Balanced Hustler: Meet Andrea Isabelle Lucas, Founder and CEO of Barre & Soul
Being an entrepreneur can seem glamorous. We own our schedules, build our companies based on work we love—and sometimes we can even work beachside. But the glamour is second in command to the hustle.
The hustle is what really defines the ups and downs of the entrepreneurship journey. And to shed some light on the work it takes to build a business, I’m interviewing fellow entrepreneurs who are ready to get real about their journeys. I’ll ask them how they manage to balance the hustle with the passion of what they do, and they’ll share what they had to overcome to get where they are today. It’s all in service of inspiring, supporting and illuminating the path for you, and we’re calling it the #BalancedHustler.
Andrea Isabelle Lucas is yet another inspiring leader in the Boston business community. She’s the founder and CEO of Barre & Soul®, a boutique chain of innovative yoga and barre studios that are about to go national, and a keynote speaker who’s shared the stage with Michelle Obama and Billie Jean King. The author of a new book, Own It All, Andrea mixes being down to earth with being a strong example of how to step into your power as a female entrepreneur.
She’s journeyed from being a single teen mom, former stripper, domestic violence and personal poverty survivor, to being the creator of a multi-million dollar business—and, her studios were recently awarded the prestigious Best of Boston Award 2018. She, more than most, knows what it’s like to hustle. And she’s sharing with us how she also keeps it all balanced.
Fast Facts: Andrea Isabelle Lucas
When did you launch Barre & Soul?
In one sentence, tell us why you started Barre & soul.
My business exists to empower women.
How much did you invest to get the business started?
As close to zero as I could, maybe $1,000 to get my LLC, $1,000 to file for the Barre & Soul trademark, and a couple hundred for a website, and logo design.
How did you get capital to start?
I bootstrapped this baby all the way. I started out working IN my business and as soon as I could afford to hire help, I started working ON my business. I’ve taken small loans from family members, which I was able to pay back quickly. I also got a business credit card with a $20K limit early on and used that to help me get started once I knew I was taking on a physical space.
What was your 2017 or 2018 revenue?
About $2 million.
How long did it take for the business to get profitable?
Because I found a way to start with virtually no overhead, it was pretty much immediate.
Are you growing your business to sell? Or this is your dream job and you want to be doing this in 10 years?
Not looking to sell. I want to keep my business, and I want to expand it as big as I can! In 10 years, I hope to have a national presence and have a huge philanthropic focus. I also want to continue to write books, do speaking engagements and offer personal development courses, workshops and retreats.
How many hours a week do you work when you started vs now?
I have no idea. It’s a lot! But I love it, and when I want to stop, I do. Also, I have much more freedom about when and what I work on now. Tasks that don’t work for my schedule or that drain me have been delegated, for the most part.
How many employees do you have?
What two business goals do you have for 2019?
Sell 4500 copies of my book, and open another flagship studio.
How Andrea Balances the Hustle
You’re 100 percent self-funded, which is AMAZING! How do you think you’ve been able to scale to almost $2 million without taking on funding?
I just kept taking the biggest risk I could stomach at every step of the way. When I felt I could afford the next risk, I took it, again and again. Initially that was leaving a full-time salary to be a freelance barre and yoga instructor and hoping I’d make enough money to live on. Then it was investing a couple thousand dollars, which was almost all of my money, into launching a brand so that I could run my business out of someone else’s space. Then it was signing my first lease when the opportunity came up to take over an existing studio from a previous owner. Later it was building out a phenomenal space in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With each success, I continue to reinvest as much as I can afford back into my business, and continue to nudge myself into the next appropriate risk.
I also make sure to seek out experts to guide my steps whenever I’m at a crossroads about what to do next. Sometimes that’s a hired consultant, other times it might be asking around my network, or taking a course to learn something new that will take my business to the next level. I’ve paid close attention to learning the best practices in my industry, figuring out how to measure and continually monitor success, and making sure to put systems in place to keep those things on track.
When I started, I knew a lot about how to run a top of the line barre and yoga program from my previous management experience, but nothing about how to run a business. I allowed myself to trust that I’d find the right people and information that I needed along the way, and didn’t let “I don’t know” stop me from getting started.
We both share the belief that managing your time is CRUCIAL to success. How do you manage multiple studios, multiple employees? How do you decide what you as the CEO need to focus on?
This process is NEVER ending. I also have kids so there are definitely a lot of demands on my time. Just a few moments ago I actually cancelled an appointment for tomorrow because I saw that I had overbooked my week and needed that time to focus on my book launch, which is my most important project right now.
