May 8, 2024
Case Study

Redefining Success and Expanding Her Studio Imprint as a Female Entrepreneur

Bekah, the owner of the super-popular San Diego-based Lagree studio, Elevate, shares how Walla not only has eliminated administrative work and saved her time but also gave her the accurate data needed to open additional locations.

Redefining Success and Expanding Her Studio Imprint as a Female Entrepreneur

As a confident trainer turned entrepreneur, Rebekah (Bekah) Marx, owner of Elevate,  knew that in order to scale her very popular and well-known Lagree studio, she needed a modern software and data she could trust. What Bekah found with Walla not only eliminated the burden of administrative tasks and tech hacks, but instantly increased retention, revenue, conversions—and empowered her to manage a multi-location studio while saving time and working smarter, not harder. 

“...The ability to see studio performance and measure performance on a per-location basis for a multi-location business is unbelievable! The fact that that didn’t exist before is kind of crazy. It’s mind-blowing. I can’t even believe that this far into the game with technology and software, this kind of reporting didn’t exist prior to Walla.”

What gave you the courage to take over and expand Elevate? 

Prior to owning Elevate, I began as a trainer. I was in the Lagree world before I actually took over the business—which is a unique starting point. I started as a trainer obviously because I loved the Lagree method and what we do here. Then the studio went through a branding change and ownership change, and I stepped in as the manager role, dipping my toes into the backend of the business and daily operations. When I took over Elevate, I didn't have this stark contrast of only being a new teacher and then jumping immediately into business ownership. That’s my biggest piece of advice to people: Business ownership is a completely different skill set. As a teacher, you want to be front and center of people every day, and the same goes for being a studio owner but in a different role. And I think that some people don't realize how much it takes on the back end to have things operate smoothly and the operational aspect of running a studio.

I am super thankful that the transition to business ownership was relatively easy for me because I had been in the back end for a few years and understood the day-to-day. So when I did take over the two locations, I had the operational and staff management experience. I was familiar with pretty much everything except the burden of financially bearing the responsibility of a studio. I believe my journey is a little unique, but I am passionate about it, and my expectations were definitely realistic—and so were my limitations as just one person stepping into a multi-location business and operation. I am definitely thankful to have transitioned into something that was preexisting and not to have to go through all of the nitty-gritty step-by-step processes. Everything at Elevate eventually had to be reprocessed and reworked, but at least I was part of a business that was already running and had huge potential.

What was your biggest operational hurdle and pain point before Walla?

Before Walla, there were so many issues with our other software. From the operational and the staff management side, everything in Mindbody took so many steps, and it took so long. There were constant day-to-day issues with the simplest things. On the client-facing side, the amount of extra hours spent just responding to things that shouldn't have been going wrong and people getting locked out of their accounts was endless. Also, the website! You couldn’t book directly through our Elevate website—and the branded app wasn’t linked to the main app. There were literally hours of work every single day just dealing with these types of issues, and there was no brand consistency. None. The unnecessary manpower spent and frustration both on the consumer side and then on the staff management side. Just thinking about the amount of hours that it took to reconcile paid visits. Can you even imagine?

Plus, we were losing so much revenue from the late cancellation and no-show reports. As a studio owner, especially in a Lagree-based class where you only have a limited number of spots, you get a lot of revenue from late cancels and no-show fees. Those fees are huge, and they add up month to month throughout the year, making a significant impact on studio revenue. If I didn't actually sit down and go in and manually charge those in Mindbody, I would not collect. When emergencies pop up at the studio, they take precedence over manual reports that you have to run on a weekly or monthly basis. So sometimes those just like fell deeper and deeper down into the task list. Honestly, you lose so much revenue from that alone.

There’s also the complexity of Mindbody’s software. Having to train every new staff member and teach them your shortcuts and workarounds was impossible. It's like after being 8, 9, 10 years in Mindbody, you kind of have your systems down. It's a million steps, but you know it. Trying to teach that, though, and replicate that to somebody else is nearly impossible.

