Starting a business during the pandemic can be very challenging. With new regulations, uncertainty, and economic instability, it takes a lot of courage to keep going – but it also helps you build resilience, flexibility, and strength.
For this article, we interviewed Dr. Liesa Lier, Co-founder and Coach of GlowBarre. The studio in Cologne offers ballet-inspired fitness workouts and aims to bring good health and positive vibes to all clients. Apart from the regular sessions in their studio (taught by a team of thirteen women), they also offer workouts online.
GlowBarre isn’t just a fitness studio, but also a place that aims to encourage people to feel good about themselves.
Liesa Lier is 29 years old and based in Cologne, Germany. She was born and raised in this city (which she absolutely loves), as a daughter of parents who have always been running their own restaurant. She studied Business in Germany, Switzerland, China, Spain, and the UK before joining the strategy consulting firm Bain & Company in 2016.
After a while, she stepped out of Consulting to do a PhD in Sports Economics. For her, physical activity is important from an individual as well as a societal perspective. During her PhD, she began starting her own venture – she co-founded a Barre studio in Cologne. Unfortunately, 6 weeks after they opened, COVID forced them to shut down. It has been a crazy ride for her since then, working both as a Consultant for Bain and an entrepreneur at the same time.
What inspired you to step out of your job in consulting to pursue a PhD?
I’ve always been very curious and loved the idea of having the time to immerse myself in an interesting topic. The importance of physical activity is a topic that’s very close to my heart and when I got the opportunity to pursue a PhD in that field, I took it.
What is the main mission of GlowBarre business?
GlowBarre isn’t just a fitness studio. It’s also a place that aims to encourage people to feel good about themselves and about engaging in physical activity. All our coaches bring their personal style to their classes – but what they all have in common is a strong desire to make the students feel seen, comfortable, and energised. We want everyone to leave our classes stronger than before – physically and mentally. You should glow inside and out.
What was the factor that made you realise that a studio like GlowBarre was missing from the German market?
Barre is huge in other countries, but still a niche sport in Germany. Cologne didn’t have a Barre studio before we opened. By creating GlowBarre, we intended to combine a ‘lifestyle’ sport with a family-like atmosphere, openness and a healthy, down-to-earth attitude which everyone who enters our studio should feel.
You founded GlowBarre shortly before the COVID outbreak, which must have been especially difficult for a new business. How did you overcome the hurdle of restrictions, financial instability, etc.?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’ve already overcome those hurdles, as we’re still in the middle of difficult times. We were forced to close down the studio twice in our first year, which makes it incredibly tough to build a client base. Thankfully, we received some financial support, but the main challenge was to remain motivated to keep going despite the setbacks and continuous instability. I’m a very resilient and optimistic person and always try to look on the bright side of things. I strongly believe in the concept of GlowBarre – that is why I’m still motivated to make it a success. However, some days are challenging and I’m very thankful for all the support from my family, friends, and the Cologne neighbourhood.
Both you and your business co-founder Christina also work as coaches for the sessions. How do you manage taking up a managerial position as well as one that directly interacts with your clients?
In my opinion, being close to the customer is a key success factor for a business like GlowBarre. Only by listening in how clients perceive our classes and ‘feeling’ our studio first-hand as a coach, can I make the right managerial decisions. Workload wise it’s sometimes tough, especially as I’m still working as a Consultant as well. But I’m blessed with a high energy level, a strong team at GlowBarre, and a very supportive social circle.
You have studied in Germany, Switzerland and China. Has studying in different countries influenced your career decisions in any way?
Yes, absolutely. I studied in a very international and dynamic environment, and met many ambitious people who motivated me to reach for more. Starting my career in a dynamic and travel-intense job like consulting was certainly a consequence of realising that I enjoy living and working in different places on various topics. I have also travelled quite a bit during my studies and was always amazed by the great concepts I got to know in other countries. I think these experiences motivated be to be creative and develop my very own concept: GlowBarre.
How has your background in Business and economics helped you in your path to entrepreneurship?
I grew up in a highly entrepreneurial family. However, my parents never went to university and had to learn all the economical basics of running a restaurant on their own. That worked out pretty well for them – however, I’m happy that I got the chance to get an education in Business. Having a feeling for concepts such as profit and loss, revenue drivers, marketing etc. surely helps me with running my business.
Become a Member
How can women in entrepreneurship support each other?
The first step would be to skip any negative feelings like envy. There aren’t that many of us anyway, so we should all be happy about every new female entrepreneur who dares to start a business. In my opinion, being open and approachable, providing advice and sharing realities are great things we can do to support each other.
What tips would you give to a young woman who wants to start a business but does not know what steps to take?
I would recommend spending some time defining and testing your idea – but don’t overdo it. We can’t all have a multimillion-dollar idea, and even the big founders often started small. Don’t be scared – in the end, it’s just doing one step after the other, and there are plenty of people who can support you. That would be my second advice: don’t shy away from discussing your idea openly, getting feedback and taking in support. Be careful with feedback though: some people are just rather pessimistic, always look for the hair in the soup or just don’t feel it. Don’t let your idea be destroyed by negativity.
What was the most rewarding moment since you founded GlowBarre?
I had so many rewarding moments. I recently invited my team over to my apartment for drinks and snacks. It was amazing to see that I’ve gathered people around me who have joined me in driving the idea. I also love that one moment after every single class I teach, when I can see the glow on my clients’ faces and just feel happy that we remained resilient and that the studio is still there, having this kind of effect on people.
What are your plans for the future – for your business GlowBarre, but also for you personally?
I would really like to see GlowBarre become an integral part of Cologne’s sports scene. My plan is to help the business grow over the next months which will, by nature, trigger personal growth as well. I also have to figure out an effective model for my life, combining Entrepreneurship, Consulting and personal life. That is my 2022 challenge and I absolutely look forward to cracking it.
Article by Ayna Li Taira
If you want to know more about GlowBarre and their mission, check their Instagram account. If you want to discover the courses and book some of them, check out their website. For more inspiring stories, check our Online Magazine out and let us know your thoughts. Become a member of our female entrepreneurs’ community and academy and try it for 7 days for free.