Jill Belland, Co-Founder of Barre Belle, Says There is “No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance”

By Marjan Asadullah

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In this weekly series, we profile entrepreneurs approaching the top of their game, and ask them how they got there. For two Canadian entrepreneurs and co-founders of Barre Belle, Jill Belland and Kristi Stuart, their passion, tenacity and a solid partnership is what keeps their business going.

The pursuit of success within any start-up (in Tech or not) starts with passion. And, starting any new business can be scary. Starting a new career can be even more frightening. Now if we take that and times by two, that may seem like a recipe for a long and daunting couple of years.

But for Jill Belland and Kristi Stuart, the challenge was exciting.

The two met through friends and bonded over dancing and other commonalities instantly. They were already each teaching their own ways of dance and method of exercise but wanted to create one that would work perfectly with even a limited knowledge and ability of exercise. That’s when Barre Belle was created.

The duo have a background in dance and decided to develop a program for anyone with no restrictions on  fitness levels or knowledge to create a more inclusive workout space. The difference in their method of training is that they include high-impact in most of their classes instead of traditional barre programs which are much lower in impact. When the duo saw that there was a gap in the market for turning dance into a properly executed exercise, it became a turning point for their business idea.

“When we saw a gap in the market and we knew we both had something to offer, we went for it,” says Belland.

In just three years, the duo successfully launched and scaled nationally with locations opening in Vancouver and Toronto within the past few months. Their company has also seen what Belland describes as a “cult following” with an 89% member retention rate which is 25% higher than industry standard.

The company also created a workout program called “the BelleBod” which aims at expanding the workout to spaces beyond the studio. For busy working women, mothers or students, the workout routine is accessible online and can be done anywhere.  

Although a non-tech start up, the business has faced a fair amount of challenges. Belland says day in and day out, the company faces hurtles.

“Fitness is a competitive market but that didn’t scare us and we didn’t want to be a trendy business that existed and went away a couple months later,” says Belland.

“We are a stand-alone company and when we saw there was room in the market for our product and service, we went for it. And while most start-up take months or a couple years to sustain itself, we saw noticeable growth in four-six months.”

Belland and Stuart are some of the few women who are leading a successful start-up as more female-owned business creates more jobs and higher survival rates than male-owned businesses, according to the Bank of Montreal’s event marked report.

Thought the working women have many commitments, including growing Barre Belle, both are glad they took up the challenge of pursuing the business, says Belland.

When asked about how, or if, they managed to have a balance in their lives, Belland says there is “no such thing as a work-life balance” and that both are doing their best to fulfill each of their commitments.

As for advising other young entrepreneurs, Belland says taking the risk is worth it if you are starting off with a solid idea, have a good partnership that is complementary to the business and to each other, and you are driven by passion. 

It is with those key factors that Bare Belle will be celebrating three years as a business this Valentine’s Day.