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One year ago, Nini Gueco opened her SoMa Avant-Barre studio. After developing her barre class style and teaching out of dance spaces in the area, she was ready to take plunge with her own space and her own business. In the last 12 months, Avant-Barre has been name-checked in Forbes and landed on San Francisco magazine's best of SF list. Not too shabby for a fledgling business.
Granted, a lot has changed in the last year: Nini's in the process of hiring even more instructors —the studio will host tryouts this weekend— and finding a second location in the Bay Area. She's added more classes to the schedule, (including a weekly master class), and she's bringing in new merchandise.
For Nini, life at the barre remains fresh and interesting because the classes are constantly evolving. "We're really nimble. We hear what people say and get feedback from our clients. I think our classes have been getting more and more dynamic," she explains.
Over the last year, Nini has been blown away by the way clients have formed the Avant-Barre community. "It was just something that I envisioned: people would feel welcomed, challenged, and empowered...The acceptance of that, and how we've been able to communicate it, has been amazing." To thank clients for their loyalty, the studio has a full week of events lined up for the anniversary next week, June 22nd–26th, including snacks, prizes, and a Lucy Activewear trunk show.
While Nini only has a year as a studio owner under her stretchy waistband, she's already dreaming up lofty goals for her barre biz, citing exercise juggernauts like SoulCycle and Barry's Bootcamp as inspiration. "I look to those two companies as huge role models for us. At the core, it's a good workout, but as a business and a community, they've really been able to scale it well."
Does that mean that a national expansion for Nini's studio? "Why not?" she asks. "It's always a dream for small business to be able to grow that much," she admits. But no matter how Avant-Barre grows or changes, clients can rest assured that they will always have a good time in class. According to Nini, "Fitness is fun. If it's not fun for you, there's no point."