HOW TO START A POLE FITNESS STUDIO
Welcome to the GrayHawk DJC podcast. In today’s podcast, we talk with Teresa Saffold, owner of Power Bar Women’s Fitness in Dallas, Texas to hear her story on how she started her business. We hope you enjoy the podcast.
David: Hey, Teresa.
Teresa: Hey, David.
David: How you doing?
Teresa: I’m good.
David: Thank you so much for doing the show.
Teresa: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
David: Sure. I’ve actually known you for a little bit because you’ve participated in our past events.
David: Just to start off, I guess you’re a pet lover, right?
Teresa: Yes, very much so.
David: How many dogs or cats do you have?
Teresa: Well, I have a dog.
Teresa: And new acquired cat, which I’ve never had before. So it’s been a journey getting to know the cat world.
David: Okay. Well, thank you for taking part in our charity events in the past. For anyone who’s watching, Teresa and her team have always come out and supported our fundraising events for a local pet shelter here in town called Operation Kindness. And that’s how I met you. So thank you for all of that.
David: How about we start off and you tell us about where you’re from, how you got started, so people can get to know you a little bit.
Teresa: Yeah, so I am from a little all over. I was born and grew up, until about 10 or 11 years old, in California and then we moved to Virginia Beach. So from coast to coast. And I did all of my like normal just regular school there, graduated high school and then I left and came here to Dallas. I came to Dallas 2007.
David: Okay. What brought you to Dallas?
Teresa: Economics. Like, I think it was just a better place to be, to grow. I was 23 at the time and when I moved here, like within one month, I got back into college. I bought a house and I got a higher paying job. So Dallas has a lot to offer. So yeah, I moved out here.
David: All right.
Teresa: Yeah. And that’s where I was working in banking. I had my professional career in banking.
David: So you had a real nine-to-five job.
David: Okay. And you didn’t like that or what made you leave?
Teresa: So when I went to school, I went for criminal justice and I was thinking I wanted to be a social worker. And I was like, no, I don’t want to be a social worker. But then, I also had this banking career. Like, all this experience from retail banking which turned into sales in the banking industry. So I was like, I’m going to merge these two worlds together and my ultimate goal was to be a fraud analyst.
Teresa: So when I got there, I realized, this is it? This is not necessarily what I thought it would be. And then, I also started to realize how small the top gets and how less opportunity there is to get more, you know? So I started looking in entrepreneurship, which has always been a passion of mine. I’ve just been super scared about it.
David: So did something happen that made you take that next step?
Teresa: Yeah, so I was a banker by day and a pole dancer by night, meaning, just as a student. Because it always gave me that creative outlet. And I knew as soon as I took a few classes that I, at least, wanted to teach it.
Teresa: And I still had that entrepreneur bug from as a child, but I just never knew, like, what I wanted to do. So after years of teaching and managing the studio, I realized, one day, this is going to be the pathway for my entrepreneurship. The studio that I was at, the owner at the time, she had developed more of a passion for her education side. So I was managing it and she wasn’t in the country. So from that, I was like, I’m gonna go and start my own. She was a real big mentor to me. She eventually sold me the company and helped me for a year with mentorship and that’s where I went to entrepreneurship. So that’s what happened.
David: As soon as that happened, did you quit your banking job?
Teresa: Well, at first…
David: Or did you continue?
Teresa: it wasn’t my plan. Okay, what happened was, I felt like, okay, I will do my banking because I felt safe, right? I never understood how people can run a business and just rely on their business for a paycheck. I felt like I needed somebody to give me a check every two weeks, right? And so I was, like, I’m just gonna do this on the side. It would just be a little side business. And I just started to realize that, hey, I really like this and being at this job, I can’t be there for my clients that are calling and emailing. So I talked to my family and prayed about it and I got a lot of support and I took the leap and just quit.
David: How’d that make you feel?
Teresa: I was scared. Like, I remember the night I put my two weeks in. I laid in bed. I was, like, what did I do? It was scary, yeah.
David: And that decision to put your two weeks in, was it just really quick? Did you wait a long time for it? Like, what was the spark that made you?
