Saturday, July 13, 2024

En pointe: Danish entrepreneur brings barre fitness to China

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Siri Nordhejm, born and raised in Denmark, is a busy mother of three and co-founder of MYbarre Fitness. She and her business partner Ann MacLellan created MYbarre in 2016 through a friendship and passion for barre fitness. They expanded their operation from online to physical studios in 2023. It is now the first chain of boutique barre studios in China with two locations in Shanghai and a third opening in May.

En pointe: Danish entrepreneur brings barre fitness to China

Courtesy of Siri Nordhejm

Siri Nordhejm, born and raised in Denmark, is co-founder of MYbarre Fitness.

Before we talk about your brand MYbarre — would you please introduce yourself?

I’m Siri Nordhejm, born and raised in Aarhus, Denmark. I have been living in Shanghai since 2011 and I am the co-founder of MYbarre Fitness together with my business partner Ann MacLellan from the UK. MYbarre is the first chain of boutique barre studios in China. We now have two studios in Shanghai and about to open our third location in Xintiandi. I am also a mother of three amazing children aged 9, 7 and 5.

En pointe: Danish entrepreneur brings barre fitness to China

Courtesy of Siri Nordhejm

Ann MacLellan and Siri Nordhejm created their own barre program and instructor education program.

Why, after living in Shanghai for a few years, did you decide to strike out on your own to build up your own company?

I have always had an entrepreneur mindset. In 2011, I co-founded one of the first boutique fitness studios in Shanghai that later became a chain of studios and gyms. It was at this time I brought the barre fitness concept to China, In 2016, Ann and I created our own barre program and instructor education program that is now MYbarre and finally in 2023, we opened up the first stand-alone MYbarre Studio.

At MYbarre you can expect a full body workout that fuses ballet, pilates, and fitness together. This is a workout that was created by women and therefore a workout made with a woman’s body in mind (but guys you can take part in this awesome workout too). It focuses on good form, alignment and posture while increasing strength, muscle tone and stamina.

You do not need ballet or Pilates experience to be good or enjoy the class. Movements are broken down by your instructor, introduced slowly with options to speed up and work harder as the class goes on. Beginners and advanced students can be combined in one class with no problems as there are always options for all.

What makes Shanghai’s business environment so remarkable?

Shanghai is a diverse city that never sleeps; it is fast paced and I love that. Fitness has been booming in China especially the last couple of years and it has been great to see how much more focus there is on healthy lifestyle. People here aren’t afraid to try new things and challenge themselves. It’s an open-minded environment and really becoming an amazing community.

What were you trying to bring to the local community?

I want to share my passion for fitness and healthy living. People here work extremely hard but it is important to balance your life and invest in your health. Barre fitness is a very special and unique type of training that will make you sweat and push your fitness limits while it allows you to feel elegant and strong. As busy moms, entrepreneurs and fitness lovers, we had a desire to create not only a fitness program but a community that welcomes everyone, that empowers, supports and inspires people to transform their mind and body.

En pointe: Danish entrepreneur brings barre fitness to China

Courtesy of Siri Nordhejm

The founders had a desire to create not only a fitness program but a community that welcomes everyone, that empowers, supports and inspires people to transform their mind and body.

What are the biggest challenges setting up a business here? How do you stay motivated?

The biggest challenges in opening a business here is finding a location that is good value for rent, ensuring consistency of our product and, most of all, sourcing and retaining talent. It’s a young industry still but we have an amazing, motivated team of instructors and the passion they have to deliver great classes and be part of our MYbarre community is what keeps us motivated to keep growing and developing.

I have been running my own business(es) here in Shanghai as well as raising my three kids, so this comes with its challenges of balance. I’m so fortunate to have an amazing community around me. Ann and I are both mums in business together so for sure, finding like-minded friends, other inspiring women is the best way for me to stay focused … they say it takes a village and I am grateful for my “Shanghai” village that helps me overcome the challenges and keep moving forward.

En pointe: Danish entrepreneur brings barre fitness to China

Courtesy of Siri Nordhejm

The studio features a minimal design with a calming vibe and is a community hub for barre and fitness lovers to train and connect.

What was the moment that made you most proud?

I would say it was the opening of our first MYbarre Studio. We worked really hard on the design of the studio and we had so many clients waiting to come to classes. It was incredible to see the support from our community. Another equal moment is when a client becomes a teacher and they teach their first class. It is so amazing to see their development and passion for learning something new and stepping out of their own comfort zone.

What are you working on?

As well as running daily operations for the studios we are always creating new moves and MYbarre trainings for internal use but also for all our social media platforms. We deliver free online workouts on Xiaohongshu (Little Red Book) as well as Bilibili so we are always busy filming new fun workouts you can do anywhere. Our biggest project these next few months is the design and construction of our new Xintiandi studio in Hubindao, opening Summer 2024.

Who is a female role model that inspires you?

I am inspired by so many of my fellow Shanghai entrepreneur female friends and will forever be inspired by my mum, who was a working mum also and gave us balance, stability but taught us to go after our goals. I admire a woman who is confident, ambitious, respectful, and compassionate, so she isn’t afraid to go after what she wants and deserves. And most importantly to bring other women up. Women are stronger as a collective.

Do you have any advice for women entrepreneurs?

I truly believe that the energy you put out is the energy you get back. Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you and your outlook will always be bright. Fitness and wellness are a tool that can help you feel incredibly empowered. By becoming physically stronger, you will become mentally stronger. You’ll feel more confident and will connect with like-minded females!

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