Emily Nelson with Barre3

Emily Nelson with Barre3

This week, we're sitting down with Emily Nelson. Emily is the owner of Barre3 in Mobile, a full-body workout studio that helps people to get fit and form a better mind-body connection. Listen to this episode to hear her story and how persistence is key in success.


Emily Nelson: I'm Emily Nelson and I'm the owner of barre3 Mobile.

Marcus Neto: Yay.

Emily Nelson: Hi.

Marcus Neto: Well, it's good to have you on the podcast, Emily.

Emily Nelson: Thank you. I'm so honored to be here. I've never done something like this before. I feel so special.

Marcus Neto: Yes, it's, a lot of people think that this is easy to sit in the chair that you're in. I think it's easier to sit in my chair because I get to ask all the questions and kind of control the conversation. But, one time where somebody actually made me sit in that chair and be asked the questions, it was very unnerving. So, for those of you that are listening, it's not an easy thing for these business owners to come out and, and kind of talk about themselves and their experiences and stuff. So, they deserve some credit there.

Marcus Neto: So, but tell us the story about Emily. I mean, where are you from? Where'd you go to school? High school and college. Just give us some backstory of who you are.

Emily Nelson: Okay. I am from Mobile. I was born and raised in Midtown. I'm a Midtown girl through and through. I'd never lived anywhere else. If I stay in Mobile.

Emily Nelson: I graduated from Murphy High School in 2009 and I went to the University of Southern Mississippi my freshman year to study Marine biology. Found out very quickly that I had no interest in the scientific name of oysters. And, so I was, "No, no, nevermind." I wasn't a fan of Hattiesburg. So, I came back home, did pre-nursing, a lot of biology there, figured that out quickly as well after a year. And, then I jumped into teaching. It was always something that I had in me. I always wanted, I always kind of had this leadership quality about me and I was the kid when I was little that had all the teddy bears on the bed and I'd read them books and I'd even go as far as to discipline the teddy bear.

Marcus Neto: That's great.

Emily Nelson: Yes. So-

Marcus Neto: Bad teddy!

Emily Nelson: I had behavior management under control from a very young age. So, I kind of fought the pool to be an educator just because I don't even know why. But, finally I just was, "Screw it. I'm going to do it." So, I graduated from the university of South Alabama with a degree in elementary education with a concentration in special education. Did a half a year teaching second grade, wasn't a huge fan of that grade level and then got a job teaching kindergarten at Dodge for a few years and that was the best thing ever. Loved kindergarten, loved the little ones. And so, and I'd go back to teaching at any time.

Marcus Neto: I just have a question, a random question for somebody that's spent a lot of time around a lot of little Petri dishes.

Emily Nelson: Yes, cool.

Marcus Neto: Did you ever get to the point where you didn't get sick every year when all the new things were going around?

Emily Nelson: The second semester of the very last year that I taught.

Marcus Neto: So, you had built up your-

Emily Nelson: I have this-

Marcus Neto: -immune system to the point where it didn't, yes.

Emily Nelson: I, Oh my gosh, I probably have contracted every non-lethal thing that you can get. I was so sick the first two years that I taught and it was a positive thing because I'm, "There's going to be a day where I'm never going to be sick again. I'm just heading for that day." And, the last semester that I taught from Christmas to summer time, it was just flawless.

Marcus Neto: That's funny.

Emily Nelson: And, even now, I mean I was sick last week and that's why I sound kind of weird. But, even now when I get things not as intense as it would be for the next person.

Marcus Neto: So, how many years was that, so you said the last semester of the last year that you taught?

Emily Nelson: Four. It took me four years to build a better immune system. And, I was a pretty dirty kid too, so I was exposed to a lot of germs as a child. And, that's saying something.

Marcus Neto: We're totally off topic. But that was just a personal note because I think anybody with kids, it's just kind of "Golly, do I ever get to the point where I'm not catching everything that's going around the school every year?" So, I just need, we need to get the kids to stop licking doorknobs is what we need to do.

Emily Nelson: Or using clothes as a Kleenex.

Marcus Neto: Yes, exactly.

