Community Builders Speak Series: Be Intentional to build Community
This Community Builders Speak Series was inspired by the first article I wrote a couple of weeks back on The What, Why and How of Community Building. I have had the privilege to meet amazing people in the fitness and wellness space in the last two years and I wanted to highlight what these self-employed individuals understood as Community Building and how they were building Community in their respective businesses.
I am hoping that by speaking to these entrepreneurs/business owners and sharing their story, it can bring greater relevance to others, and will inspire and motivate others to understand the true meaning of Community Building, from a non-social services and non-sales angled approach.
Many are already building Community with their client and follower base, but they do not even know it! This series is for you to learn from different individuals in different stages of their entrepreneurial and Community building journey, and apply it to our own situations, and hopefully reap the benefits from it.
Linda Tang — Co-Founder, WeBarre
Today I speak to Linda Tang, Co-founder of WeBarre.
Below is our conversation that has been transcribed and edited for you.
Tell me more about yourself and your business
I am Australian-born Chinese, and I have lived in Singapore for over a decade.
I co-founded WeBarre with my partner Anabel in 2015. We are a specialized barre studio that offers barre classes. We offer all types of barre classes, where the genre is group fitness, but the modules range from barre fundamentals to cardio to stretch to pre/post-natal classes. Currently, we have four studios in Singapore and one in Hong Kong. Since the pandemic hit, we also added virtual classes.
How have you managed to include your personal branding to the business?
Anabel and I have always felt that WeBarre is an extension of the values and experiences that resonate with us. We want to spread good throughout the world; and we wanted to have something curated in Asia for Asian consumers.
WeBarre is a culmination of a lot of what we enjoyed when we traveled around the world. We wanted to create a brand that was inclusive, empowering, lighthearted and fun. These are values we’ve injected from the beginning that we started the business and are very similar to us as individuals.
What do you understand by the term Community building?
This word “Community” is thrown around all the time!
When we started five years ago, we wanted Community to intentionally show up and for our clients to be able to genuinely feel it from their experience with WeBarre.
As we were writing our values, we asked ourselves what Community meant to us and what it should mean to others coming to WeBarre. We knew we wanted people to empower people, and this did not just mean us empowering clients, but also clients empowering other clients. We wanted this to be amplified through the Community and this would be nurtured through different intentional acts of empowerment.
Whilst processes and rituals were honed throughout the time, we are constantly looking at outside inspiration and on what we can improve on. We want to keep growing and innovating.
I think Community building is about empowerment. Through empowerment, we educate and create awareness. We have been doing it consistently from day one because it is our point of difference and we have intentionally made it this way. It is what we stand for and is what resonates with others.
We found the winning proposition through consistency over time, where we built the association of Community and WeBarre. Even our logo with the circle is an intentional design which means Community.
Is Community specific to the location studio? How wide is the actual reach?
Our mission is to empower people who want to be fit, to be fit. WeBarre is where people interact and bond. There are similarities of what boutique fitness offers so I see the Community as anyone interested in boutique fitness, and that includes the business owners themselves. If at the boutique studio owners’ level, the vision is being built and shared, the Community will see it and inevitably feel the same.
How important is it to get the right instructor to pass on the value of Community to the class?
An instructor can be good in many different ways. She could be technically good with giving cues, relatable and nurturing, energetic and fun, or firm and strict. Finding the right team members who fit WeBarre is something we invest much time into getting right. The magic happens when it works both ways where we feel the instructor is a good fit and as an employer/brand/company, we are a good fit for the instructor.
We are very intentional in the way we hire. Apart from having ticked off the values that represent WeBarre, it also has to do with the vibe of the instructor, her inclusive spirit, and values of kindness and openness.
The hiring process is important and finding someone who lives and breathes the values is something we look out for. More often than not, applicants knock on our doors to enquire about working for WeBarre, based on their personal experience with us or they were referred to by friends who see the fit and alignment. If they are able to articulate why they are attracted to us and therefore applied to work, they could possibly be a good fit.
How did you even start for building Community for WeBarre?
