July 2, 2024
Case Study

Software Simplicity Meets Exponential Lagree Studio Growth With Two First-Time Founders

At the intersection of courage and opportunity, fitness enthusiasts and entrepreneurial couple Jenny and Matt moved from the big city to Bend, OR, and dusted off their business plan to open a much-needed, super-successful Lagree studio. But they knew mainstream Mindbody wasn’t the answer to scalability and stress-free growth. So they made the switch to Walla while opening their second location—and this dynamic duo hasn’t looked back since.

Software Simplicity Meets Exponential Lagree Studio Growth With Two First-Time Founders

What gave you the courage to open Lagree High Desert? 

Matt: Courage and opportunity. There wasn't a Lagree Studio in Bend, Oregon when we moved here. We had been in Santa Cruz for a couple of years, and we were thinking about opening a Lagree studio there because there wasn't one at the time. Then we ended up moving back to Los Angeles, but we had built a business plan, so we've kind of been toying with the idea of a studio for a while. Then when we moved to Bend—and they didn't have a Lagree studio—we saw the opportunity. We’ve never opened up any kind of storefront before, so we dusted off the old business plan. 

Jenny: For me, when we moved to Bend, it was a really big step, but also, we wanted to find a place where we'd stay forever. I remember thinking, “I can't not have Lagree. I have to have a Lagree studio!” The only answer was, “Well, I guess you need to open one.” So, I think it was out of necessity that I just needed to have a Lagree studio. I had been teaching Lagree for 12 years and living in the Lagree world. Opening Lagree High Desert (HD) was more out of necessity.

I think the other thing with founding Lagree HD is that we are both very business-minded individuals. My dad is an entrepreneur. Matt, you're very creative. I think that goes hand in hand, and I knew we could do it. Plus, we like to pull from all of these different experiences we've had work-wise. I also have the experience of being in the Lagree studio world, so it didn’t feel like it would be a business that wouldn’t be hard for us to manage because we had already kind of been there.

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

Jenny: Again, out of necessity. (As she laughs)

Matt: Mindbody was the absolute worst. We have some friends who own fitness studios in Los Angeles, so they were a good guiding hand when we were doing and planning all this business-related studio work. We could ask questions. And one friend actually mentioned how bad Mindbody was (I actually think he still uses it), but it was the “industry standard”. So, that’s what we were going to go with for Lagree HD. I was on the phone with Mindbody every single day with support. It’s the most backwards program I’ve seen in my entire life. It was a bit of a risk moving to Walla, but it was honestly a necessity because we couldn’t handle Mindbody anymore. 

Jenny: I work for another software company in a different industry with a point of sale system. I understand that software takes time to learn. It takes practice and, you know, input from clients actually using it on a regular basis. Then you get it! But at the same time, with Mindbody, I was like this doesn’t make sense. You shouldn’t be spending so much time trying to figure out how to run a report. It shouldn't be that complicated, especially when you're paying a lot of money. We were spending so much time on Mindbody, and then you, Matt, were spending even more time than me. It shouldn’t have to be this way. We found ourselves only using a couple of features because Mindbody was so complicated. We just needed to simplify our day-to-day. 

Matt: That was it, too. Simple. We were opening a second studio location just six months after opening our first one. In Mindbody, that would be two separate accounts. You’d have to sign out of one to sign in to another. I’m like, “How is this still a thing, guys? Why can’t you, why don’t you fix this?”. So when we started looking for another software that would be more integrated with having two studio locations, Walla came up. 

Jenny: Yes, that did come up because I had never heard of Walla. One of my trainers—who was a client first and now she's a trainer—knew Laura (the Walla co-founder) from San Diego. She owned a studio, so she said, “Oh, you should check out this software company. I know the woman who started Walla.” At that time, I put Walla in the back of my head. I didn't think much about it. But then when we decided we had to do something about Mindbody, that's when I said, let's look at Walla. 

Matt: It’s just the simplicity of Walla.