The most important key to managing my time is that anything that can be documented and turned into a repeatable process gets delegated and is off my plate. Anything I’m not passionate about or that isn’t one of my strengths also gets delegated.
For example, these days my time is no longer taken up by calls with insurance agents, electricians, Facebook marketing experts or cleaning companies. This get handled by other people on my team who are amazing in these areas! There was a time when I had to juggle all of it, so I did, until I could afford more help. Now my time might be spent on the phone in meetings with my leadership team, being interviewed for podcasts or articles, proofing the latest episode of my own podcast or planning my book launch events.
I also take most of my meetings from home over Zoom so I don’t waste time commuting all over the place. Face to face is nice and of course I still do visit my studios several times a week to take class and have meetings in person, but 90 percent of the time I work from home.
I look for as many life-hacks as possible. I have my groceries delivered and I have a service that picks up my laundry. Every little bit helps. My job is always evolving and that’s one of the things I love most about it. But mostly I try to make sure I’m working ON the business, not IN the business.
I am privileged to have this luxury now. When I first started Barre & Soul, I was the only employee. I did the social media, taught free classes, made the website, scrubbed toilets and schmoozed with the local lululemon store to promote my business. My first barre training, I was desperate for employees and I didn’t take deposits from the trainees who were signed up. Most of them bailed at the last second and I learned a valuable but painful lesson which turned into a non-refundable deposit policy for future teacher trainings. You just keep learning and improving.
You believe women should stop waiting for change and start creating it. How? How did you find the courage to step into your power?
So many of us are waiting for permission. Or we’re waiting for a letter in the mail saying, “Hey, it’s your time to shine! Oprah will send a limo to your house Monday morning.” But life doesn’t work that way. You have to pick yourself, instead of waiting to be picked. You have to give yourself permission instead of asking for it. You have to say, “Why not me? Why not now?” both in bettering your personal life and in bettering the world around you.
You may see a mess in your life or in your community. You may not have been the one who made it, but you can choose to clean it up and dictate what’s going to happen next. You may have a vision that’s so much greater than the current reality. You can start bringing that vision to life anytime, you don’t need to wait until things are perfect to get started.
I was forced to find this power in myself when I arrived at rock bottom in an abusive relationship, pounding on a neighbor’s door in the middle of the night to be taken to the emergency room. It was a matter of survival. I don’t want other women to wait for rock bottom to start using their power. It’s available to you right now. You always have a choice about where your story will go from here.
You’ve spoken about being in a domestic abuse situation, and how you were able to escape. How has that impacted who you are as a business leader?
I was always a feminist, but going through what I did only intensified my feminist values, which are infused into every aspect of my company’s culture, from the way we deal with employees, to the services we offer and the way we market those services. I hope that sharing about my past trauma makes me more relatable as a leader and gives hope to others who may be struggling from their own challenges and wondering if they can create the happiness and power they crave.
I also think that going through hell in my personal life has made me more resilient. Whatever risks I may take in business, I know that the worst case scenario is still not as bad as some of the other things I’ve had to overcome.
You just finished a book (congrats!). Can you tell us what inspired you?
I wrote my book, Own It All, in the hopes of inspiring other women to step into their power NOW, and stop waiting for permission, or until they reach rock bottom, to begin creating the change they envision in their lives or in the world. It’s part memoir, part manifesto and part workbook so that you can begin taking action steps to creating the life of your dreams today. If you have the sense that you’re not yet expressing your full potential, be sure to check it out, I’m positive it will help you do great things!
Andrea’s Advice for Entrepreneurs
What failure have you learned most from?
I’ve learned the most from failed personal relationships. I learned that pretending to be anything less than your authentic self is simply unsustainable. It’s better to be unapologetically YOU. You can’t expect to attract everyone, but you’ll attract the right people.
What is your number one piece of advice for fellow entrepreneurs?
Don’t wait for permission. Don’t think that everyone else knows something you don’t. Just get started, and keep asking questions. There’s always somebody out there who can help you and point you in the right direction. Just get moving and keep moving!
What does being a #BalancedHustler mean to you?
It means working hard for the things you’re passionate about, while maintaining a sense of playfulness and space for self-care. Let yourself have FUN with your hustle, rather than letting your hustle put a strangle-hold on your life.
Want more inspiro and tactical advice from female entrepreneurs? Check out our full #BalancedHustler series. Or, join us in Boston on June 22 for our Balanced Hustle Summit and learn from incredible female entrepreneurs in person.