Meet the Woman Behind Seattle's Most Successful Pure Barre Studios

Sami Sweeney Pure Barre
Image via Sami Sweeney

Pure Barre first burst onto the fitness scene in 2001, when founder Carrie Rezabek Dorr opened the very first location in an office basement in Birmingham, MI. Nearly eight years later, it became a franchise and the popular workout turned into a nationwide powerhouse with more than 460 studios.
Amodrn recently caught up with Sami Sweeney, Pure Barre owner out of Seattle, who has grown her love for the brand into six studios, employing 107 passionate individuals.
So how does she do it exactly? That’s what we set out to find out.
Amodrn: Tell us about how you began your fitness journey, and how you got involved with barre as a workout?
Sami Sweeney: My fitness journey dates back to my childhood, growing up as a gymnast in a competitive setting. I spent years working with coaches throughout my younger years and always had the interest to become a fitness coach myself. I started leading group fitness classes while attending the University of Idaho, where I also was a cheerleader, studying finance and economics. In 2008, my husband and I moved to Nashville, TN. This is when I was hired to teach Pure Barre at one of the original studios. It truly was love at first sight.

How did the partnership with Pure Barre come to be, as an instructor?
There were very few barre studios in the country when I stumbled upon a Craigslist ad to become a certified barre instructor back in 2008. I took a leap of faith into Pure Barre teacher training without having experienced a class! I attended training in January of 2009 in Lexington, KY.
What is it about the Pure Barre technique that drew you to the studio?
My experience with Pure Barre is unique in that I was never exposed to the technique before teaching. After taking my first class, I was so impressed by the non-impact yet incredibly intense style of Pure Barre. I loved that the class was musically driven, quick-paced and thoughtfully crafted to maximize the hour. Strength work, mobility work, postural focus and increased flexibility all within one workout!

Tell us about the process of opening your first studio, and how that’s expanded into six. What were some challenges you’ve faced as you’ve taken on this path?
After working for Pure Barre founder Carrie as a Master Teacher Trainer, I gained the interest and genuine passion to open a studio of my own. I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest and knew that Seattle would make a great home for my Pure Barre studio. I opened my first studio in June of 2010 and continued to grow (both strategically and reactively) for the subsequent 7 years. The challenges I faced as a small business owner, in an uber-competitive market are countless. Procuring adequate capital to finance growth was an initial and ongoing challenge.
Identifying, hiring and training the right people to support our rapid growth is something I still struggle with today. We grew from 22 teachers in 2013 to 54 teachers in 2014. The growing pains of this 10-month period were beyond challenging. My approach to running these studios has always been community focused, even before this was a buzz word! Building and retaining community with six different locations takes constant effort. Now in an industry that is over-saturated with boutique fitness, it’s challenging to stand out in the fitness crowd. We have constant pressure to offer more — more class styles, more workshops, more amenities, more marketing, etc.

What is something you want other entrepreneurial women to know before they embark upon a similar journey?
Do your research before making any rash decisions! Avoid jumping head-first into business ownership until you fully understand what is truly required to make your endeavor successful. Use both a qualitative and quantitative analysis to determine if studio ownership is right for you. Often times people open businesses, especially in the industry of fitness, because they are passionate about the concept and lifestyle. Passion doesn’t pay the bills and keep you relevant! I suggest finding a mentor who has accomplished something similar to what you are attempting to accomplish, and glean as much information and experience from this person (or people) as possible!
What’s next for you?
I’ll forever own my own studio(s) in the fitness/wellness industry. Empowering others to lead healthier lives brings me endless satisfaction. Plus, I’m hard-wired to be my own boss, set my own goals and create and build community beyond a corporate setting. In the future, I’ll work to find more ways to reach an even bigger audience.

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