Jenny: Yes, Walla is simple. That’s what you want in something that you have to use. Walla is the most important tool that we use every single day. It's the most important thing that we do, so I want, we want it to be simple.

Matt: It really is. I mean, it still has some caveats like any software, but, all in all, Walla works very seamlessly. We were also looking at Mariana Tek because they had a branded app. But you know what I thought at the time? We're the only place with Walla in Bend, and we will be okay if we don’t have branded app. And now Walla has a branded app, and I’m glad we made the decision to switch.

Jenny: I think, ultimately, we're very tech-savvy people, tech is everywhere. We’re constantly stimulated. Having something, like studio software, that’s complicated—and then we have to explain to 700 people every single day—is exhausting. It’s not sustainable. Also, we’d call Mindbody support, which would give you a software workaround. It was never direct, and again, I understand sometimes that’s the way it is because you need to manipulate the software to work in the way you want it to. And it doesn't always work that way. But every single answer with Mindbody was some sort of a workaround or a patch over a patch.

Matt: Mindbody’s support page or whatever it’s called is an absolute joke. I would go to contact and it would suggest “try asking our support page.” Now I’m wasting way more time just trying to find my question—and you just hope you find an answer. 

Jenny: Well, that's exactly it, too, with Walla. This has been my big thing. I feel like you guys at Walla are really approachable. I felt like your team, your company, was approachable before we even met you in person at the Lagree Summit. I also felt like the onboarding experience was more friendly, more personalized, you know, just a little bit more approachable, which is super important when you're working with technology. Sometimes, you don't have the bandwidth to figure it out! You just want somebody; you just want to call somebody for help. You just want to write somebody and be like, “Hey, this doesn't work right,” or “This isn't working,” or whatever. And to have that relationship with the Walla team even before we met some of you at the Lagree Summit, I still feel like we have someplace to go, and we actually continue to get responses and solutions. That's really huge when it comes to your software! 

The other software company that I work for… I always recommend them to people, not because I work with and for them, but because they're personable and you can get answers. You can talk to a person who's in charge. Or talk to a person who will actually make a change or take your suggestion to the development team or whatever it is. And you never feel like that with Mindbody. It's just too big. It's too much. So that’s why the personal connection with Walla is so important.

Since Walla is part of the Lagree High Desert every day, what are your top three favorite features and why? 

Jenny: This is a great question for Matt, but the thing that I really love the most and has really simplified my life is how easy it is to change an instructor for a sub. Walla’s sub management feature. I was spending so much time on Mindbody just trying to change a sub; it took five steps. Or to change an instructor on the schedule? That would literally be like five clickthroughs that would take time to load and you'd spend three minutes changing one class. And with Walla, it’s just simple. I can change or sub an instructor from my phone. The fact that it's so easy to manage your studio from your phone with Walla. I mean I can be doing it on vacation. In the middle of, you know, enjoying my day, and I’m still able to manage the business and make those quick adjustments, which for me, is time-saving. It’s huge!  

Matt: I like the Journeys in Walla’s Marketing Suite. I need to spend some more time on them, but it’s one of those things where I keep learning, building. The newsletters in Walla are fun to build, too. Also, the ease of buying new plans is great. I like rewarding comp classes with guest passes. Really cool just having that ability to do so. It's kinda hard to say what's a favorite in Walla because we know the software so well. 

Jenny: One of my other favorite parts? We don't often field questions anymore about purchasing plans on Walla, and that’s good. “I'm a new student at what do I do?”—those types of questions are just so easy to explain with Walla. I swear, with my Mindbody, questions were constant. I think Walla helped us grow in a lot of ways. And also working in tandem with Walla’s Marketing Suite. So when someone is purchasing a new plan and then leveraging the marketing center to be able hit people with those text messages in a timely manner and then with Journeys, that's really helped us grow. 

Matt: One thing I think that's going to help a lot, too, is the branded app because a lot of people still just book through the website. Sometimes they don’t know there’s the Walla app—even though we are trying to get that out there—but we are going to do a big push for the branded app once that happens. I really like the app. Push notifications? Those are pretty cool. And then the notifications within the app. The app announcements. I think it's kind of neat to be able to promote and click directly on what we have at Lagree HD. 