Emily Nelson: That was my thing, all over. Ugh.

Marcus Neto: Yes. Yes. Okay. So, you went into early ed and, but go back in time for me. Go back to your first job and not your first job after college. I mean your first job.

Emily Nelson: My very first job, of all time?

Marcus Neto: Yes, your very first.

Emily Nelson: I was 15 and I worked at Old Dutch.

Marcus Neto: Cammies?

Emily Nelson: Yes. Which is, and I call it Old Dutch, but it's a rite of passage I feel for Midtown kids.

Marcus Neto: To work there?

Emily Nelson: Yes. I wasn't even, I mean 16 is technically working age, so I had to go get a permit or something. And, I loved to work. I had two jobs. After Cammy while I was a Cammie's I went and got another job still in high school at Atlanta Bread Company. That's where I learned my real skills. I worked at Atlanta bread for four years and I kept Cammies I think for two and then I just stuck with the one job. But, yes.

Marcus Neto: What was, I mean we go back to the Cammies though. I mean, what was a lesson that you learned, working there that you still carry with you to this day?

Emily Nelson: A bad attitude gets you nowhere. I was such a rebel. I had a terrible attitude, and it's cost me quite a few jobs actually. So, I've learned that the hard way.

Marcus Neto: I can see that. Yes, a good attitude is definitely going to, I mean, what's the saying? You attract more flies-

Emily Nelson: With honey than you do with vinegar.

Marcus Neto: Yes. With honey versus vinegar. So, yes. Well, tell us how you started Barre, is it barre3?

Emily Nelson: barre3.

Marcus Neto: barre3, okay. So, how did you get started in that?

Emily Nelson: So, when I was at Dodge teaching, I had a colleague of mine, her name is Emily also. I've always been an active person. I really enjoy the challenges of fitness. So, she was, "Oh, you're into working out too. That's so cool." Because, I was running and that's basically what I did. And, she was, "You need to come try this. It's like it's all women. It's a group fitness, dah, dah, dah, dah." And, just, it sounded so unappealing to me because I like females, but I connect a little bit better at the time I connected better with guys. I had always had guy friends. I love my husband's friends. I don't know what it was. I think it's because I had a sister and we were just fighting all the time.

Emily Nelson: And, so I was the idea of going and working out in a room full of women, not terrified me because it was so intimidating for everybody to be looking at me like that. Which that's not the case actually. That's just what I thought. So, she kept begging me and literally the only reason I went the first time was just-

Marcus Neto: To shut her up.

Emily Nelson: -to make her stop asking me. I was, "Oh my God!"

Marcus Neto: Stop asking me, I don't want to do it!

Emily Nelson: I mean she's the reason I got into this whole thing. So, I'm obviously grateful. I went to my first class, kept my eyes down the whole time, walked in and was, "Hey, how you doing? Yes, I'm Emily." Walked in was basically in the corner. If I could have turned around and worked out in the corner I would have, because it's mirrors everywhere. Started the workout and I'm telling you, I have been obsessed ever since. It was the best thing I have ever, it's just the best class I've ever taken and I felt so balanced when I left. And, I feel that's really hard to find in a fitness genre. I felt I worked every single muscle of my body. I got the cardio, I got the strength conditioning, I got the mindfulness and I just felt like a different person. And then I became obsessed and I went every day. And, then I even went through a burnout period because I had gone so much. But yeah, I, I really loved it. I really surprised myself. I learned a lot about myself that day.

Marcus Neto: And, so at some point in time you decided that you wanted to go and start your own location?

Emily Nelson: Yes, that sounds it kind of is that casual because I begged to the owner at the time.

Marcus Neto: Okay, I love this so much I'm just going to go do it all the time.

Emily Nelson: So, that's kind of how I approach a lot of things that are actually really challenging because I would psych myself out if I didn't. I begged the owner at the time I was, "I need to be something more. I was like can I wash towels? Can I clean the mirrors just to be part of this, outside of just being a client." So, she was, "We have a front desk opening."

Emily Nelson: Solid. Did it, cool. Became front desk personnel, play lounge. Did that for a year. Still doing teaching because I love having a second job. I think it just keeps me busy cause if I'm not always busy then I'm just a menace to society. It gets bad. I have to have something to do.

