she’s developed a commercial property portfolio, resurrected a downtrodden retail store and built her own empire of 7 figure businesses with clients ranging from the Navy Seals to Janet Jackson (yes, that was the high point for me at 10:)).
It’s interesting. I’m sure she dealt with the guilt that all mothers who work have. It seems almost ingrained within us to ensure we’re prioritizing our children enough. But, she understood that in order to align her personal life and professional life, she wasn’t going to be able to do it on her own and she was unwilling to be a martyr to “busy”.
As I look back, her ability to be thoroughly present as a mom, without shying away from the fact that it took a village and perfect wasn’t an option. It empowered me to make choices with no guilt, from a housekeeper to make sure my afternoons and evenings were free with my kiddos to a nanny to help in the mornings with our little ones. These aren’t luxuries if you’re an entrepreneur…they balance out the workload that nearly all women have within their home and ensure you get to be present for your family when it’s the most important.
You’ve created and sold a dozen successful businesses while being a full-time mom. How were you able to juggle work and your career?
With the help above:). I have very clear priorities: I want to be around my family and I want to work as little as possible. I don’t need to appear busy. I’d rather work smart and have much more time to enjoy.
In practical terms how did I do it?
Great hires. We have had a fantastic management team since 2008 and that’s only grown.
Recognizing that I’m not the best at everything. I focus on my superpowers and let others shine bright…this leads to some amazing team members.
Setting some tight boundaries. I take nearly all calls on Mondays and Tuesdays. I take almost every Friday off entirely. I rarely work after 3 PM. I have to be efficient to make this work, but focus and a Pomodoro timer get me pretty far!
Any tips for working moms of school aged children as they juggle work and homeschool life right now?
Grace. We all need the grace to know that there’s no way to do it all right now. I think it’s physically and emotionally impossible (and this is coming from a woman whose oldest child is going back to school next week).
I’ve taken most of my priorities for this year and we’ve pushed them out into future quarters and even 2021. It’s given us the chance to pivot strongly to support our clients and stay nimble. But, I’ve chosen to accept that I won’t have it all and this is a time where work is limited.
On a side note: We’ve worked with a number of families to hire a tutor should the school year be cancelled. If work slowing down isn’t an option, I think this remains the best way to know that our kids are getting the education they should without pulling our hair out.
You’re a huge supporter of women in business (so am I!!!) so, I’d love to ask what’s one piece of advice you would give someone starting out or who wants to start a business?
Create the life you want to live first. Now is the time to lay out your dream for 8 weeks of vacation a year, picking up your kiddos after school each day or a two day work week. I was able to do all of these things because I had built the life I wanted and created a business around it.
The fitness industry has taken a hard hit with Covid-19 and especially boutique fitness owners. I read the stat you provided how these studios are primarily owned by women (more than 70 %). What can people do to open their studios back up safely?
First, embrace the new normal. Many studios will offer vastly different services than they have in the past. Most of the growth in our industry has been in the “group sector” meaning group based fitness classes. For most states, group classes can’t exist anymore thanks to capacity regulations, but we’re watching studios pivot to privates and small groups.
Second, negotiate for your studio’s life…it depends on it. I find many studio owners are scared to go back and ask their landlords or their lenders for relief in the fall. That fear will leave many studios on the verge of shutdown. Now is the time to ask for what you truly need and not be shy about it. You’re a CEO after all.
Finally, develop alternate revenue streams. It’s time to launch online, sell supplements and offer alternate programs, like the private sessions above. One traditional revenue stream isn’t going to sustain you for long, so it’s time to get creative and think outside of the box.
What are some of the myths being put out there about gyms and studios being unsafe? Will the industry bounce back?
Myth #1: Covid is spread by sweat. We can thank John’s Hopkins for dispelling this myth–Covid is not transferred via sweat.
Myth #2: Fitness facilities are unnecessary in the times of Covid. The largest comorbidities for Covid are tied back to obesity. As boutique fitness stands on the forefront of fighting obesity, we can’t help but wonder why now, when we’re needed more than ever, are we unable to do our jobs.
Myth #3: Fitness studios are unsafe. Before I venture into this, I think people should understand our industry is made up of two primary parts: health clubs (average square footage 42,000 square feet) and boutique studios (average square footage 3,300 square feet). For the hospitality industry, the risks of Covid have been presented separately for bars and restaurants, the two main subsets. For fitness, there’s been no differentiation between subsets, although most risks describe align with the larger health club portion of our industry.
Boutique Fitness Studios typically have:
- No shared equipment: Something my grocery store, which has been open throughout Covid, can’t boast about. I share my cart with anyone else who’s been in before me.
- Socially distanced parameters by definition. When you enter a studio, you stay on your mat, your reformer or your bike. You are socially distanced by the equipment or mat you’re occupying.
- Appointment only scheduling. There’s no worries of overcrowding as studios have always booked clients by appointments, session or class.
We’ve seen the industry bounce back strongly in other parts of the world, so we’re holding out hope that we’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel soon in the US.
Just for fun…..what is your favorite type of yoga pose and pilates routine?
I end everyday with Legs up the Wall, a seriously underrated yoga pose and I practice with an incredible instructor who combines Hatha and Alexander technique. It’s slow paced and very thoughtful, but I carry it into my ashtanga practice. As for Pilates, if a BASI teacher is teaching, I’m front and center. I have a nearly full studio upstairs (my ceilings won’t fit a cadillac) and you can find me doing swan nearly every morning.
How can people find you to learn more about you and listen to your podcast?
You can learn more about Studio Grow at www.studiogrow.co and find me on Instagram at @lisekuecker and @studiogrowco. Our Podcast is Ready. Aim. Empire (we’re almost at 1 million downloads, which seems insane) and you can listen to it at https://studiogrow.co/podcast/.