We’ve also been experimenting with one thing: If a class is not really that full, I will share that in the app and be like, “Hey, this class is now $10!” then they can click on the push notification or announcement, and it takes you right to that class. Which is cool. I've also built one Journey that if the day before, I see a class has like three or less people in it or, for example, I drop the price to $10, get the direct link in Walla (which is also something I like,) and paste it into a template of a text or Journey. It’s perfect. Then I turn it on and schedule it so two hours later, it goes out to everybody, and they can go and book the class, which usually fills right up! I also really do like how Walla is so mobile-friendly and can go seamlessly from a computer to a phone.

Jenny: We're a pretty small community in Bend. We're not a big city. Not a lot of people are on ClassPass, and we're trying to keep it that way. So by using these marketing tools in Walla, we maintain our member base and still grow our business and found a great way to offer inexpensive classes while being able to hire more trainers. We get people who maybe can't afford the Lagree membership or whatever, but now they can still come and take a class, so everybody wins. Whereas with ClassPass class, a lot of people are losing.

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

Jenny: I mean I think ultimately there's always somebody, a sense of nervousness when you switch to something that's new. We are the only studio currently on Walla in Bend, although I hear that there might be some others, which is great, especially now that we're getting our branded app. But we were initially nervous because we had only been open for six months and, a lot of places that are here do use Mindbody or some other smaller booking services. So we were a little nervous because we thought it would confuse people, but Walla is so easy.

Matt: I think the nervousness from our staff and clients came from a lot of changes happening at once. I mean, we switched to Walla on June 21st, and we opened a second studio on July 8th. Just a lot going on at the time, including new software. But we were like, let’s just do it! 

Jenny: I think because Walla is so easy to use, we didn't have issues, and we don't currently have many problems. 

From revenue to memberships and additional studio locations, let’s talk about and quantify the impact of Walla on Lagree High Desert and discuss the growth you’ve experienced.

Matt: We started with Walla, and we opened up a second location, but you can see month-over-month growth. And I do think Walla has a lot to do with that, as we said with the Journeys. 

Jenny: I feel like with Mindbody, we weren't hitting it. But what's great about Walla and the Journeys is that they have helped to capture some of those people who maybe would buy a three-pack and then not come back. It’s been a really great nurturing tool and has had a big effect. I mean, we opened a second studio as we switched, right, so there’s naturally an increase, but with Walla, it feels clear. What I can definitely say is the growth that we have had has been significantly easier on us—and we aren’t pulling our hair out like with Mindbody. You can see the growth with Walla, but I also think that if we had grown at all from where we were with Mindbody, it would've just been a miserable experience.

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

Jenny: I think the way Matt and I are, we both work hard and hope for the best. We've never set “metrics,” but what I will say is that when we made our business plan, we did everything to be at about 60% capacity. The highest we would ever get would be 60% capacity—and that's what our Lagree studio business plan was based on. So if we would hit 60%, that meant we were doing really great. I think setting realistic, reasonable goals is important. Then, when you exceed them, and maybe this is just who we are, when you exceed that reasonable goal, you're like, “Ah, this is amazing!”. We never expected to be even past 60%, and here we are at Lagree HD, hitting 80%, 90%, and 100% capacity. 

Matt: It's also about survivability. When we put the business plan together, not only do we say, “Hey, if we hit 60%, we're doing good, we're doing fine,” but what's the lowest we can hit? Then, we know when it becomes a problem. So I think we set ourselves very reasonable goals. We set goals for clients, too. We try to set goals around how many memberships, number of active members plans we have, or whatever. But it’s realistic. 

Jenny: We've never taken any business classes or anything like that. But I wonder, do people set these really lofty goals or many levels of goals? Like mid-range goals? I mean, our main goal at Lagree HD is to be a hundred percent booked all the time. But if you're kind of shooting for, like, that mid-range goal, then you're not going to be disappointed, and you know you're gonna be able to live. I mean, this studio has to be a living as well and you have to be able to pay your staff. It’s part of the income for our staff. We have 21 trainers. 