When we first started, the priority was to spread awareness of barre and to educate the general public and boutique fitness Community. This included the way we would bring to life our values, which included Community. It was a purposeful action where visuals communicated on social media would show groups of people rather than individuals because we wanted to present to everyone that it was us together as a collective and not me, myself and I. We Intentionally and subconsciously brought to life the value of Community with awareness creation and education.
With our first batch of instructors, we nurtured a very strong friendship. This way, we set the tone from the beginning. In fact, two of the eight instructors are still with us. The other six have either relocated or started a family or business of their own. These founding members have continued to spread and share the WeBarre story.
The wide diversity of instructors and how they infused their own style into building Community not just for the brand but also themselves also allows us to appeal to a diverse audience.
How do you measure the success of your Community?
This is a tough one, because there are no apps or programmes to measure Community engagement.
We can measure with the level of engagement on our social media platforms, how many people become friends at the studio, and qualitative responses from conversations with our members.
When we ask members why they come to WeBarre, its mostly these two answers that are recurring. Firstly, it is because they like the method, it’s fun and they see and feel the results. The second is because it’s their happy place, with good vibes where they feel comfortable and get energized and it adds the sparkle to their day.
So, I think we measure based on what we hear about the Community from the Community. This is observed from all levels of the WeBarre team, where it’s getting the vibe from the clients; seeing people in class making friends with each other and taking the relationship deeper to include non-workout gatherings; and one client helping another client improve on her their form/skill.
Is Community a conscious and deliberate plan as part of the franchise model?
I think the most important thing when developing the franchise is to have the right partner to grow the franchisee brand. This person must be able to inject into his/her team and the instructors what the WeBarre purpose and brand is from the beginning. This person must resonate with our values not just from a business, but also in his/her personal life.
Once that is settled, the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that have been very carefully crafted will bring to life Community for the brand. From the way the front-of-house greets, welcomes and introduces members to the questions to ask before/during/after class.
We cannot underestimate any part of the business. The blueprint of onboarding documents includes marketing, collateral, instructor training, and even the types of brands to collaborate with.
Consistency is key. And it must be an all-rounded conscious effort on the part of everyone in the team. This is also a strong reason why someone would prefer franchising our brand over another because it is part of the value chain and part of the brand.
Is there a limit to how large you can grow the Community?
The potential is limitless. It is all about people connection. It is about how deep or how broad you want to go with the business. We have definitely achieved a wider reach since we first started. Now we do more 1-to-1 engagement with the Community. We are more focused on the person, so anyone new who comes in feels welcomed, safe and happy to be part of the Community.
Continuous education is a priority for the team. I think the art of community comes through a lot in the training we do and as long as the team are open to learn and they have that inclusive spirit, they will be able to hone the skills passed on from us as the founders. It always starts from top-down, and we mentor and coach the team on what and how they can progress.
Any tips for those self-starters and entrepreneurs to avoid some blind spots?
If you have identified Community to be part of your DNA, ask yourself what Community means to you and your brand. How does it tangibly come to life in your product and service and how are consumers going to interact with you?
Understand that first, before intentionally thinking of how you can plug it into the brand/business.
A good way to start is to write an elevator speech to describe your brand. How would you describe Community for your brand? How is it different from others?
Having the right team with the same spirit builds the internal cohesiveness. The fit must be right. Take your time to find the right hires but as long as you feel that a hire is not right, you should fire fast. This might sound brutal, but this is to protect the company and the team as well as clients. Any poor behavior can dribble into the rest of the company and affect morale and performance of everyone else.
A good question to facilitate this would be, “Do you feel comfortable here?”. These conversations are difficult to have but extremely important to have as a business owner. Learn how to do it with empathy and kindness.
Make Community an intentional value for your brand/business, because the intangible benefits from the return on Community will definitely help you and your brand/business grow over time.
About Alex Loh
I am a business and life coach, business owner, loving husband and doting father.
My compass is guided by the desire to help people. I coach individuals and business owners to find purpose. Together we unlock fruitful solutions, experience growth and achieve targeted success. Having successfully built and maintained communities over the years, my focus is to help businesses and organisations harness community as the vehicle to connect, and build credibility, trust and authentic relationships.
Come speak to me about Finding Purpose, Building Communities and/or in Optimising your Life!
Photos from www.pexels.com.
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