Most of you who know me well, are aware of the fact that I workout at Elite Barre Fitness Studio in Redding, Ca. And if you have talked to Michele McEntire (owner/instructor of Elite Barre) she has probably filled you in on my role as web designer and social media marketer for her business, because she is generous in that way. What most of you don’t know are the details of what I do and why I am such a strong supporter of Michele and her small business.
Before I get into all of that, let me give you a little back story:
In 2013 I was entangled in what felt like a health crisis. My lack of self care over the 13 years of being a mom had finally caught up with me. Stress, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits finally had taken it’s toll, and I was sick. I wasn’t just physically sick, I was sick and tired of feeling restless and used up. After trying everything else except exercise, I finally made the decision to join my local YMCA. My first gym membership ever. At first, every class I took felt like torture. I made myself keep going, it got easier, I felt better and so began a commitment to self care. The first time I took Michele’s barre class at the Y, I was hooked, it was so efficient, effective and fun. That class attracted a great group of women and I came to depend on that hour two times per week for my sanity. Another thing that kept me coming back was Michele’s positivity and confidence in instructing. She really knew what she was doing, and finding someone you can say that about is rare, in my experience.
After over a year of taking these classes Michele announced she would no longer be teaching at the YMCA, she had an opportunity to instruct at a private studio. I immediately imagined not having her barre class in my life (affording an additional class membership was not an option at the time), something I did not want to become a reality. I tried other classes at the Y in the hopes they could replace barre, no such luck. So, I had an idea - I am a problem solver after all. I had worked collaboratively in my fashion design work and so I decided to try working with Michele collaboratively- a trade you might say. My proposition was simple: I would do Michele’s facebook marketing for her barre class and in exchange I could continue to take her barre classes at the private studio. She generously agreed and so this experiment began.
Over time, more and more women in the community regularly came to Michele’s classes, this gave her the courage to quit her other part time jobs and concentrate on Elite Barre full time. I agreed to help her make this transition a success, because when you become a full time small business owner, there is no plan B. Going to a full time class schedule meant I needed to do more than just a few Facebook posts and logo designs. Supporting and coaching Michele’s business meant that I was signing on for a long term commitment of web design, branding, marketing, ad campaigns, project management, conference calls, emails, tech support, meetings, and strategizing. You may be thinking “All of that is more work than the original trade agreement. How could Michele afford to pay for all of that start up work when she had just quit her day jobs and was just getting her business off the ground?” The short answer is: I have never billed her for the work that has gone above and beyond our original trade.
Why? Why would I agree to work for free? Why would I go into a situation knowing the person I am working for can’t afford to pay me? The answer: I wanted to give a gift to someone who was willing to receive it and appreciate it and make the most of it. Michele was and is most certainly that someone. However, this gift is not just for Michele.
Art is a personal gift that changes the recipient. The medium doesn't matter. The intent does.” -Seth Godin from the book: Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
After our first Barre Bootcamp ended in the fall of 2015, we had a gathering at a local restaurant, where we celebrated the success of all of the women who had participated. We talked about how many inches they had lost, how many pounds were shed, what worked and what didn’t, and then the conversation got a little more serious. Almost everyone talked about how much support, friendship and community they felt at Elite Barre. How much they needed that in their lives. How making time for their own health and fitness made them feel so much better and how having Michele, the studio and it’s members was something they desperately needed. It was then I realized, how important my art really was.
Sometimes you have to bend the established and accepted rules to get things done. I decided that money should not be a barrier to creating a business that promotes health and community. For me, supporting Michele, who is super hard working, doesn't back down from the challenges of being a business owner, and a loving supportive friend, is a no-brainer. There was work that needed to be done, she needed help to get it done, so I did it- no questions asked. I did it because I wanted to. I do it because it is important to me. My intention is to make change, because I can.
Just to be clear, I didn’t write this post to toot my own horn, or to advertise that I work for free. The real reason I wrote this post is to inspire you to make art, give gifts you think are worth giving, and bend the rules to make the changes you know are needed for the good of your community- whatever and wherever that may be.
When done properly, gifts work like nothing else. A gift gladly accepted changes everything. The imbalance creates motion, motion that pushes us to a new equilibrium, motion that creates connection” - Seth Godin