Teresa: I remember literally wanting to just work on my business. And I was, like, that’s not fair to my job. My morals were saying that’s not right, you know? I need to be all in. I’m a very spiritual person. I love the Lord. So I feel when God wants you to do something, he will make things very uncomfortable for you until he pushes you out to where you need to be. I was like, if I’m sitting here working on my business, then they’re probably gonna find out, someone is gonna tell on me, and then I’ll get fired. So that’s kind of how the nest started to get a little ruffled. And I was, like, I gotta get out of here.
David: So you’ve quit your job. What’s that first year like?
Teresa: It was fun. It was very fun. I couldn’t wait to get to year two, because I felt like when I get to year two, I’ll have a comparison year. But the first year was really fun. Like, just delving into a lot of education and learning. Talking to the clients and to the staff. I don’t even remember it being scary because I was just all in.
David: Was it hard to pay the bills? How were the clients? Were they coming in? Were you happy with where you were financially?
Teresa: I guess so. When I first acquired the business, it was like a sublease situation. So I really kind of wasn’t on my own.
Teresa: And then, like six months into it, I was, like, I’m going all in. I’m going on my own and that was scary for me. That was so scary. Okay, now this is me on the lease. But clients did trickle in. And just by taking care of clients, they told other people. I was really busy, like, just trying to figure different things out, to bring folks in. That’s really what year one was like. But I don’t remember being scared. I do remember consistently seeing increase.
David: I see. Well, that’s good.
David: How did you raise the money to get that first round of funding when you bought the business?
Teresa: Ooh, I did what probably no financial advisor would ever recommend. I just cashed out my 401k. That’s really what I did.
David: Wow. So you were all in.
Teresa: I was all in. It was make it or go back to, like, working land. So I was all in.
David: Wow, that’s awesome. That’s inspirational. I mean, yeah, it’s awesome. So tell us about the pole dancing fitness business. I’m sure a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions or some biases about it. Give us your, you know, what you’ve experienced and what it is actually.
Teresa: So definitely. I think it’s come around way more than it was when I first started. I remember even when I first started, like I said, I was a student and I was in the corporate world and they were like pole dancing? What’s that? And you kind of lived in fear that your job would find out, right? It’s not like that anymore, at least for the majority. But you can approach it in different ways, you know? There is your exotic dancer style. There is also a true fitness competitive market. Our company Power Bar Women’s Fitness likes to approach it from a lifestyle community market, right? It’s another platform for fitness. It’s total body. I mean, you get everything from strength training to cardio, flexibility and it’s also a place where you can allow your creativity to just run wild. So that’s the way we approach it, as a community, as a group fitness. It’s also low impact and we give people programs to go through and we treat it just as a part of your daily life for physical fitness.
David: What’s the type of program you guys have?
Teresa: The program specifically is called Bar Level Series. We run it from beginner to intermediary to advance. It’s a four week session and it encompasses your traditional workout to make sure that you’re strong enough for what you’re going to learn as well as developing the muscles to support your pole journey. Then, we break it out into a flexibility session because you need that limberness to be able to move your body in certain ways. We also teach pole tricks for that level and then we tie them all together in choreography to help with the cardio endurance and also your ability to have muscle endurance.
David: Some of the videos I’ve seen…to do some of those tricks, they’re incredibly strong. Like, I don’t understand how these folks can do that. I saw a lady, she’s just grabbing it, I think with one arm, and she’s stepping up the pole. How’s that possible?
Teresa: Yeah, so it’s definitely a challenge and it’s definitely something you work towards. It’s a lot of muscle engagement and, normally, we don’t have that. Like, when we wake up, our muscles are just trained to work a certain way. And we don’t have to think about how we’re using our muscles. Where pole is different because you’re learning how to be kind of one with your muscle and just let your muscles work in a way that you’re trying to get them to go, okay? So it’s different. That to me is the struggle in a student’s session. Once we get past that point, then they start learning and then it’s just training from there.
David: How much bias do you still see from the exotic part to like the fitness part? Do you still get a lot of pushback or do people kind of give you the crooked eye or anything like that?
Teresa: I don’t think so at least not to me, in my face. I don’t know. I mean, I’m always definitely the hottest topic in the room, you know? If it’s like a business mixer or a networking event, it’s always, oh pole dancing, and they just want to learn so much about the industry, right? But I wouldn’t say that it’s like, oh you don’t belong in here, get out, you know? I think that with our culture now and just like the societal norms, I just think that’s kind of not as much.
