Girl Boss Guide ft. Donna Burke of FORME Studios

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Founder of FORME Studios, Donna Burke is the definition of a hustler. From running her own studio to maintaining an active social life to taking the time to talk with me about it all, she seriously does it all. For those of you who haven’t tried FORME, it’s one of my favorite group fitness studios in Atlanta because it offers such variety – and the classes kick your bootay. Not only that, but the welcoming vibe is like no other studio I’ve been to – just take a class there and you’ll see. I’ve known Donna for a while now, but was so excited to get the opportunity to talk with her even more about the backstory behind FORME and how she manages being (literally) Superwoman.

Yes Girl: I’ve always loved your classes, but can you tell me more about how FORME came to be?

Donna Burke: It all started out when my sister & I owned Atlanta Activewear a few years back. We did a lot within the local community and since I have a degree in Exercise Science, I came up with this idea to incorporate a barre class in our store! My sister initially questioned how we could do it with no actual barre, but I thought it would be a great idea to take it off the barre… and that’s how Barre Fusion was born. We set up a sign-up page, posted it and within 30 minutes, the class had sold out. My first thought was “What have we created?!” We knew our clients were interested in fitness but we never knew how successful Barre Fusion would be – 25 girls came to the first class. We started to do the Barre Fusion classes once a week and as demand grew, we now had a full schedule of classes in the mornings and evenings outside of store hours. People were paying to come and work out inside of a clothing store because they loved it that much. When we ran out of space, we moved our evening classes over to Witzlib and the class grew even more. The day we got a call from ClassPass saying they wanted us on board, I knew we had something here. We eventually decided to close the store when the activewear industry became too saturated, and in the same month that we closed the store, I bought the studio and opened FORME.

YG: How the heck did you come up with the concept for this AMAZING workout? 

DB: I’m a total gym junkie. I have tried every workout from CrossFit to Pure Barre to Water Aerobics. I got injured while training for a marathon and through that, I found barre – and quickly realized it was no joke! Through studying Exercise Science in school, I knew how to get my heart rate into that fat-burning zone that everyone wants to get in – and stay in. So, I took all of the aspects of the workouts I liked and put them into my own unique workout. In a Barre Fusion class, you do two total-body workouts within less than an hour that combine the small, pulsing movements of a barre class with cardio that promotes fat-burning. The cardio abs section really gives that ‘shake factor’ we all crave. I also got certified in Bootybarre, which is a similar concept to Barre Fusion, so it went hand in hand. Cardio FORME came out of a need for wanting something more intense, yet still fun, without being too cheesy. I put together a playlist and got inspired and, with the help of some of my friends who danced, I put together a routine and Cardio FORME was born.

YG: Tell me about your own personal success story with FORME. 

DB: I gained 50 pounds after getting injured. As much as I was toning up from barre, that layer of fat was still there because I wasn’t getting cardio in due to my injury, so I knew I had to incorporate cardio into my classes. As a result of FORME, I lost 35-40 pounds.

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Because we believed so much in our product and didn’t focus so much on it being a business, it made it so much more than just a workout.

YG: What is your weekly workout schedule like?

DB: All FORME – all day, every day! I only teach, and that’s because I teach about 10 classes per week. I don’t suggest that someone works out as much as I do, but I’m very aware of how much sleep I get and what I’m eating to stay fueled. I eat probably 3,000 calories a day to fuel my body because in a standard Barre Fusion class, you’re burning 650 calories. In a Cardio FORME class, you’re burning 800 calories within 45 minutes.

YG: There’s a lot of pressure in society to be perfect. How do you stay above it? 

DB: A lot of people get lost in the pursuit of perfection. I was always kind of the ugly duckling growing up and I struggled throughout school with that. Playing sports really helped me to learn to be okay with myself. I started playing soccer when I was 12, and my first coach told us he wasn’t going to train us as girls, but just as regular soccer players. He showed us we were completely equal and I took a lot of that with me as I grew up. Whenever people were nasty or rude, in my mind I was like “we are all the same, I don’t get it”. Growing up, our parents never treated us like we were inferior and that still resonates with me to this day.