What gave you the confidence to make the switch to Walla?

Honestly, I switched to Walla because of you guys! The people behind Walla and the software speak for themselves. Walla had all of the essentials that we needed at Elevate and a lot of the fixes to the problems that we were experiencing with Mindbody. But to be honest, other software’s had a lot of that, too. I think that was honestly the key thing that made me want to switch to Walla because, yes, there are other good software, but the difference with Walla was in the care behind the company. With Walla, it’s a partnership of helping each other out.                

Since Walla is part of Elevate’s every day, what are your favorite features and why? 

Just the ability to break down KPIs per studio location. That makes a huge difference—and you can actually have the accurate reporting to support the numbers. So, regardless of which report it actually is in Walla, the ability to see studio performance and measure the performance on a per-location basis for a multi-location business is unbelievable. The fact that that didn't exist before is kind of crazy. It's mind-blowing. I can't even believe that this far into the game with technology and software, this kind of reporting didn't exist prior to Walla. 

Another big Walla feature for me would just be your Intro Offer Report and client reporting. You can see all the data in colors and have a grasp on retention and sales. And if you don't have a marketing and a sales strategy, that's a very easy place for anybody with no background in business to start. Walla just makes it super clear and super easy to follow studio performance. Also, I'd say just with the size of our studio and onboarding, Walla’s how-to videos for the front desk staff and all our new trainers are amazing. It takes zero personal time for my operations manager and me to sit down and teach a new hire how to use the Walla. We just send them the video, and it’s completely hands-off and so user-friendly. I used to spend hours behind the front desk. And if I had to hire someone to do backend administrative work? That would have taken me hours over the course of weeks for them to even have an idea of how to use Mindbody at Elevate. 

The team and the people who are part of customer service make everything straightforward at Walla. It obviously takes a little bit of a learning curve to learn new software, but putting in the initial time to navigate the platform, click the tabs, and look at all the reports is worth it. Everything is Walla is where it should be—like when you go into a new house and the spatulas are in the kitchen next to the stove. Everything is where it belongs in Walla. It just makes sense. 

How has switching to Walla impacted your clients, community, and staff?

The ease of booking, like how many more sales we've captured from somebody who hasn't been frustrated with the booking process on Mindbody. Our clients are wanting to create a profile, they're wanting to book a class—and they're wanting to purchase something from us. And how many of those people did we lose because it was just so complicated before? Too many. 

There’s the guest passes, too. That’s a huge one for us at Elevate. Just the amount of clients who wanted to bring their friends that couldn't before with Mindbody. I think we are just getting more people in the door initially because it’s so much easier to sign up in Walla and register for class. 

Let’s talk about and quantify the impact of Walla on Elevate and discuss the growth you’ve experienced.

Walla’s Plan Retention Report and Plan Gain / Loss Report are amazing and are great sources to pull data from. As for revenue at Elevate, we are consistently growing year over year and month over month, which is absolutely awesome, and I can easily see that information in Walla. We are tracking our numbers at Elevate more religiously and actually looking at monthly KPIs because we can, which is super helpful and motivating. 

Has Walla positively impacted your daily life as a busy studio owner?

I save hours on support questions that we used to experience with our previous software. As the owner, I am very hands-off now with Walla, which I couldn’t be before. Everything in Walla is so easy to follow and easy to track and Walla Support is always in the loop. I don’t have to call and spend hours on the phone explaining myself. 

Before, I found myself so frustrated because when I talked to Mindbody’s support, they would walk me through something simple or a workaround, and I’m like, I’ve been using this software longer than the support person has been an employee there. With Walla, there’s just a huge difference from a customer support standpoint. At Elevate, we have text and email support, like Walla, which saves tremendous amounts of time. The need for customer service is just dramatically less because everything in Walla is more user-friendly and straightforward. 

