By Cindy Atoji Keene
When first-time entrepreneur Jessica Bashelor, 25, decided she wanted to own and operate her own indoor cycling studio in South Boston, her business strategy included a social media plan that created buzz, and a “gym culture” that attracted Millennials. “Opening a gym isn’t just about laying out different pieces of equipment, but also creating a space that helps change people’s lives by encouraging community and fitness,” said Bashelor, who opened the doors to The Handle Bar this summer. The Handle Bar offers riders a high-intensity spin class accompanied by a fresh music soundtrack to work out to.
Q: You graduated three years ago from Northeastern University with a degree in Biology. How did you realize your true passion was for fitness?
A: I grew up a swimming competitively – the breast stroke and freestyle were my specialty – and spending my whole life getting into the pool for two hours a day. While attending college at Northeastern, I tried yoga, kick boxing, ab classes and Pilates, but I ended up loving spinning the most. It was such an intense 45 minutes and great for building leg muscles. After taking my spin class, I didn’t think I could walk. I’ve never been that sore or sweaty. I opened The Handle Bar to offer classes with the intensity I crave, set to playlists composed with care.
Q: What’s behind this debate about licensed Spinning facilities versus unlicensed?
A: Spinning is by far the most well-known way to define the sport of indoor cycling, but the term is trademarked by Mad Dog Athletics. To be an official Spinning studio, you need to use Spinning bike brands and follow their workout regime. I wanted to use Schwinn bikes instead because they have a great reputation, and we use hand-weights, which aren’t allowed in the Mad Dog manual. So we are known as an indoor cycling studio only.
Q: Are you handy with a bike wrench?
A: Part of my role is understanding everything about bikes that I possibly can. If pedals pop off, adjustment pins come out, or something goes wrong with cleats, I need to be able to troubleshoot. I’ve gotten to the point where I can sense when something is going to go wrong and nip it in the bud.
Q: How do you use social media to promote the gym?
A: Whether it’s Retox Friday on Facebook (“We spin, we sweat, we dry-off, we drink!”) or recognizing the accomplishments of a dedicated member, social media is hugely important for me. Its’ a great tool for sharing news, making last-minute announcements, promoting events, etc. But I find it most beneficial in the way it allows us to create a personality for the studio. The way a rider feels before, during, and after class is what keeps them coming back – with social media we can continue that sentiment by posting photos, articles, and making announcements that serve as reminders of our vibe even when they’re not here.
Q: Gym management software is making the task of administering a gym easier. How is it helping you?
A: Technology has changed everything for an independent studio owner. I didn’t manage one before The Handle Bar, but I cannot imagine running a studio without an online booking feature. Having the riders paid before they arrive makes check-in a breeze. I can spend those few minutes before class getting to know my clientele rather than processing transactions. Not to mention I don’t have to handle large amounts of cash which gives me some peace of mind from a safety standpoint. I also use the software called MindBody for inventory management, scheduling, tracking trends and growth.
Q: What’s in your gym bag today?
Hair straightener; a few blank W4 forms for new hires; my iPad with industrial rubber case because I drop it every day; eight dollars in quarters (parking meters and laundry machines require a lot from me); four headbands; two pairs of Lululemon crops; one Handle Bar sweatshirt; iPhone ear buds and Sephora brand red lipstick.
Q: What are your favorite phases to motivate riders?
A: “We’re in this together, let’s get through this as a pack.” “Success in the bike room relates to success outside – hard work is hard work!” And recently I’ve been telling riders to whip their hair back and forth, its good for a laugh and a funny scene – and there’s no better way to get rid of inhibitions!