Marcus Neto: She's self-aware folks.

Emily Nelson: I am very self aware and that's one of the perks of being a business owner you learn about yourself. But, I was, "I want to be an instructor." And, one of the things I love about the class is that we moved to the beat of the music, but not in a way that would be, I guess, restrictive for someone who doesn't know music. So, we use, there's heavy bass, I won't go as far to say that we use dubstep, but we move on the downbeat. So, when it gets really hard, the instructor plans the postures to go around when the music is going to explode and that's when you're doing your hardest thing. So, I was, "I love music. I want to be an instructor. I'm a natural born leader. I'm already a teacher. I can do this." So, I asked the owner again, "Can I be an instructor?" She said no. And, I just kept asking because I wanted to do it politely and in the right time.

Emily Nelson: So, eventually she said yes. And, before I even auditioned, I found out the dates for the audition, booked the travel book, the hotel, which was not standard because usually she did it for the person going. But, I just took the initiative and I was, "I want to do this." So, I did it myself and I was ready for the audition. I was, "I'm going to pass the first time." And, I'm not an overly confident person, but I just wanted it so bad. I was, "I've got this." Well, I've totally failed it. Totally failed the audition, but my ego wasn't hurt. I was, "I'm going to keep going." Did it again passed. Thank God. Because, I couldn't get refunds on any of the things I booked. And, then before I went to the audition, I called home or emailed just a general email, the home office in Portland, Oregon because that's where barre3 is based out of. And, I said, "I really want to own a studio."

Emily Nelson: And, it was so casual the way I did it. Because, I wanted to. And, then I was, "I'll never own a studio. It's fine. I'm 25 years old. What do I know?" They actually emailed me back and they're, "The owner of the one that you go to is actually selling." And, it was really quiet at the time cause she had just gotten into the early stages of it. She was going through a lot in her life and she was ready to just move on and I didn't know this. So, I was, "Wow, okay." And, then training was that next week and they scheduled a meeting with me. And, one of the beautiful things about barre3 is it's not a public company.

Emily Nelson: It's still owned and operated by the original founders, Chris and Sadie Lincoln. So, I went to home office, interviewed, met everybody, which was super cool and endearing and organic. Met everybody, passed their owner interview I guess, and then got home and Robin called me, the owner at the time and was, "Let's chat." Two months later we signed papers and scrounged up some money and here we are.

Marcus Neto: That is really cool.

Emily Nelson: Yes. And, I need to shout out to my husband, my then fiance, but my husband Scott really played a huge part, 75% part and pushing me forward and getting this secured.

Marcus Neto: No, I mean, but it just goes to show there's no straight path to business ownership. So, I mean you just went thinking, "I'm just going to be an instructor." But, you went by way of just wanting to take the classes, working the front desk, whatever. And, then before you know it, you're the proverbial dog that's caught the bumper.

Emily Nelson: Yes.

Marcus Neto: And, it's okay.

Emily Nelson: Caught the car, I don't know what to do with it.

Marcus Neto: Now what do with it? I guess I have some fun. Now, do you remember that? I guess you, you do kind of remember the first, maybe the first, I don't know if this really even applies, so I'm going to ask the question, but it may not apply. It's just, do you remember the first time that you made a sale or that you taught a class or something along those lines that you thought, "Man, there's really something to this." But, I think your epiphany happened before that when you were actually taking the classes. Is that accurate?

Emily Nelson: Yes, definitely before, and I won't say that barre3 is perfect, but it's the closest thing I could find to just being what I needed in my life at that time and still is what I need. It was lots of epiphanies actually about various things while I was in a barre3 class.

Marcus Neto: I mean, I would completely agree with you that business ownership shines a light on yourself. And, if you don't figure it out on yourself, then those people that either frequent in your business or work for you will often times tell you what you don't know about yourself. So-

Emily Nelson: Absolutely, I agree.

Marcus Neto: Now, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?

Emily Nelson: It's okay not to know things.

Marcus Neto: Okay. Want to expand on that or?

