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Marilisa BarbiericBusiness Consultant, Luxury & Digital Transformation

If you’re ready to embrace entrepreneurship or add an income stream, think about how you can build a business inspired by a hobby or passion you’ve developed.

Taking the plunge and starting your business is usually the result of an action plan. But sometimes, as happened to me, a new venture can spontaneously come to you. In addition to my long career in business development for the luxury industry, I now have a new calling that dates back to my early childhood.

In 2020, during the pandemic, I seized the opportunity to boutique fitness studio, and since then my passion has grown into a solid business and additional income stream. Here’s how it started, what makes niche businesses work, and how I built my brand with zero dollars.

How I Accidentally Started a Boutique Fitness Business

I started a boutique fitness business during the pandemic without any business plan or investment. The opportunity just came to me.

While I only had fun roller skating in the park, people started asking me to teach them essential skating skills. They wanted to have as much fun as I did, exercise and stay in shape. Roller skating is a potent blend of fitness and fun that appeals to not only younger customers but adults as well.

Without realizing it, I created a desire for a fun workout, personal growth, and outdoor lifestyle in my NYC neighborhood. That’s how I accidentally started my fitness brand “Skating Evolution” and turned my passion into my profession.

Embrace your weirdness to find your niche and audience

Finding a niche for a new business with a sustainable market and audience will help you focus. It increases the chance that your idea will be turned into a successful business.

When looking for a niche market, pick one that you know. Embracing your craziness can help you find interest in evolving into a business. Your idiosyncrasies, insights, talents and hobbies are unique and that is what makes you special. Instead of hiding them, take a closer look and maybe find some inspiration for a new brand. Showing off your uniqueness is a beacon for like-minded individuals who will see it and want to get involved.

In my case, roller skating is my childhood passion, my niche. I only rediscovered it a few years ago and since then, after work, I’ve gone to the park, laced my quads and practiced on my own. A few years later, the pandemic changed everything and everyone’s lives. With the need for outdoor space and a new workout routine, many New Yorkers sought different ways to exercise and stay in shape. Social media also helped. And since then there has been a roller skating renaissance

When choosing an audience, focus all your efforts on only customers who can relate to what you offer. As a roller skating coach, I share my expertise with those who want to spend some time on themselves and learn something new and fun. Most of my clients have always had the ambition to learn, but never had the time or felt confident enough to try. They are professionals in their thirties and forties, some in their fifties. They all seek the help of a personal coach to master the essential skills on skates and discover some roller dance moves.

Trying to be everything to everyone won’t work. If you want to start a boutique fitness studio, differentiate yourself from the competition by being specific in communicating your unique value.

Highly specialized offering, flexibility and curated experience

A boutique fitness studio was a great way for me to enter the fitness industry. With a different training experience than a gym and a focus on community and an energetic social atmosphere, this type of experience offers only one or a maximum of two types of exercise. This is key with boutique businesses.

An important factor in the success of my coaching lessons is actually the highly specialized offer and the flexible nature of the lessons. The 1-on-1 coaching program is professionally composed according to the wishes of the client. Essential skills, an extensive masterclass, a multitude of workshops and the occasional group jam have all been well received and implemented.

Adopting an agile mindset and business model, as well as a highly specialized model, is the perfect choice if you want to run this as an afterthought. Plus, one advantage of this is that the location can probably be anywhere depending on your type of boutique business.

Retentions, referrals and reviews are the keys to continued growth

The most powerful acquisition strategy I’ve found is word of mouth. People spend a lot of time looking at online reviews, researching testimonials, and looking for social proof. Ultimately, they are attracted to products and services recommended by friends. That’s why referrals and reviews are so important.

Getting as many customers as possible usually doesn’t work for this niche business model. For example, acquiring a new roller skate student is more expensive than keeping an existing one. Instead, providing the best experience to the existing customers at all touchpoints, from the booking, is the key to business growth for a boutique company.

All interactions with my clients are curated and focused on building trust and a long-term relationship. Experimenting bridging the in-person experience with the online studio experience is an example of an add-on that can help retention. It gives you the opportunity to track and monitor your student’s progress while providing personalized feedback.


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