In this episode Hannah tells the story of BurnTheory and her journey building the business into the supportive thriving community it is today.
When I was in primary school, we used to have this fitness program, where the grade 6’s would run a 15 minute exercise session for the younger grades. At the time, I was considered the best ‘runner’ in the school – fast and long distance, so I was put in charge of the running group.
I loved it! I’d create these strengthening sessions using the tyres (when they weren’t considered unsafe – back in the good old days), and I’d include challenges and games. I probably should have known at that stage that I should follow a path of my own creation and build a business.
Let’s fast forward from 1999 to me joining the adult world, getting a job and going to University. I studied law and business management to keep my options open, and I was working as a cadet at Department of Treasury and Finance.
Now on the side though, I was dabbling in the world of fitness and business. I’d become a gymnastics coach and would coach what we called ‘wrigglers’ – between 5-8 year olds. I trained up to become a combat teacher under the les mills style, plus I was creating these 24 hour fitness and health programs for my friends. These involved us completing various classes and fitness sessions throughout the day, with healthy, nutritious food being served (created by me), and then a sleepover.
I was soon offered an opportunity to join a start up business and teach this new thing called ‘Barre’, and I took to it like a duck to water. Not long after starting teaching, I found myself starting to help out behind the scenes and shortly become a member of the back end side of the business.
Unfortunately, that business didn’t make it past its 5th year and shut down in spectacular and terrible fashion for me and a number of others, and we were then left with the wounds. At the time I didn’t recognise the gift I was given – knowledge and experience in business management, and particular what not to do!
And interestingly enough, it wasn’t necessarily the classes or the fitness that got me up in the morning during this time, but the business management. It was the concept that you can take a vision or an idea or a dream and create something tangible and alive! It was a whole other level of freedom, creativity, fulfillment and calling that I never felt during my time in other jobs. And to be honest, much of that was because I was choosing my own ideas and being my own boss, so to speak.
So I guess you could say, my interest and love really lay with creating programs, fitness inspired, and growing something into a tangible and functional business.
Time for Burn to be born
Following the pretty hairy start to business management and start-ups, you’d think I’d take some time, but I threw myself into building what we called ‘District Fitness’; running boot camps in a muddy oval down from my house, and a 1 night a week fitness circuit in an hold Sandy Bay hall. I certainly learnt a fair bit during this time! But I also knew that I couldn’t keep running boot camps in an oval on freezing cold and wet mornings. That wasn’t going to give me the opportunity to leave my government job behind.
So I went looking for a space. I knew I loved Barre, and I wanted to step up my game.
That’s when I found Mather’s Lane. A light filled haven and an opportunity to actually create a real business – one that would hopefully allow me to do that full time and do something that fulfills me each day,
Boy did I freak out signing that lease. I was swinging between crying and laughing. Asking my partner constantly whether I was doing the right thing or whether I was just plain crazy. The poor boy!
But I did it. Signed on the dotted line and was handed over the keys to this space – that needed PLENTY of work!
Mornings, during my lunch breaks, after work and weekends my partner, my parents, friends and I worked on it. Painting, fixing windows up, laying flooring, adding in the Barre, equipment purchasing etc; it was full on!
But the time came to open the doors and hope that we can attract wonderful people to join us.
We grew our beautiful Barre studio over the course of 2 and a half years, seeing so many new and dedicated faced join our growing community. We dabbled in core, yoga and what we used to call ‘sweat’. But I always knew I wanted to add in boxing.
Oh, this form of exercise wasn’t available to the every day women. If anything it was a man’s thing and a very intimidating ‘space’ to join. I knew how fantastic the boxing workout could be, and that it should be made available to our women, in a way that was built for women’s bodies – incorporating strengthening and conditioning. So I ventured over to America (that was nuts – I literally few to LA for 4 days and then back again eeek – helloooooo jet lag!)
But I visited their fitness boxing studios – seeing how they were set up, run and what was required. And then I set about building out my own one back in little old Hobart.
And when we opened up – BOY did it go off! It was like every women in Hobart had this space they felt comfortable to come into, and welcomed. They got to hit things and release stress, but they also got one heck of a work out at the same time. It was gold!
So combining this in with our faster paced Barre classes meant we were changing bodies, but we were also deepening our roots with a strong, vibrant and incredible community of women.
I’ve learnt so much over the last 4 years, and continue to learn each and every day. The main thing I learnt was that I don’t know even 1 tenth of what I need to know and to surround myself with people that know more – experts in their field.
One thing that was critical for me, apart from building a viable business, was to build a community and a space that I knew I wanted to be in and would attend. BurnTheory has kinda become an extension of me – no pretense, no cliques, no exclusivity. Just totally welcoming, supportive and welcome to all.
Sometimes I’d think ‘maybe we should be more professional’, but then you kinda lose the human-ness (if that’s a word) and the real and rawness.
All my wonderful instructors and the BurnTheory team are real-world women. They have busy lives, kids, hectic jobs. They love to socialize, eat delicious food (degustation anyone?!), drink wine and live fully. Their fitness and health is for them to feel good. To build their confidence and strength (obviously lose some occasional unwanted kilos) but mainly about loving and looking after your whole self. And that’s what BurnTheory’s built around.
We’ve since had the opportunity (thanks COVID) to create an online space to be able to reach more people (or help our current ones that couldn’t make it in as much as they would hope). We’ve been able to focus on what we do so well – and that’s continue to grow our community and culture through events, workshops, collaborations, and this podcast. And this creativity is what really drives me and BurnTheory forward.
We know that the future currently is a little uncertain thanks to COVID. It’s not all that clear what the long term impact (or even the shorter term impact) will be on small business and the economy, but regardless of that, our future vision is to continue to grow this incredible community. This space. This business to impact and help as many women as we can feel amazing about themselves, and THRIVE in their way.