Emily Nelson: Yes, I didn't know anything. When I first bought the business. I was a kindergarten teacher. What did I know? I mean, I had the leadership qualities. I had my husband, he's been in corporate America for 20 years. He's led so many different teams, lots of different personalities. So, I knew I had him by my side to kind of guide me through it. And, by it I mean everything. I just didn't know anything. I mean, I didn't, I didn't know how to do taxes. I didn't know how to do payroll. I didn't know how to deal with an employee that was having a difficult situation. And, I hate to say the word deal with, but handle a difficult situation. So, I had to Google a lot. And, luckily in barre3, being a franchise owner with barre3, they're so supportive. They have a lot of material, a lot of FAQs and things like that. So, I could fall back on that when I needed something.

Marcus Neto: I oftentimes tell people that knowing everything isn't a prerequisite to starting a business. Because oftentimes if you knew everything, you wouldn't start a business.

Emily Nelson: Absolutely. That's genius because, now there's times I've looked back and I was, "I wish I had known this six months ago."

Marcus Neto: You actually don't, because if you did, you wouldn't have been here.

Emily Nelson: I wouldn't be here.

Marcus Neto: You wouldn't have done this, because it really is. There's a lot. I mean, you keep, and I keep going back to that. I don't know why, maybe it's just the day that I'm having or something. But, this idea of coming to understand yourself a lot more by just through owning a business but, also just all the things that you're talking about, whether it's taxes or insurance or lease rates or all this stuff.

Marcus Neto: It's after being in business for over a decade, I understand a lot of things that there's just no way I could have known this stuff beforehand. But, it's not, again, it wasn't a prerequisite. The only thing that I needed was a computer and a desk and an extra bedroom upstairs, that's how I got started. So, yes, anyway.

Marcus Neto: Now, if you look to the business world, is there one person that maybe motivates you or that you look to that you're kind of, "Yes, that person really has it together." And, it's not a local business, I'm saying the larger business world.

Emily Nelson: I don't know. There's not one single person where I look at them and say, "This is the person I'm going to follow and pull my."

Marcus Neto: Inspiration from?

Emily Nelson: Yes. I think that I pull my inspiration from my team and from my clients because I want to offer the most remarkable thing that I can to them. No, I mean, I don't aspire to, I mean, I have aspirations, but there's no pinnacle of my existence that I'm trying to reach right now. So, there's no one person that I'm following to say "I want to be like them."

Marcus Neto: The great thing about these questions is there's no right or wrong answer. So, I mean, that's a perfect example. So, are there any books, podcasts, people or organizations, so I'll go through those again. Books, podcasts, people or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward?

Emily Nelson: Yes. Build This Empire is a really great podcast, especially for people in the fitness industry. Boutique fitness in particular. That's a great one. I like Bernay Brown a lot. She speaks on vulnerability quite often and that's who you are as a person. When you become a business owner, you make yourself completely vulnerable, not only to your clients, but to the world and to yourself. I am reading a book right now, called Atomic Habits, no idea who the author is. I think his name is Michael something. But, I am reading that and that is pretty cool. It's about adjusting your habits and changing your life. And, that's interesting. Interesting. Yes.

Marcus Neto: Now, it's changing habits is one of the most difficult things that you can do. But, oftentimes I think they say that you can really only focus on one or two things at any given time. Your brain can only really impact a change in your life, in one or two things. So what's the most important thing that you've learned about running a business?

Emily Nelson: I just thought about this the other day, but it changed. It changes monthly. The most important thing.

Marcus Neto: No idea what you're talking about. None of my ideas change.

Emily Nelson: Well, let me think. I would think that the most important thing about running a business would be to get your emotions under control. Don't lead with emotion. And, I don't even want to go as far as saying there's a certain amount, there's an appropriate amount of intuition that you should follow, but you really have to kind of look at things from an outsider's perspective without emotion. And, you have, and I had to learn that I did everything through emotion. I'd let it lead me around for years and then to a fault.

Marcus Neto: There's a rationalization that comes from being a business owner that you actually have to kind of think things through outside of yourself. Like, what does this mean without that emotional side that you're thinking of. You don't want to completely disassociate that though.