David: Now give us a sense of what your day-to-day week is like? Like, so I know we’re here on a Sunday morning. There’s no one here. Would you normally be here kind of doing anything…how’s the unglamorous part of it?
Teresa: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily be on site. I do a lot of the background parts of the business. We do have a whole team here. We do have classes every day. It just really depends. I mean, you can find me everywhere as a CEO. I’m like in everything and it just depends on, like, what we got going on. If we have events coming up. If you know there’s training that needs to be done. You know, we have those different things typically on Sundays. As of now, I run the Polepreneur course and that’s that program designed to teach people how to be their own pole boss. That’s really the next steps that I’ve taken in my business. When I started, I went from teaching and being the face, like every single day, and, you know, training the team and doing everything, sweeping the floors, cleaning the mirrors, doing marketing, and all of that. Now, I have a good team, a good solid team. So we all pitch in those efforts and it gives me the opportunity to spend more time on actually growing those who are interested in making this a career.
David: Okay. Tell us more about Polepreneur.
Teresa: Yeah. So as you know, pole is fairly new as far as the industry is concerned. So there’s a lot of interest, not as an exotic dancer, for those that want to add this as an additional discipline in their fitness resume. They get to a place in their journey with pole where it’s like, you know, this is what I love. I love the confidence it’s given me and I want to pour that back into someone else. That’s the time where we’ll take people in and we will train them. Not just how to teach a trick but how to reach people in a way that actually gives them success, how to build community, how to find your target market, and, just overall, how to carry yourself as a pole professional to get results for your client and for you.
David: Okay. And these are independent contractors? Do they go out and set up their own studios?
Teresa: Some can definitely do that. Some, like I said, just want to kind of add that to their already fitness resume. Some do come on board as coaches for Power Bar Women’s Fitness or as a pole party hostess for the party side that I run. So it just kind of depends.
David: Has it been very successful? Do you get a lot of people asking for this?
Teresa: Yes. It’s definitely been successful. I started this actually in Covid and that’s really where it came from. During Covid, obviously, I felt like this is probably a big eye-opener for a lot of folks where they’re like, hey, I could use a second income. So I started that, and since then, I’ve trained over 20 people. So I don’t overstuff those courses simply because I want people to actually get that individualized attention. And like I said, it’s a four week session.
David: So do you like the mentoring part better or running the business better?
Teresa: I haven’t quite yet decided. I’m a business fanatic. I just love the game of business. I love the challenges and just really dominating in what you do. That’s really what I love about business.
David: Okay. So you brought up Covid and that’s the big topic of the country. We’re kind of coming out of it now. But as a small company, how was Covid like? How did you get through it?
Teresa: So that’s the thing about being an artist that has a paid hobby and being a business owner. When you’re an artist and you’re doing something for a paid hobby, a lot of the times, when it’s time to put on your business suit, right, you kind of don’t know what to do. So when Covid happened, because I love the business side of it and I study a lot of business leaders, I understood even before that happened that there are times in your business that you have to be able to pivot and reinvent, to be able to survive and you have to anticipate things. So I was able to really anticipate the journey ahead. Once you know that started happening, even before we got shut down, I was like, “Oh, okay, we need to do this”. So I came up with some online classes and we did a lot of that stuff and then the Polepreneur course.
David: So how bad was Covid for you? Did you come close to having to shut down?
Teresa: No. I guess the events and the clients, they kind of dropped off a little bit. It was shocking though, even for me, because the clients, they were like, “We are ready to get back in”. I remember it was March 16th that I pulled the plug and I was like, we’re gonna shut classes down. And I remember getting like some backlash from that. And that was even before the Governor mandated the shutdown. I did it just as an abundance of caution and I remember getting some backlash about that because people really wanted to just come to the studio. So our market, we have some very loyal pole dancers. So yeah, they were really happy to come back in.
David: So during the shutdown, how long was that for by the way?
Teresa: I want to say two to three months, maybe.
David: And what were you doing during the shutdown?
Teresa: Online classes and the Polepreneur course.
David: Okay. So they were still coming to the online classes. Do they have the equipment at home?
