Sadie Lincoln, Founder of Barre3

CREDIT: Katie Horwitch,

She-EO of the week: Sadie Lincoln, Founder of Barre3

Our female CEO series for this week features Sadie Lincoln, the founder of Barre3. Barre is a mix of ballet, Pilates, and yoga. Its been around since 1959 but didn’t take off in the US until this past decade. Sadie shows us what it really means to go all-in on your business.

Sadie’s mom and her friends were part of the counter culture in the 60s, sort of like Gypsys, and they raised their children collaboratively. Sadie had an urge for normalcy in her younger days. She was social and wanted to do everything normal kids did. After high school, Sadie went to LA to try to become an actor and went to college. During college, she got really into fitness and got a job at 24-hour fitness.

She did everything from sales to brand strategy at 24-hour fitness. She soon met her husband, Chris, at a super bowl party and he ended up working at 24-hour fitness as well. They bought a home in the bay area and had 2 children back to back. Sadie’s health was declining and didn’t feel good or alive inside. Sadie said pregnancy was the ultimate opportunity to realize intuition. She felt alive, connected, and happy. It reminded her of her roots. She had a moment of clarity where she thought ‘Maybe I’m not failing fitness maybe fitness is failing me.’

Chris and Sadie both felt lonely in the Bay Area and had a hard time finding belonging. There wasn’t a sense of purpose working at 24-hour fitness. Chris began coming up with different business ideas. One evening they put the kids to bed and Chris suggested that they sell everything and take a year off from working and move to Bend, Oregon. That idea morphed into let's sell the house and put every into a dream job and building something. With the money, they ended up moving to Portland, Oregon and rented a small house. They would have to live on the Bare minimum.

Sadie became enamored with Studio culture and the Barre method. It felt like a contemporary jazzercize. She decided to open a Barre studio knowing there were competitors but none in Portland, Oregon. At first, no one knew how to pronounce it or what it was. Sadie would spend time coming up with a routine and started to piece together the concepts that balance on the body and worked on opposing muscle groups.

She opened doors in August 2008, she sent out an email to the small community that was coming out to her free classes. 12 people showed up that night and paid for the class and instantly she knew her business was going to work. Sadie would do everything involved in the studio. The return on investment took about 16 months. Doing 19 classes was stressful for Sadie and she injured herself. That moment helped her to learn that to be healthy it's ok to hit pause. She had trained other instructors to take over.

Going in they had the model to franchise the studio and right away put up the opportunity for other people to open up their very own Barre3. They received interest right away. Most of the franchise partners were clients. The biggest challenge they ran into was taking the leap of faith and it was the same for their franchisees.

Sadie and her husband own 6 locations and they have 124 franchisees. They started getting press and hit mainstream. Sadie became a public figure and turned into a marketing machine. She felt like she began to lose herself in it again. It went against her intuition about not being a guru. She felt that it wasn’t her and that she was more results-oriented. Her former clients began to see through it as well and so she pulled back and let Barre3 speak for itself.

She put a pause on growing bigger and franchising. They started to entertain conversations to sell but instead wanted to protect what she had. She saw value in not growing and not selling. She didn’t want it to all be about growth and expansion. Barre3 is currently earning revenues of $218 million a year.

Our Takeaway

1. It's important to know when to hit pause. Every time a situation in Sadie’s career or business didn’t feel right, she pulled back and hit pause. Realizing when something isn’t working helps you take your business in a different direction and to new heights.

2. Her Barre routine was built for results and enjoyment. When clients or customers have a good experience with your product or service they come back and a lot of them will see value in getting involved with your business or brand.

3. Sadie had two kids and a stable job. She and her husband took a very calculated risk to live on the bare minimum and start something they both enjoyed. Sometimes you need to scale down or downsize to start a business. There is comfort in discomfort when you’re trying to build something you enjoy.