Emily Nelson: No, you don't want to be a robot.

Marcus Neto: Yes, you want there to be some feeling or some empathy or some level of understanding that goes along with that.

Emily Nelson: You have to find a perfect combination for each individual situation. So, I have tried, there's a lot of instances that I look back on and I'm just, "Ooh," because I used emotion when I shouldn't have and I had to go repair that situation. But, yes, you have to step back and say and give yourself time and it's okay to wait. I used to think "I got to answer this right now. I need to handle this situation right as it happens." But, no, as you have the luxury of waiting a day, you don't have to do it right then. And, that buying that time for yourself could be you could make or break your next step.

Marcus Neto: And, so oftentimes in today's immediate world, because we have text messages and email and all these things. I mean we do, we feel we have to operate at that frequency all the time.

Emily Nelson: That can be so damaging. And, I actually was driven by email and texts. I never wanted to make a phone call because I was just, it made me so nervous and I never wanted to do anything face to face because I grew up in a society that always did everything, not always did. That's generalizations. But.

Marcus Neto: Still interacting through applications.

Emily Nelson: Primarily using technology. And, so one of the things my husband kept telling me, he's, "You've got to stop trying to text everybody an email and correspond that way." He's, "Pick up the phone or go see them in person." And, that really helped me to be a little better about emotions because when you're standing face to face or you're using a tone of voice, it's makes so much more of an impression. So, you kind of have to be careful, you know what I mean?

Marcus Neto: No, I totally get what you're saying. So, it's not just the tone, but it's also everything about how you carry yourself in that moment as well.

Emily Nelson: Right.

Marcus Neto: So, how you're approaching somebody, are you being aggressive? Are you shaking your finger and wagging it in their face or are you really kind of just like chill and relaxed about it and having just, "Hey, we really kind of need to discuss this" and walk through it.

Marcus Neto: I can't tell you the number of times where emails seems to be making the conversation fall apart and picking up a phone, has solved it in 30 seconds or 60 seconds. And, I think some oftentimes, and we're just so quick to just rely on technology. But, the reality is that we're meant to communicate as we are right now face to face in person through voice and it, there's just not, there are times where that's just a necessity. You have to do that.

Emily Nelson: Yes. And, I think about it this way too. You never know what that person is going through in the moment that you decided to send that email or text so they could read what you've sent and you could've sent it at your happiest moment. It could be a really positive thing and they read it the wrong way and then it's misconstrued in this whole mess follows.

Marcus Neto: Communication takes them, because I took Communications in college, so they say it takes a transmitter and a receiver and if either one of those, there's a lot of stuff that can happen in that conversation.

Marcus Neto: How do you like to unwind?

Emily Nelson: Exercise. Seriously, exercise. I love to listen to music.

Marcus Neto: What do you like to listen to?

Emily Nelson: I like the Chili Peppers. I really, really have gotten into eighties metal lately. I love Black Sabbath. Ozzy. I like Metallica a lot. Yes, it's so weird because I never, I don't know, I like Master of Puppets. Is it Master of Puppets? Did I get that right? I would second guess myself when I'm talking about it because I'm just new to this.

Marcus Neto: The genre.

Emily Nelson: Yes. I like eighties metal and I like, one of my favorite songs is War Pigs and I like the song Panama by Van Halen. And, then when I am having a bad day, that's the song I play and I don't know.

Marcus Neto: So, I asked this question to my girlfriend the other day. I said, "If there's one song that you want to put on and roll the windows down and just like makes you want to just like completely jam out and sing at the top of your lungs. What is that song for you?"

Emily Nelson: Me?

Marcus Neto: Yes.

Emily Nelson: It's War Pigs.

Marcus Neto: War Pigs?

Emily Nelson: Yes. And, it's such a politically charged song too. It's not positive. It's all, I mean, and everybody, it's so funny, I could go on an Ozzy rant, but everybody thinks he's so, I don't know his views personally on religion, but everybody thinks he's so anti.

Marcus Neto: Well, they thought the same thing about pastor Alice Cooper as well. So, but yes, nobody knows.