Teresa: We did a lot of non-pole classes. So there’s a lot more than just the pole itself, you know. There are other styles of dance that we do that develop even your movement on the pole. So we use that time to concentrate on that and then we did pole classes for those that do have poles at home. So during that time, I remember seeing a news article about how poles were just selling off the shelves because people were locked in their house. Like, you couldn’t get baking supplies and you couldn’t get a pole.
David: So of the clients, how many do you think have poles in their houses?
Teresa: It’s still a growing market for the poles. I couldn’t put a number on that but if I had to guess, I’d say maybe 30 percent.
David: Oh, wow.
Teresa: Yeah, there are some challenges when it comes to poles in the house.
David: So your instructors and you guys were literally on camera and they were following along at home?
David: So what are some other challenges you had to face or did it pretty much go smoothly for you during the last year?
Teresa: I can’t say that it was a challenge. I can’t say that it was something that I felt like we weren’t gonna be able to get through. I feel that we treated people really good in our community. So I felt like they understood.
David: Are things picking back up now?
Teresa: I guess, yeah. Yes, we’re definitely picking back up.
David: I see. And what do you see for Power Bar in the next year or two?
Teresa: So with Power Bar, we’re definitely getting back out into the community, as the community opens back up. We’re doing more collaborations and being a partner in business and giving more opportunity for those that want to come in and have a side job doing what they love.
David: More studios?
Teresa: I think so.
David: Because you have two right now, right? You have four. Wait. So I know of the one in Arlington.
David: And then here in Dallas.
Teresa: Well, we have these two in Dallas and then we have Arlington and Haltom City, which is our Fort Worth market.
David: Oh wow. So are you going back and forth the whole time?
Teresa: No. We have a really good solid leadership team and they are the ones that take care of things.
David: Okay. Any Power Bars outside of DFW one day?
David: So you’re thinking that big?
Teresa: Yes, definitely national. I do have some prospects but I don’t have anything solid right now. So I can’t reveal any secrets.
David: Let’s talk about you then. What are you into? Tell us about yourself. What are your hobbies or anything like that?
Teresa: So I am a wife and a mother. I’ve been married for 13 years. We always laugh because I’m like the friend that will forget your birthday. I’m just bad at dates. I’m sorry. But yeah, so we’ve been together and married for about 13 years and we have two teenagers. My daughter is into basketball. She’s a basketball player and pretty heavy in that world. So a lot of supporting her and her games. My son is budding into his athleticism. He’s getting ready to turn 12. So right now he’s doing some boxing and MMA stuff. So definitely supporting him in that. Outside of the company, I spend a lot of time just with family. I’m adventurous. So I love comedy shows or I like to go walking when it’s nice outside. But other than that, I’m pretty easygoing.
David: So what are some of the challenges of being a mom and then being a businesswoman? Do they conflict a lot or no?
Teresa: I have been blessed with a really strong family. My husband helps tremendously in the business. My daughter has now become an employee. So I’m her first job for her. So my son is thinking like, “What can I do”? So, I mean, we’re a solid family with a lot of support. When we support each other’s initiatives I don’t have that tug of war with, well, you’re spending too much time with this and you’re that. I try to make sure that I’m conscious about giving time to my family.
David: Would you encourage your kids to start their own businesses one day or would you tell them to go into the workforce?
Teresa: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the workforce. I think it’s good if you do it with a goal in mind. But I do feel working in the workforce has its pros and it also has its cons. I think if you have big visions, you’ll find more of the cons on that side. So, in the interim, if you don’t really know what you want to do, I think the workforce is a beautiful place to be, so you can find out whether or not this is something you want to invest everything into. Because when you run a business, you have to be all in. It’s not, I don’t like this anymore, I quit, here’s my two weeks. It’s, you have to be all in. So I would prefer them to have their own business and I think both of them are set on that. When I talk to them and ask them they’re like, “No I want to own my own business, and I don’t want to work for somebody”. And I think it’s because they like the freedom that it brings them.
David: So a lot of people that I’ve come across who want to start their own company, it’s that final step where they’re all in that gets to them. What advice do you have for them to take that next step? Because obviously they’re scared. If they have family or people that they have to support, they don’t have that security of that two-week paycheck. What’s your advice on how to mentally get over that and just take that leap of faith?