For some people, owning a studio is a side thing, and they don’t need the money, but for some people, it's really part of their livelihood. And you know, that's a big aspect, too, of making sure that you can pay your bills. Pay your people and pay yourself. I don't think we would've opened Lagree HD if we thought we couldn't have done it. (Also, the payroll features in Walla make it easier to pay your employees on time!)

What’s your Walla pitch to other studio owners? 

Jenny: We have pitched it to a lot of people! 

Matt:  One of the things I could say is that Mindbody is not necessarily making you money. I've had some people come to me and say they travel a lot, and when they go to a place, check out Mindbody to see what studios are around. I'm like, good for you. I don't know what to tell you. I think, in general, though, a Google search will be so much more powerful than a Mindbody search. Oh, and I forgot about that discovery cost Mindbody charges with their app! 

Jenny: Bend is a small town. People are getting to know us from word of mouth and/or just driving by. 

Matt: Especially for multiple studios, that's the biggest Walla pitch. Like our friends in LA asked me about Walla. I'm like, you have to switch; you're about to have three studios. Get on an app that can handle that because with Mindbody, you have to click out, go into a new one to see; you can't seamlessly go back. With Walla, all the locations are in one place. And when your studios are all in downtown LA and not far away, if I’m your client, I want to see all the classes. I want it to be easy. Just the simplicity of Walla. 

Jenny: That's what I was going to say, too. I know that there are a lot of really savvy people—and great business owners. But there are also a lot of people that aren't necessarily tech savvy or have the business skills. They have creative skills. So you need Walla, especially if you're running your studio by yourself. Thankfully with me and Matt, we can kind of tag team many different things. But we also have software experience. We have marketing experience, and we have management experience, so for us, having a simple platform with Walla is great! But I can also imagine someone who doesn't have that experience. The simplicity of just being able to use Walla and not have to worry about the tech part of it is so important.

Has your definition of success changed since switching to Walla?

Matt: Working for yourself is different—and that feels like a bit of success that you can actually build something and survive off of it. That's a really cool thing. We've created this business here with two locations. It's fun to get up in the morning. Like I have to run over to East all the time to fix stuff, but it doesn't feel like I'm working. That, to me, is a different level of success. And then getting to be creative all the time: What kind of a sale are we going to do? How are we going to build these classes? Let's figure that out! I think that just the kind of freedom that owning your own business gives you it also takes away some freedom. But I think we're lucky because we don't have a 24-hour or a nine-to-five. (Your trainers can be at the studio, so that's kind of nice, too.)

Jenny: I think for me, what I didn't necessarily expect, because I come from a big city, is the studio community. At Lagree HD, we have such a community here that was created kind of on its own. It’s become part of what I think is making us successful—and it is also the part that I'm most surprised by! On a regular basis, what makes me feel the most successful is that we have this community not only with our clients but also with our trainers and we’ve helped to create that. It wasn't a conscious thing, really. We're just ourselves. Like I always say to Matt, all we have to do is offer a great product and be nice to people. Have integrity. And I feel like everything falls into line. I think that's what makes me feel happy at the end of the day. That we're paying ourselves and our trainers and also have a nice community that lifts people up.

What should we look forward to at the Lagree High Desert for the rest of 2024 into 2025?

Matt: I mean, we just put in the Versa Climbers, so we're just taking a breath now. 

Jenny: Well, I mean, not only did we put in the Versa Climbers, but Matt's actually a Versa Climber Trainer now. He’s never been a fitness instructor before. So on top of all that, and Matt teaching. I’ve also been teaching a new modality. I've been teaching Lagree for 12 years, so to me, it’s like, “Oh shoot, I forgot what it's like to be a new trainer!” I’m just trying to ride out the summer and have a nice time!

Matt: We kind of said it but, just enjoy what we've built at Lagree HD for a second before we continue to the next step.

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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