Emily Nelson: He speaks about God and angels and all this other stuff and the good versus evil and a lot of his songs. And, so I kind of dig that. But, I don't know. War Pigs.

Marcus Neto: Yes. That's cool. That is very cool. Okay, so tell people where they can find out more about the classes and what barre3 has to offer and stuff like that.

Emily Nelson: We have a website. We also have a Facebook, Instagram. You just Google barre3 Mobile.

Marcus Neto: And, it'll pop up?

Emily Nelson: Yes, it'll pop up. You can follow us on Instagram. Yes. We try to stay active on both of those platforms. We also have a new texting thing that we're doing now so you can text our number that's on any of our websites to find out more information cause everybody likes to text.

Marcus Neto: Yes.

Emily Nelson: Or just give us a call or stop by.

Marcus Neto: Okay, so I'm going to throw, and this is not one that I normally ask people, but you're in the fitness industry and this is probably going to be hitting towards either the end of the year or the first of the year. Is that correct? I'm looking at Evelyn to try and get an audible on that. What are some things that people need to be thinking about as everybody's making the New Year's resolution of, "Oh I want to lose the five, 10, 25, 35 pounds." What are some tips that you would give them?

Emily Nelson: First I'd tell them that you have to wait till the new year.

Marcus Neto: Correct.

Emily Nelson: There's no rule that says you need to wait to start on a Monday or the new year or the first of the month.

Marcus Neto: Start now.

Emily Nelson: A lot of people will wait and say, "Let me see how much damage I can do from now until the first of the year. Then I'll straighten everything up." No, just start. And, do you mean that? Are you asking me as far as a business, like what do we have to offer kind of thing?

Marcus Neto: Fitness. Just in fitness in general. They may not be barre3, but, if they're listening to this and it comes January one and they're, "No, I'm going to do it this year." Which I think is bomb, I think you need to start, like you're saying right now, change your life immediately.

Emily Nelson: Just change your life. I would say don't try to do everything at once because if we're at a hundred percent capacity, I think shooting for 100% every single day is completely unrealistic. I would say start with one workout a week. Whatever it is you're doing right now, when you decide to start, increase whatever you're doing by 10% each week. Because, I read once somewhere that the fastest runners in the world increased their speed by 10% weekly, monthly, things like that. And, so, say for instance, you walk five minutes a day, increase that by five by 10% that next week and then continue on.

Emily Nelson: So, don't do the diet, don't do the working out five days a week and "I'm going to work out for an hour" because you're probably going to do it for one day and then it's unrealistic and you're going to fall off the wagon almost immediately.

Marcus Neto: Or you'll do it for a month.

Emily Nelson: Or a month, yes.

Marcus Neto: But, you'll still fall. And, I mean, I've been consistently working out now for probably a decade I think if I go back and look. And, it's funny because every January it's okay, you've got to wait for the machines that you want it gets a little more crowded and-

Emily Nelson: Why are you just sitting there?

Marcus Neto: Why are you just sitting there, four minutes between sets is not an acceptable amount of time. And, so but then come end of January it's, "Okay, now we're back to normal again."

Emily Nelson: People try to do too much and one of the things I love about barre3 is that we're trying to redefine what success in fitness means. We kind of have dubbed ourselves a rebel of the fitness industry because we're not trying to tell people that you need to change to be successful within your fitness, within that realm, just start with one day, one hour, one class, and then see what happens. Don't force yourself to do something. You're going from zero to a hundred. Just go to zero to one.

Marcus Neto: Oh, that's pretty cool. All right. Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?

Emily Nelson: I would just say that if you've never tried a barre class, it's not what you think. I can guarantee you it's not what you think. So, if you want to try it, you should come by and see us. It's the best thing ever.

Marcus Neto: I'm going to say just to clarify, it is mostly women, correct?

Emily Nelson: It is mostly women. We have a couple of men. We definitely don't turn away men, but, we market to women. That's just who we are as a business. But, there's actually a couple of owners that are men, co owners that are men. Yes. So, yes.

Marcus Neto: Very cool. Well, Emily, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking with you.

Emily Nelson: Thanks for having me.

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