Teresa: One thing that’s always been comforting to me is there’s never a perfect time. And I think, if you really think about it, being a business owner is about overcoming challenges. It is figuring things out. And I think that if you can’t figure that first step out and you’re super scared to do that, then you’ll be very indecisive as a business owner to figure things. You to have to say, “I am two thousand percent all in”. Like failure is not an option. But I think to get to that point, you have to know what you’re getting into. You have to know the industry well enough, have the skill sets, and have the capital. If you don’t, then hire those that do have the skill sets and know that I’m doing it for the right reason because I don’t care what business you run, it gets hard. Even if you open up your own business and you take your own entrepreneurship journey and you are successful, well, then people are going to start coming at you with rules and regulations and legal hurdles. It’s hard. So you have to say, I’m in it for the right reasons and I’m willing to do this to the very end. I think when you get solid on that, and you realize that you’ll do whatever it takes, I think that should be able to get you over that hurdle. But I definitely think it’s gonna be a time where you’re just gonna have to pull the trigger on it.
David: What do you say to people that say, “Well she can say this because she’s made it”?
Teresa: I don’t think that anybody you see has made it. I think you make it every day and I think we saw that with Covid. You had businesses that you thought were just super successful and one month into Covid, and they’re out of business. And it’s because that’s the real life of an entrepreneur. You don’t just make it and you’re done. It’s not about getting on top. It’s about staying on top. So it’s a make-it-every-day thing. So it’s not like, oh, once I cross that line, I can sit down and just relax forever. So those same business owners that you see as successful, they’re battling to make it to the next step. So you might be battling to make the first step but we’re battling to make the next steps. You find yourself thinking about what to do next all the time, throughout the day. I definitely do it very frequently. You always have to be progressing and that’s just the nature of who we are as a company. We’re about growth and progression. I think you also have to spend time in implementation. So I think you got to make sure you got that balance.
David: So it seems what Power Bar does really well is, it creates this sense of community.
Teresa: Yes. People kind of want to be a part of this.
David: How did you cultivate that or what advice do you give people to do that?
Teresa: I’ll tell you real quick story on that. When I was growing up, I had like a really bad skin condition. So it stopped me from wanting to do things like play basketball or whatever because if you had to wear a certain uniform, I was like, not doing that. So for a long time, I struggled with that. So I wasn’t one that would just walk in a room and feel like I fit…whether it’s body, whether it’s skin, like, whatever. So for me, taking a pole class was incredibly intimidating. I was looking carefully at which studio I could fit into because I’m not coming in there with a bikini and just showing everything. So I took that with me. When I created Power Bar, I wanted a community that didn’t care what you look like. I don’t care your about body shape. I don’t care about your experience. I don’t care if you can’t dance. I don’t care if you’ve never danced. I don’t care if you have a skin condition. Like, just come in with scars and weight and whatever, two left feet, and you will feel a part of here with no judgment and the ability to actually grow and just relax and just, like, take down your guard and not be judged. So that is a passion that I pour into the company and even to the coaches that work here. I make it very adamant and we all do that. It’s not about us. It’s about the client. And I think with that, it just naturally and organically cultivates that.
David: Oh wow. That’s incredibly inspirational.
Teresa: Thank you.
David: Tell us a time where you were really struggling. Was there any bad things that happened that you were kind of taken off guard and thinking, wow, this is going to be hard to get through? Do you have any of those stories?
Teresa: I always tell people that when I’m making business decisions, I’m very impatient. So I have big, big dreams and I’m pretty impatient. So I made some decisions in my first three years, around the third year mark. I was doing really well year one, year two. In year three, I was like at four locations, just doing really well and I made some corporate decisions. But I was still not liquid enough as I should have been to be able to support those decisions and it was really just my impatience. I think that’s what separates the wealthy from your everyday earner. It’s because the wealthy can wait things out and they can plan. I mean, the wealthy probably have things planned for 2023, you know. We’re just barely trying to make it through 2021. I think that was the biggest mindset shift, is to say, hey, you know you’re going to be in this situation for a while and take your time. As you’re doing this, you don’t over fund your business. Don’t do stuff like that. Things that could get you in troubled water.
David: So did you take on more debt or something like that?
Teresa: Yeah, I did. I attended this Tony Robbins seminar and he had a man there named Keith Cunningham. And he said one sentence, to me, that it was just like, l needed that two years ago. Not that I would have listened then, but he said do not scale chaos.