YG: What does a typical day of eating look like for you? 

DB: The reality is, I don’t have the time to cook elaborate meals, so my goal is to always find a way to live as healthy as I can while on the go. In the morning, I wake up, teach and go to Starbucks. In the winter I’ll get a Jade Citrus Green Tea and in the summer I get a Venti Iced Coffee with cream and regular sweetener. [I don’t believe in sugar substitutes because your body doesn’t know how to burn it off!] For breakfast, I’ll have a sesame bagel with cream cheese or some kind of smoothie. Then I head into the office for my full-time job. Mid-morning, I’ll usually grab some type of fruit as a snack. Lunch can really vary, depending on the day. Some days I’ll grab pizza; some days I’ll bring a salad from home. I just can’t do the whole meal prep thing because getting out the door with all of my meals ready to go for the day just doesn’t happen for me. It’s easier for me to leave the studio and go by the grocery store and pick out what I’m craving. Dinner, again, is usually a quick trip to the store for whatever I’m craving… there’s usually ice cream involved with dinner, too.

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I’ve tried every diet out there – because paleo is fun, but I love pizza! I think balance brings you sanity.

YG: How do you maintain your desired level of fit while still keeping balance in your day-to-day life? 

DB: I truly don’t want a six-pack and super ripped arms, I just want to be in shape and enjoy margaritas! I saw something that really resonated with me the other day: Don’t waste 95% of your life trying to lose 5% of your body weight. I don’t believe extremes work for anyone because at some point, that extreme will make you crack and force you in the total opposite direction of what you were trying to accomplish. In achieving balance, you end up a lot happier. I’ve tried every diet out there – because paleo is fun, but I love pizza! I think balance brings you sanity.

YG: How do you balance your relationships with your insane schedule?

DB: It is really difficult. My boyfriend is so supportive of my crazy schedule and he really believes in the studio, so he does whatever he can to support. I really try to cut off all of my work at least by the time we finish dinner and spend that last hour of my day with him.  A lot of people will really dive into their business and forget their social lives, but mine are very intertwined because a lot of my friends are from FORME. Even though I’ve worked a ton throughout the week and still have to teach over the weekend, I make sure to make plans with my friends because it’s important to me.

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Our pride at the studio is preaching “Be who you are, whatever shape you are.”

YG: What tips do you have for entrepreneurs or women looking to start their own side hustles – or full-time hustles?!

DB: When people start their own business, they need to realize they’re going to work 10 times as hard for a quarter of the amount of money. Luckily for me, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, because I saw the hard work pay off for my parents as entrepreneurs. I also recommend for people to keep their full time jobs as long as they can, because you’ve got bills to pay! Build your business on the side – we have 24 hours in the day, so when you really break down your day, what can you do in those 5-10 hours you have left over? Those hours outside of work are when you create your brand.

YG: What do you look for when hiring FORME instructors?

DB: My only requirement for instructors is a person who is genuine – everything else can be taught. You can’t teach someone to be a welcoming, nice person and we’ve all been there where we walk into a room and we don’t feel welcome. That was the one thing I did not want in my studio – I want the girls to be comfortable every time they walk in our doors. When someone is genuine, they are here because they love it and because they want to be here.

Interested in taking a class with Donna or one of her amazing instructors? Just head to FORME’s website and sign up! I promise, you won’t regret it.

 

The 8 Commandments of Finding Your Hustle

Having been in the blogging world for a little under a year now, I’ve met some pretty badass women. It’s so inspiring to me to see women I meet succeed at business ventures, on their blogs or in their careers. Corny? Maybe. But I think more of us need to start appreciating each other and all of the amazing things we’re capable of. Instead of tearing each other down or letting the green monster of jealousy get to us, why not utilize those strong women in your life for advice, help, inspiration… right?