Has your definition of success changed since switching to Walla? And what are your goals?

I definitely think it's about working smarter, not harder. I am very fact-based, and I’ve always loved math and things that make sense, like A plus B equals C. So I think the data in Walla and having it easily accessible is like, oh, everything's flowing. We're killing it—and actually being able to quantify that, too, is big. It's huge for me.

I think success also has to do with why we chose Walla: The people behind the business. Yes, we are a business at Elevate, but my focus is on providing a great work atmosphere and, hopefully, eventually being able to give someone else the same opportunity that was given to me. So that’s my vision and my goal as a studio owner. And then I think everybody that we do hire is so passionate about what we do at Elevate and being able to make Lagree accessible to other people. 

As the people behind the studio, we're not trying to be the most trendy, but we want to be great at what we do. We also want to make sure that everybody who walks through our doors feels that sense of belonging. I think it’s about creating an atmosphere where we are invested in you—and yes, we offer Lagree because we love it. At the end of the day, it's a business and it's an expensive business to run (and rent is really expensive in San Diego). I always keep in mind that Elevate is not just a profit-based business; we are passionate about what we do, and we care about the people who walk through our doors. You are just not another number to me, to us.

When it comes to success and goals, I also think about every time I lead our teacher trainings at Elevate. It humbles me so much to hear people's experiences and what is going on in their lives when they found our studio—or what gave them the courage to sign up for teacher training.  Everybody has such an inspirational story about how Elevate has impacted their lives for the better, which is incredible. At times, I feel like I just need to open another studio just to give people the ability to work at Elevate, which is amazing. It's a good problem to have. 

And what are your tips for meeting and exceeding studio goals, especially in a highly competitive space? 

Oh gosh. (As Bekah laughs). I think it’s about balance. Like, we're never going to be perfect in our personal lives and in business; you can't be everything to everyone. I think it’s so important to recognize that. 

I am still dealing and working on this, but stay in your lane. Put your blinders on, know your purpose, know your why, and the less you compare to what everybody else is doing, the better. At the end of the day, the more peace you're going to feel going home at night, whether or not your studio's performing how you want it to be. If you have one person in your class, know you're changing that one person's day, their life, and make their studio experience true, honest, and intentional, and it's bound to grow.

When I took over Elevate, I had zero experience in marketing, zero experience in sales, and zero experience in business. And I think at the end of the day, you have to be willing to just learn and put in the work. You're going to mess up. It's not going to be perfect from the get-go. It's not going to be perfect ever, but create something that, as a client, you would enjoy walking into—and create a business where people want to show up to work. I think creating that space will just naturally lead to the success of the other areas.

Just roll with it and have faith. And remember, you can’t be everything to everyone. You are one person with very real limitations, and it’s okay that you cannot do it all. 

What’s your Walla pitch to other studio owners? 

I mean, hindsight is 20-20, right? I wish I had made the switch to Walla so much sooner. Like Nike, I would say just do it. What's the worst that can happen? There’s no way switching software is going to be worse than what you're dealing with now. I can promise you that! So it only goes up from here with Walla. Go for it! It's going to work out—and you’re going to be so much happier. I haven't regretted the decision to move to Walla one single time.

What should we look forward to at Elevate for the rest of 2024 into 2025?

At Elevate, we are currently looking at switching our lease space in another location to a bigger space to add Versa Climbers and some additional wellness services. And then hopefully adding on to a fifth studio by the end of the year! 

Before, I was always the one-track mind of being the best at Elevate, and we can't focus on different things. But now I think if you're not flowing with the times and you're not rolling with society's desires and listening to what your clients want, especially when it comes to wellness services, how will you grow? At the end of the day, if they're going somewhere else to get something related to their health—and you can provide it for your community—why not consider it?

Customer retention is the key

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What are the most relevant factors to consider?

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Don’t overspend on growth marketing without good retention rates

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What’s the ideal customer retention rate?

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Next steps to increase your customer retention

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