David: What does that mean?
Teresa: So this happens a lot. You got a business owner that says, I have this location. You want to make sure before you start trying to expand that what you have there is solid. It’s just solid, it’s duplicable, that it’s proven, and that the formula is down tight. I think that really is kind of what he meant. Like, if you’re a little messy and disorganized, don’t keep duplicating yourself, slow down, stop, and make sure all of your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed. I’ll use this analogy. If you live in like a 600 square foot apartment and you struggle to keep that clean and then you go and live in a 3,000 square foot house, you’re just going to have more thousand square feet of mess, right? So I think that’s really the best way to put it.
David: Wow. So as you grow, then, do you think the business gets away from you? Because, the more locations you have, obviously, you’re going to be more spread out. Do you think you’re going to lose that Teresa touch?
Teresa: No. I think its how you grow.
Teresa: And I think it’s your internal processes. I do think there is a line that you’ll cross where you do become more commercialized. I think at that point, you really have to be solid on your story, on your brand, and what you do as a brand. Because that’s what people will come for. I don’t think that a company scaled the right way would ever lose the touch of its founders, unless you step outside of those principles intentionally.
David: So your story’s been inspirational. I love the message you have with the community letting everyone come in regardless of shape, size, whether they can dance or not. The last thing I want to ask you I, for someone who’s just about to start, like a company, what’s your advice to them?
Teresa: Hmm?…just about to start. I have a few pieces of advice. My first one will be on an emotional standpoint. You need to be careful on how much you divulge to people around you. Because your spirit is very sensitive to criticism when you’re very young in business. And the wrong thing said to you, even if it’s coming from a good place by someone you love, could really create seeds of doubt that can prevent you from being what you really could be. I have a few people that I’ve had in my path that have begun this journey with me. One is even down to owning a studio and that was one of the first pieces of advice I gave. They would tell me, oh, my family is negative or they’re doubtful. You know, stop talking to them, at least about this, okay. When I decided to change and leave that job and come and do this full time, I told a co-worker, I’m doing this full-time and it was like, “Don’t quit your day job”! I was like, wow. But look at what it’s become. So I made it a point that I’m not telling anybody and give you the chance to say something negative. I’m not telling you until I’m done. And I think that would be one of the best pieces of advice I can give, at least from an emotional standpoint. You have to be very careful who you let into your inspiration bubble. The other part is…I have two other pieces of advice. The other part would be that you need to educate yourself extensively. Like, not just on the market but business in general. Follow some business leaders. It doesn’t have to be, you go to a school, but maybe just pull up a Youtube video, they call it the mobile university. So when you’re driving in your car, listen to audio books and stuff like that. Things that deal with business. The EMyth is one of the first books that I definitely recommend. The EMyth and then stuff by Michael Gerber. And then, the third thing that I would highly suggest is, as you start your business, to document everything.
David: Can you give examples of that?
Teresa: So as you start your business, I think the success from running a business comes from you building a team. And if you don’t document things and everything is ran out of your head, it’s hard to give your team the tools to be successful. So as you start documenting things, you want to make sure that as you start doing things, and you see things are working, you want to make sure that you already have things in a process. You can come back to that and say, hey, this worked, hey, this didn’t work, hey, let’s change this and then when you’re ready to grow to another leg of your business and you’re ready to bring someone in, you already have it packaged for them to maintain that success.
David: Okay, wow. Well Teresa, this has been some great advice. I really love your story. Thank you for helping us. You know, coming to our events.
David: As I said, I think people will see this and really love what you have to say and what you’re about. So thank you again. How about, like in a year or so, we come back and see where you are?
Teresa: Yeah. I would love that.
David: We’ll continue this storyline. But this was awesome. Thank you so much and best of luck to you.
Teresa: Thank you.
Power BAR Women’s Fitness – 3406 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226, (214) 390-6885
Power BAR Women’s Fitness – 5200 Denton Hwy #10, Haltom City, TX 76148, (214) 390-6885
Power BAR Women’s Fitness – 3901 W Arkansas Ln #114, Arlington, TX 76016, (214) 390-6885
For more information about Power BAR Women’s Fitness, go to: https://www.powerbarfit.com/