Anyways. Tangents aside, three of my favorite Atlanta bloggers, Kale Me Kelly, Eating with Erica and Peachfully Chic have taken off on a really, really exciting new business venture called Girl Talk Series, and it’s giving me life. *hands up emoji*

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 4.44.53 PMErica, Kelly & Allie of Eating with Erica, Kale Me Kelly & Peachfully Chic, otherwise known as the women behind Girl Talk Series.

In their first event of 2016, the “Find Your Hustle” brunch at Orsmby’s, we heard from women at Pink Barre, Bene Scarves, Spa Sydell and Atlanta Eats on HOW to find your passion and run with it. I feel like this has become such a thing, especially with us as millennials – this idea of “finding your passion” and incorporating it into your career/life. I think the first one or two years out of college, a lot of us just want to take the first secure job that comes our way, and then when we start to get complacent, we begin to search for that missing thing, that thing that lights us up and gets our heart racing. Believe it or not, it’s not always easy to find, so these women spoke on how it happened for them. 

Based on their amazing advice, here are the 8 Commandments of Finding Your Hustle:

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Want to attend the next Girl Talk Series event with me? Head to www.girltalkseries.com for more info!

 

Girl Boss Guide ft. Katherine Mason of SculptHouse

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Fitness guru Katherine Mason is part ‘Southern Belle’, part ‘Tough New Yorker’ – and she’s a serious girl boss. Her new concept SculptHouse features one of the most unique workouts in the world along with an expansive athleisure boutique endowed with top-of-the-line fitness wear. I sat down with the founder & CEO of this Buckhead fitness haven to learn more about the fitness model turned studio owner.

Yes Girl: Tell me about your background and how you got started with SculptHouse.

Katherine Mason: When I moved to New York to pursue a career in fitness, I didn’t know exactly what that was, but I knew New York was the place to go to figure it out. Growing up as an athlete, I knew I wanted to do something in the sports industry, so I started working in sports marketing. But, after spending some time in the PR and marketing world, I knew that I wanted to do something more active, so the fitness industry was the perfect way to do that. I worked in a few different top fitness studio and did fitness modeling. Through my experiences, I realized that I had an idea that was going to change fitness in the South. I saw what New York had to offer and I wondered to myself “why does the South not have anything as cutting-edge as New York does?” That’s how the idea of SculptHouse came together. I wanted to do something that combined my passion for fitness and workout wear that had come about from my time in New York. At a Shape Magazine photoshoot, I realized that the fitness wear space was changing to be a more boutique feel and moving away from the big box names, so I wanted to bring that to Atlanta. In terms of the workout, I absolutely fell in love with the Megaformer because it was so different than anything I’d done before. Back when I was playing sports, it was so fast-paced, but the Megaformer was so challenging in such a great, unusual way and it changed my body to be longer, leaner and stronger. People from lots of different backgrounds can do this workout and feel good. I knew I wanted to combine the Megaformer with some type of cardio because I kept hearing people in New York saying they felt like they needed a cardio aspect. I discovered the Woodway Curve and, through pairing it with the Megaformer, I created a workout that provides extremely low impact and high efficiency. So, in 50 minutes, you get as much work as some people do in an hour and a half to two hours.

YG: Strong is the new skinny, and we all want to build long, lean muscles. How does your workout achieve that?

KM: I definitely think women need to be involved in some kind of resistance training. You get strength and resistance on the Megaformer, because it has the capability to go from about 8 pounds to 180 pounds. It’s all about how many springs you have on or off. One of our members has osteoporosis, and seeing the strength she’s acquired over time just from doing this workout is so inspiring. We need to lift weights to strengthen our bones and muscles surrounding them. The cables and pulleys on the Megaformer make it so that you have tension throughout your whole exercise, verses it releasing, for example, if you’re doing bicep curls with free weights where the tension releases at the bottom of the curl.

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On the SculptHouse workout: “We have a combination that’s different than anywhere else in the world.”

YG: As a studio owner, what would you say a typical day looks like for you?

