BARRE3 OWNER SPOTLIGHT: FROM GRAPHIC DESIGNER TO STUDIO OWNERAuthor: BARRE3
Community, connection, and creativity were all on Lisa Pantaleo’s mind when she opened the barre3 Long Island City studio with her husband Luke. At the time that she discovered barre3, Lisa was working as a graphic designer, but realized that her budding love of fitness was a passion she wanted to pursue. Below, Lisa shares how she brings her design eye to the studio, reflects upon the difficulties and rewards of being both a mother and studio owner, and how she’s built resilience in the face of challenges, setbacks, and surprise.
You discovered barre3 on Instagram! Can you share more about what you were looking for in a workout at that time?
I was recently married and working in Manhattan, and I wanted a workout that fit into my schedule and that I could also do in our small apartment. I loved to run and I loved to do yoga, but I wanted something that offered the best of both those worlds.
I saw an Instagram post about the barre3 January Challenge. I started the program and immediately fell in love with the workout. It combined everything I was looking for—I was getting both the cardio I got from running and the mindfulness of yoga. I’ve really never looked back from there.
What was your relationship like to fitness before discovering barre3?
I had always played sports when I was younger, but I never really went to the gym or did any sort of organized fitness. I loved running—it would give me that great endorphin high and it got me outside—but I loved yoga too, because I could set up my space, do it in a dark room, light some candles and just do my thing.
After some time, I began to shift my thinking around fitness, and I went from seeing it as a way to lose weight to focusing more on how movement made me feel. I saw the importance of both running and yoga and their impacts on my mood. When I needed mindfulness and when I needed to stretch my body, it was important to give myself that and to not feel guilty that I didn’t run that day. I think that’s something that really solidified my love of barre3; there’s always that permission to listen to your body and give yourself exactly what you need.
Did you take studio classes before becoming an owner?
I did! After doing barre3 online for a while, I mustered up the courage and brought my husband with me to the West Village studio. That experience brought everything to life for us. I loved that we were all there taking the same class but making every part of it our own. Being there in the studio brought everything together for me.
After that, I would get to the studio every chance I could. I was working in Manhattan, so I would take the train down after work. It was a bit of a trek for us to get to the West Village studio from where we lived in Queens, and we knew that if we were to become studio owners we wanted to bring it here.
What were you doing before becoming a studio owner?
I was working as a senior graphic designer for a lingerie company. I went to undergrad and graduate school for graphic design and studied art history as well.
That’s a big shift to owning a studio!
It was, and that shift was scary. You go to school for something and you think that’s your trajectory. But oftentimes, something unexpected will come your way. Discovering barre3 happened as I was becoming more interested in wellness, and I felt like I needed a change. I had been applying to other design jobs at the time, but I wasn’t getting them. It felt like maybe I was forcing something that wasn’t meant to be forced.
Coming from the design world, I fell in love with barre3’s aesthetic, and I learned that I could explore creative outlets in other ways. There’s designing the class and curating your playlist. There’s how we present the studio on social media. And of course, there’s designing the studio itself and really creating a space for our community.
What’s it like to own and run your studio with your husband?
We work really well together. My husband has a background in architecture and engineering, and I always thought that we could do something together. Initially, I thought we might flip houses, maybe be the next Chip and Joanna Gaines. But he fell in love with barre3 just as I did, and he loved being a part of the process of opening our studio. He took the reins on designing the entire studio layout, and it was fun for me to get to layer the interior design on top of that.
After having opened your studio, how do you balance your roles working together?
We’ve had a bit of a wild ride. We opened in April of last year and during the grand opening he was there every day. I would work with the instructors while he was more involved with the front desk and helped train our operations team.
But then I had our son two months early. He was supposed to be born at the end of October and I had him at the end of August. That definitely threw us for a bit of a loop. My husband stepped up a lot more in the areas that I had previously focused on. Now that everything has settled down with the baby, I’ve taken the front reins a bit more, but he’ll still jump on a Livestream and support me and the studio whenever he can.
How does your role as a new mother play into your work at the studio?
I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Thankfully our families are nearby, and we’ve been able to lean on them for support. Our parents babysit for us which helped free me up to get down to the studio, and I started to ease back into teaching classes. It felt so good just to be back in that space teaching again and feeling some sense of normalcy.
What I found particularly difficult was the operations side of the business. Initially, I thought that I would be able to do it from home and do all of it with a child. But I learned quickly that that was impossible. I’ve had to create a schedule for myself, and I’ll take full advantage of the days that my son is being watched by a family member and get as much work done as possible.
Then there are the days when he’s not being watched, and I make an effort to be fully present with him. For a while, I was trying to do both my work and be a mother at the same time, and you can’t. When you try to do two things at once, you’re never fully present.
I’m still learning though, and it’s never a perfect balance. I’ll catch myself trying to do too many things at once, but I feel like I’m getting a little better at it each day. I’m learning that if I can focus my full attention on one thing at a time, the quality of that attention is so much better.
Can you describe the feeling of sharing barre3 with your community?
It’s amazing. We were born and bred in Queens and we were looking to move to Long Island City when we got married. The area has an amazing neighborhood feel, and we knew that when we wanted to open a studio that it would be the best place for us to do it.
When we first went to Portland to meet with the barre3 Home Office team, we fell in love, and we wanted to bring that sense of community to Queens. It’s something that we always felt was lacking in New York. We wanted it to truly be a place that you come to not just for a workout, but where you hang out, spend time, and catch up with other people.
What’s your favorite part about being a studio owner?
I love the connection I get with clients. It’s so beautiful to meet all these people and to be in a position where I can impact their lives in such a positive way. I really don’t think I would be able to do that if I didn’t own a barre3 studio.
Such a big part of it too is being able to inspire our clients to go after their dreams. People always ask how I do it—how I can be both a mother and a business owner. The reality is that I don’t know. It’s hard, but I’m doing it, and I think my message is that you can do whatever you want as well. I love being able to show people that what they want for themselves is possible, even when you don’t have it all figured out.
What have you learned from the challenges of these past few months?
The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that you don’t have to be together in person to still experience the connection you get in the studio. That’s what I think is so beautiful about barre3. It helps you build a strong foundation of connection, and you can carry that with you wherever you go. We can still connect virtually through Livestreams, and to be able to offer that is incredibly powerful. Throughout all of this, we’re very fortunate to still have that sense of connection and community.