Opening one of Toronto’s newest boutique fitness studios was no small feat, we had a chance to chat with founder Christine Tessaro about it, if you’re considering leaping into the land of entrepreneurship or wondering how studios are born this is a must-read!
Who are you and what is SPOKEHAUS?
I am the founder of SPOKEHAUS, Toronto’s go-to studio for a full-body workout on a bike. As a boutique studio, we are not only promoting fitness we are promoting the lifestyle that goes hand in hand with being active and being healthy!
Combining action & lifestyle, we love it! Tell us about your journey from having the idea to open a studio to the fitness hub you have today?
It has been a very LONG journey…as a young entrepreneur it can be tough to be taken seriously, especially coming from a completely different industry. I think what made my case successful is that in addition to spinning being my favorite hobby for as long as I can remember, I have a passion for building brands and creating beautiful and inspiring spaces. When I combined these two things that I absolutely love, it turned into a very passion driven, powerful combination. As much as I loved going to spin classes I was never overly inspired by the traditional form of spinning that existed - I would be watching the clock the entire time, but it did deliver the cardio that I needed so I stuck with it.
"There is something super magical about moving together with complete strangers..."
The shift we made is adding choreography and a strong focus to riding to the beat of a killer song – when I tried this, it allowed my focus to shift away from the clock and instead to moving in unison with my fellow riders. There is something super magical about moving together with complete strangers and because we are up and out of the saddle the cardio exertion for me was massive. People have gravitated to SPOKE because it pulls them out of their comfort zone and allows them to get out of their routine for 45 minutes of the day – everyone in our space is totally high on music, energy and the feeling of community that we are building within the space.
What differentiates SPOKEHAUS from other boutique style fitness studios?
We like to keep it personal. When we first opened I really wanted the team to make it a priority to know every riders name, but without us even talking about it, it just organically happened - I think because the team really cares and is truly invested in the concept. From the day we opened until now it is 100% the original team – no one has left. Everyone feels like family and I think our riders vibe on that and (I hope!) feel it too.
What roadblocks did you come up against and what successes did you have when developing and launching SPOKEHAUS?
Roadblocks, there are too many to even list! More and more I understood why they say that only 1 in 10 new businesses thrive (which is a really scary statistic to keep hearing as an entrepreneur about to put her entire life into a business!). Daily there were multiple moments and happenings that made me think I should turn around and run back to my corporate job but I really believed in wanting this type of fitness community for the city, I really felt that people were looking for a new way to move and to be motivated and we have so many riders that would testify to the success they have seen in only 6 short months…their accomplishments and positive changes not only physically, but mentally as well, feel like a success to me.
What is your favourite part about owning & running your own Toronto business and favourite part about running a studio in the fitness industry?
Right now I wouldn’t say I have a flexible schedule, I love being at the studio day in and day out (even if I am not teaching or running the laundry machine). I love riding with the other instructors, the girls often need to tell me to leave multiple times a day!
I think the freedom to make your own hours seems desirable but I don’t have that yet. Oh, and I love not sitting at a desk for 8 hours and commuting for another 2! You can find me on a City of Toronto Bixi Bike commuting to the studio in under 3 minutes… I feel healthier and being around people that have just finished a killer spin class – it’s an infectious and positive place to be!
What do you look for in your staff - studio crew and instructors?
It’s all about connection – can the staff and instructors connect with the riders in an authentic way? You need to be passionate and kind and extremely patient. Instructors have got to have the motivation and the drive to run a kickass class multiple times a week (yes, sometimes even instructors don’t feel like working out!).
What is some of the most impactful advice you've learned along the way, is there anything you wish you'd known ahead of time?
I think the best advice I received was from my Dad (who is the most patient, un-phased person I know!). He said “stay in your lane” when I would worry about all the setbacks we would have or what the future holds, he told me to stay 100% focused on my goal and why I did this in the first place and not be distracted by external things, just stay focused and remember the vision.
How do you overcome hurdles and on the flip side, celebrate successes?
Honestly, hurdles – you just power through them because you really don’t have any other choice. I am pretty calm in stressful situations and I think things always resolve themselves one way or another. It is tough to remember this in the stressful moments but I try to remind myself that in a day/week/month, the problem will be resolved and I will have another one to deal with - ha! Successes we try to celebrate with the team through acknowledgement. We are constantly shouting out our riders, they are all achieving amazing milestones and we couldn’t be more proud of and happy for them… we already have riders celebrating 70 RIDES with us…truly amazing!
Give us three things you feel any entrepreneur should keep in mind when launching a business.
- Are you solving a problem? A need? A desire that is missing in the marketplace?
- There will never be work/life balance; you will never be able to shut off!
- Action…you can think forever about what you will do, what will work and write it down a million different ways but the only thing that will start your business is action!
~Oil & Grain for HEMM