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“I’m a better leader because I know what it is like to sit in front of a Staples crying in my car because I can’t afford to buy the $200 worth of business materials I need”

With Sarah Luna the President at Pure Barre Franchising


After graduating from grad school, I had the opportunity to purchase a fitness franchise. I thought it was going to be turn-key and a great opportunity. Little did I know that I was the only “business only” franchisee in the whole system and that there was little support for a semi-absentee ownership model. Because of my business structure, I had to hire additional labor, which sky-rocketed payroll and took all of my cash on hand. The number one rule you learn in business school (especially in entrepreneurship courses) is that you never put payroll on credit cards. That was a mistake that I made which led me to not being able to afford payroll, marketing, or personal rent. It took converting clients from packages to a recurring membership model, borrowing money from friends and family, and leaning up my personal expenses to get through. I know what it is like to barely keep lights on and to sit in front of a Staples crying in your car because you can’t afford to buy the $200 worth of business materials you need. Because of this experience, I am able to relate to franchise partners and to provide support in a unique way. When times are tough, you need a a corporate staff who will respond and will be the life-support. I didn’t have that support, so I do everything possible to make sure our franchisees do.


I had the pleasure to interview Sarah Luna the President at Pure Barre Franchising, LLC


Than you so much for joining us Sarah! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had grown up thinking I would be a Physical Therapist or be in a profession related to Orthopedics. However, as the health-care climate started to change, I realize there was opportunity in preventative healthcare. As a professional dancer, fitness was already a passion of mine, so becoming a certified Pilates Instructor was a natural fit! I worked in Chicago for three years as an instructor and fell in love with the life-long relationships that I was building with clients, which sealed the deal to pursue a career in the fitness industry. I decided to complete an MBA so that I could have a more technical background in business, which would couple with the real-world experience I had gained over the years of instructing. Shortly after graduating, I was hired on at Equinox to run their Pilates department in clubs located in Los Angeles and Orange County. It was teaching in Orange County that I met Anthony Geisler, the CEO of Xponential Fitness. Anthony was on the brink of purchasing Club Pilates Franchise and decided to enroll in Pilates sessions. When his deal with Club Pilates was finalized, he invited me to join his team. At the time, it was a leap of faith to pursue the entrepreneurial endeavor, but I knew that if I didn’t climb aboard, I’d be watching from the sidelines because the train was moving with, or without me. I have never looked back!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? 

We like to lead by example, when it comes to instituting change. Days into becoming President, we took over a local franchise location and implemented a business model change, a studio refresh, and a software change. The approach was to learn with this location through personal experience, which meant working the front desk as a Sales Representative every day. By working the studio, I personally experienced all of the customer comments, good and bad. Some customers loved the new check-in kiosk while others disliked the new flooring. It was an incredible experience! It was like “UnderCover Boss”…everyone thought I was the new studio manager, they had no idea who I was. In fact, there were days that I was yelled at because the toilet had been broken for two years or an instructor slept through their alarm. Even though I had been there a week, clients blamed me for everything under the sun because they knew I was helping implement the software change and refresh. What I loved about this experience is that when franchisees and staff are in the trenches and fielding client concerns and feedback, they know that I’ve personally been there, too!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? 

Our company is filled with a team of operators and doers. We jump in along with the franchisee to ensure their success and do not back down from a fight. This also means vacuuming and mopping studios if and when needed, as the CEO once did for me when I was working the front of the studio and had no staff to help. I don’t know many other CEOs who would be in a franchise location cleaning the floors at the crack of dawn.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

 It is important to serve your team and to ask how you can help. I often times leave my work responsibilities for the early morning and late evening hours so that during the day I can provide assistance to me team, which allows them to move quickly and efficiently.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team? 

Use effective methods of communication. I have a 24-hour email policy for both staff and franchisees. It is important to make sure that all communications are responded to in a timely manner. Furthermore, regularly hosted webinars, conference calls, and meetings allow everyone to touch base for updates to then leave with direct marching orders.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? 

There are so many who have helped me along the way, but there are two individuals who truly stand out. The first is my grandfather, Ray, who took me to dinner on a weekly basis throughout undergrad and graduate school. He was a very successful businessman, yet he would sit across the table from me and intently listen to my challenges and concerns, as if they were the most important events in the world. Time would stop as we chatted and he helped me think through each situation. I left each meal full of food and advise; the best piece being that the only person who could take care of and look after me, was me! 

The second individual was a client of mine in Chicago. I worked 8 jobs at the time while juggling a dance career. One day she saw me walking across the street will all of my bags, Pilates mat, and lunch box and she said I looked like a bag lady! From that day on, she helped me with my commute and would drive me (rain, snow, or sunshine) between my jobs and rehearsals so that I could get off of my feet and stay safe in the city. She taught me to consider my time and talent as resources that could be leverage as an investment. Back then I was walking dogs, house sitting, and babysitting to make a buck, but she helped me to learn to consider each task and the return on my time and energy it would yield.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? 

​My favorite way to give back is to provide mentorship and guidance to others who are just starting out. I am active with Chapman University by continuing to provide mentorship to students in the Business Program.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

I’ve had a few times in my life where I took a risk, resulting in very challenging obstacles to overcome. 

Two examples come to mind: 

1) After graduating college, I was offered a position with the Gus Giordano Dance Company in Chicago. I was given approximately three weeks to terminate my CA lease, pack bags, and move cross country. Upon arriving in Chicago, I had two pieces of luggage, $1,000 to my name, and nowhere to live. I literally left the airport and connected with “a friend, of a friend, of a friend…”, who allowed me to crash at her place until I found something more stable. The position I took was unpaid, so I found myself doing anything I could do make ends meet — babysitting, house sitting, teaching Pilates all over the city, subbing dance classes. It was exhausting, but I’ve developed a willingness to fight and persevere because of that experience, which has made me less freighted of failure. 

2) After graduating from grad school, I had the opportunity to purchase a fitness franchise. I thought it was going to be turn-key and a great opportunity. Little did I know that I was the only “business only” franchisee in the whole system and that there was little support for a semi-absentee ownership model. Because of my business structure, I had to hire additional labor, which sky-rocketed payroll and took all of my cash on hand. The number one rule you learn in business school (especially in entrepreneurship courses) is that you never put payroll on credit cards. That was a mistake that I made which led me to not being able to afford payroll, marketing, or personal rent. It took converting clients from packages to a recurring membership model, borrowing money from friends and family, and leaning up my personal expenses to get through. I know what it is like to barely keep lights on and to sit in front of a Staples crying in your car because you can’t afford to buy the $200 worth of business materials you need. Because of this experience, I am able to relate to franchise partners and to provide support in a unique way. When times are tough, you need a a corporate staff who will respond and will be the life-support. I didn’t have that support, so I do everything possible to make sure our franchisees do.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

 I am not that active on social media, but I can be found on LinkedIn.

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