KM: I usually get into the studio no later than 8:30 and stay until about 9pm. A lot of my day-to-day is working in the boutique, since I have a lot of experience in that realm from being in New York. Megan Armstrong [SculptHouse’s Creative Director & Lead Trainer] helps me make sure the studio is in check, because we have a lot going on under one roof! My day can involve anything from re-stocking the shelves to talking with our vendors to helping style our customers. I like to help them find workout clothes that compliment their skin tone or fit their body in a flattering way. Whether they’re actually working out or going to brunch with friends, I want our customers to feel comfortable and prepared. I like to take them out of their comfort zone and challenge them a little bit, too!

YG: Talk to me about the athleisure trend and your personal style.

KM: I like to dress up my workout clothes with fun accessories like cute sneaker wedges or a big, chunky necklace. A lot of times I’ll go to dinner with friends in my workout leggings and throw on a cool sweater for a put-together look. New York is a few years ahead with the athleisure trend so I’m really excited to see it coming here to Atlanta.

YG: What does a normal day of eating look like for you?

KM: I usually start my days with a smoothie. Then, for lunch, it’s almost embarrassing how much I go to Souper Jenny or Juicy Jenny! It’s easy, quick and convenient and I can still keep my day going. New York has a ton of healthy places to eat and everyone there is usually eating out at places like that, so I’m excited to see places like Kale Me Crazy opening up here! I usually cook for dinner if I have time, so I’ll run to Whole Foods and pick up ingredients to cook but it’s always something quick and easy! In New York, I was cooking a ton but I also had a very different schedule. Now, I’ve just kind of accepted that it’s not as easy for me to grocery shop and meal prep, so I make the healthiest choices I can while eating out.

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On starting your own business: “It’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but if you want it bad enough, you won’t care.”

YG: Since a lot of meals need to be out for you, what are some of your favorite healthy spots in Atlanta?

KM: I love True Food Kitchen, Café Sunflower and The Optimist! Umi and O-Ku are always great for sushi. It’s really just all about making smart choices wherever you go. You can always find something healthy on the menu.

YG: Let’s talk about the balance between staying healthy and letting your self indulge occasionally.

KM: I think I’m pretty balanced because you just have to be in life, otherwise you drive yourself crazy. At Souper Jenny the other day, I was craving a Roast Beef Sandwich for some reason, and I usually never even eat roast beef! For whatever reason, that’s what my body was craving at the time. I definitely let myself indulge and I think the key is not to feel guilty. If you’re gonna do it, then do it and move on! It’s not the end of the world – that’s why you exercise! Your body’s cravings are not accidental, so I think it’s important to pay attention to them.

YG: What’s your favorite indulgent meal?

KM: I would definitely say pizza and Mexican, or a great cheese board. Queso and a skinny margarita are a must at any Mexican joint or I also like making my own pizza at Mellow Mushroom!

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“Just like we go shopping to find a dress for a special occasion, that’s becoming the everyday with workout clothes.”

YG: Being so much in the public eye, how do you keep a positive body image?

KM: First off, you just have to be confident in what your body type is. In the modeling world, I was constantly surrounded by beautiful models who were tall and thin, and I just had to accept my athletic body type and do what was best for me specifically. I’ve definitely had moments of insecurity, but the key is to find your inner confidence – because people can read it all over your face if you’re not. You really just have to own who you are and work hard to achieve your best body. Whatever you are good at, play to your strengths and be proud. Find friends that support what you’re good at, and who will laugh with you about what you’re not so good at.

YG: What advice do you have for female entreprenuers?

KM: Don’t be scared – I’ve had people ask me if I’m nervous or scared, but I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘yes’. I believe so much in my product, my services and my team that I just don’t care what other people think. I think you just have to find that confidence in whatever it is you’re doing and own it. Make sure you create a business plan because it will help you strategize. After building a business, you just learn to let everything roll off your back. I’ve definitely developed some toughness from this process! If you believe in what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what other people are saying. You’re going to have people that doubt you, but you have to let that slide. It’s going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but if you want it bad enough, you won’t care.

Want to learn more about SculptHouse? Check them out at www.sculpthouse.com. Your first class is only $15!