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Starting a business – 7 steps from entrepreneur & SAS: Who Dares Wins finalist Vicki Anstey

7 steps to starting a business - from SAS Who Dares Wins finalist & entrepreneur Vicki Anstey MAIN

Starting a business can be terrifying – which is why Vicki Anstey the founder of Barreworks (and SAS: Who Dares Wins finalist), is here to give you a seven-step guide to starting out

When I began starting a business – Barreworks – over ten years ago, I wish there had been a framework to follow, a book to read or a group of like-minded individuals to share knowledge with along the way.

No one had even heard of barre, and single-concept studios didn’t exist.

Most people thought I was crazy for quitting a successful career in advertising, re-training and taking a gamble on an unproven business idea during a recession.

But my single-minded determination to make Barreworks work and prove to everyone that I could do it was what I fell back on at every hurdle. I took quantified risks every day and made countless mistakes in the process.

Most people thought I was crazy for quitting a successful career in advertising

I taught 24 classes a week when I first started without taking a single holiday, and with the inevitable pressure that a physical job brings, I certainly encountered moments of burn out.

Those three years were instrumental in building a thriving business around my passion, and I quickly fell in love with my new life.

However, I found myself in a cycle of needing to meet demands for classes and being unable to find time or energy to grow my business sustainably.

Now with ten years of running my business and three years of working with business guru, Erica Wolfe-Murray, I’m delighted to be able to offer the benefit of my experience to others emerging from corporate life and into the wellness industry.

Before you jump into the deep end though, here are a few simple principles that will help guide you in the right direction when it comes to starting a business:

#1 Build your business based on your passions

This is not as self-indulgent as it sounds.

Have the confidence to let your intuition guide you when it comes to decision making, especially during times of physical exhaustion as your inherent passion for what you do will motivate you to keep going.

If your business idea is built upon your own experiences, insights and personal passions, YOU will always be your target market.

When I’m training barre instructors, I take them through what I call the ‘jam jar exercise,’ which is to capture the essence of what they initially love about the method.

Brainstorming a series of words that sum up the unique aspects of your business idea and writing them down will give you a reference point for when/if you ever need to re-ignite the spark.

What drew them in to begin with? Perhaps even motivated them to give up another career or develop their barre side-hustle.


#2 Make your business unique to you

The fitness industry for example is booming, which brings both opportunity and competition. The trick is to know the landscape you are entering when starting a business, but to also have the confidence to know that your business idea will stand out.

If your business idea is born out of your unique story to that point in your life, no-one else can compete, this is your brand DNA.

Write down every job you’ve ever had, every paid piece of work you’ve ever done, every employer you’ve worked for and every skill you’ve ever developed in a work environment.

No-one else will have your particular set of skills

No-one else will have your particular set of skills, so look at it carefully to spot what sectors and experiences come up.

Then list your hopes and dreams, without financial or practical boundaries, which can be personal or work-related and should be as ambitious even seemingly unrealistic as you can make them.

This will give you a point on the horizon to aim for – a big audacious goal – and act as a guiding light along the way.

The only requirement is that you write them down – and re-visit them regularly to check you are on track.

#3 Know your market

Who is your primary target market? As mentioned above, it helps if ‘they’ are ‘you,’ as you can use your behaviours to test latest ideas and track performance, adherence and success.

Being a credible example of what you do is the best advert money can buy.

Becoming an expert in your specific field is invaluable, so get obsessed with positioning yourself that way; keep learning, keep growing and be the best that you can be to stay at the cutting edge of your field.

Look at both the online and offline aspects of your market

Most businesses will have a group of people who are the deep divers and secondary audiences of dabblers. They are important.

Visualize them, describe their behaviours, where they shop, how they spend their time and income, what their values are, and how they are motivated.

Look at both the online and offline aspects of your market and know your product or service inside and out. Consider that in the fitness industry, specifically, Netflix and inactivity are still the biggest competitors.

#4 Treat yourself as a business

When starting out, especially as a freelancer, it can be challenging to say no to anything.

You may find that boundaries become blurred as you do everything you can to fit in with your client’s schedules, which leads to the complete abandonment of your own.

You never put the laptop down and find yourself being drawn into social media to grow your presence, and you lose sight of your own needs.

Think ‘me here, my business there…’ and you are far less likely to encounter burn out.

Constantly coaching clients can be emotionally draining as every class requires you to give something of yourself away, and while that can be incredibly rewarding, over time, it can also wear you down.

Make time for yourself to recover, reflect, and reassess. Investing in your self-care, time to do what you enjoy (which may include your physical training) is vital.

#5 Speak to your inner critic

We all have that voice in our head that tells us ‘we can’t,’ or ‘shouldn’t’ or ‘don’t deserve to.’ 

The voices will belong to someone in your life or your past that has doubted you and lead you to doubt yourself.

Acknowledge who the voices belong to and have a conversation with that person to shut them down so you can get on with the business of reaching your true potential without constraint. 

Having a conversation out-loud (as silly as it may seem) can be an incredibly powerful thing to do.

Create a physical representation of your inner critic and have those exchanges. The breakthroughs are incredible.

#6 Understand your numbers

I struggled in particular with this area, as I am not naturally a ‘numbers person’ and would find myself regularly confused and overwhelmed.

But I cannot stress enough how important it is to get on top of your numbers and to understand them, that way you can control them, so they don’t control you.

Know your costs and what you need to make to break even, or to make a profit on a sliding scale. If you can’t achieve that, your business will not succeed.

Know what your ‘price elasticity’ is, do you have the scope to increase profit margins or is your pricing model fixed?

If it is, don’t count yourself out, look instead to your business model to find additional revenue streams beyond the core business.

#7 Innovate & Sustain

Businesses that sit still stagnate and will become out-dated. But there’s a difference between innovating for the sake of it (following or chasing trends) and innovating from within your business. The later is far more sustainable – and credible.

Gather data and intel as you go and continually ‘un-pack’ the different aspects of your business to see where new opportunities lie.

Erica taught me that there are five areas of opportunity for growth:

1. Existing and past clients

2. Future clients

3. Competitors

4. New buyers

5. New audiences that you aspire to tap into

Continue reviewing each segment to check you are exploiting every opportunity as you go.

Enabling you to keep moving forward, keep innovating, and that you create a sustainably resilient business with ever-growing revenue streams.


Vicki Anstey is one of the UK’s leading fitness experts and founder of London’s original barre and ballet studio, Barreworks.

Viki is also the first female harlequin’s foundation ambassador and winner of the 2019 ‘BEST FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR’ award at the Richmond business awards.

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