Updated: Mar 9, 2020
Women may not run the business world (yet), but in the pole world, the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving. Every aspect of pole from clothing, equipment, studios, and competitions are majority female owned & operated.
Fly Together Fitness is a unique example in that we are a true collective of owners, investors, and instructors. Melinda, one of our owners, answers the question “Can 11 women run a small business successfully?”
I got a lot of incredulous looks when I told friends or family that I was trying to start a pole dance studio in Boston - but not because I was starting a business (in pole dance of all things), but because I was doing it with ten other women. There was a lot of skepticism: how would we ever be able to make decisions? What about scheduling meetings? Eleven people is too many. No one will ever agree on anything.
For me, eleven is the magic number and I’ve written why below. But it could have been five or nine or twenty-one; the real magic is the collective power of women supporting each other and working together.
You have a talent pool of eleven people.
Need someone with experience in branding? Check. Website design? Check. Policies and Procedures? Curriculum building? Business and project management? Commercial real estate? With a team of eleven, we managed to cover a lot of the business without having to bring in outside professionals.
There's less personal risk than starting on your own.
When everyone is engaged, you can pool your time and resources with much less up-front investment from each individual. No one needs to quit their day job, and the business folding is less likely with eleven hands on deck. In the worst case scenario that the business does go south, you're out for much less money than if you'd started on your own.
Many hands make light(er) work.
There's no shortage of work involved in starting a business, but dividing and conquering makes it seem much more manageable. In addition...
There is no single point of failure. Things will not fall apart without you.
Whether you’re going on vacation, your regular job is piling on work, or you have family or personal obligations, there are always enough people to step in and help out.
Eleven people generate (at least) eleven times the ideas.
Whether it’s figuring out how to display merchandise or what classes to offer, we always have more ideas than we can reasonably implement, which means we can settle on the best possible choices.
Eleven perspectives make better decisions.
One of the obvious drawbacks about a large group is that it can take us a while to come to reach a consensus. But once we do, they’re good decisions. Even when I disagree, I feel good because if a bunch of my smart, savvy partners think something’s a good idea, it probably is. Lastly, because everyone comes from a different background and vantage point, we’re rarely blindsided by the unexpected.
On that note… it’s basically impossible to forget something important.
Setting up internet, researching permits, ordering equipment... there are so many things to do while setting up a pole dance studio that it can be easy to miss something. With eleven people on the job though, someone will have thought of it.
When there are conflicts, you have built-in mediators.
Conflicts are inevitable when starting a business. If you’re in a partnership of two or three people, it can be easy to let things get personal. In a group of eleven, there’s always another person (or several) who understands both perspectives and can help bring together conflicting opinions.
You also have built-in cheerleaders.
No matter how much trouble you're having thinking of a class structure, flyer design, or the perfect wording for a social media post (or this blog), someone is always there to encourage you and offer helpful advice. There are eleven people to troubleshoot a problem, and when obstacles hit, there's always someone who's able to see the bright side or at least crack a joke to let you know everything's going to be okay.
Someone will always have snacks.
Food is a very important part of a successful business meeting. Sometimes I’m a great meeting host and make dinner (or at least have snacks), but even if I forget or don’t have time, someone else will always have something. Before the studio was open, I would bike out from Somerville to meetings in Watertown or Downtown Boston, sometimes after a long day of teaching, and my business partners lovingly fed me. Sometimes (ok, a lot of times) there was even cake. Because cake is a core value of Fly Together Fitness.
Ultimately, you have friends to lean on and have fun with while you create something new.
I tend to wax poetic whenever anyone asks about my business partners. Even when we spend hours diving into the legalese of operating agreements, business meetings are a highlight of every week because I get to hang out with such amazing women. The group is full of love and friendship, and through the studio I now get to share that love and friendship with the pole community in Somerville, Boston, and beyond.