2 Women Are Changing the Fitness Industry

  • Published on:
    September 2, 2019
  • Reading time by:
    9 minutes

The U.S. fitness industry generates approximately $30 billion annually and is expected to grow 2.6% globally. 69.9 million fitness clubs served 38,477 members in 2017 and 26% of those members engaged in group fitness classes. However, fitness studio managers all face the same frustration when it comes to the substitution process. 

As 2 female entrepreneurs and sisters-in-law from Nebraska, Sarah Rasby and Andra Rasby recognized a gap in the industry and developed a solution –  enter Sub Guru. They sought out not only to design a software that addressed their needs and those of fitness studio owners but also to create a social impact company. Through Sub Guru’s partnership with Humanity United, a nonprofit that supports female entrepreneurs in Rwanda, the Company, its users and partners simplify their subbing process and contribute to the success of other women’s endeavors.

SubGuru provides clients with a reliable management solution, relieving them of the common burden of finding substitute instructors for classes. Whether you need to find a sub 2-weeks or 3 hours before a class, SubGuru will match every class with the appropriate instructor.

Our tools empower studio owners threefold:

  1. Provide consistent high-quality customer service through thoughtful communication
  2. Develop well-informed internal systems from trackable data
  3. Grow community and enhance team collaboration

In your own words, what do you do? 

I run a female-owned business that empowers boutique fitness studio owners and instructors to systematically organize and facilitate their class substitutions effectively through an app-based system. Through this company, I run a social impact program that works with another organization that empowers some of the world’s poorest women to become entrepreneurs, giving them the opportunity to personally thrive and take care of their families. 

How did you two find each other and how did you come up with the idea to start Sub Guru? 

Andra is actually my sister-in-law! While I was managing the yoga studios I co-owned, one of the tasks that consumed my attention was finding subs for classes. I wanted to manage the subbing because I believed quality teaching and student experience meant a great deal to studio success. Since sub requests come at all hours of the day, I would get requests at all hours of the day and had to stop whatever I was doing to take 5 minutes to 2 hours to find a sub. I have two small children, and sometimes request would come late at night or on the weekends when I was with my family. Finding subs is top priority so I always had to treat it that way, which took away time from my personal life. Owning a business takes a lot of personal time already, so I needed something to streamline the instructor sub process. Furthermore, the communication platforms I tried made it more confusing; texting, email, facebook, Slack, GroupMe…nothing worked the way I wanted it to and there will still errors (teachers missing classes or other teachers not getting notified in time). On a full moon one time I came up with the idea to create a platform where all sub requests would take place on one platform. I wanted something that was dependable and was specific to the fitness environment, something that worked similar to the way I had been finding subs manually.  I also desired a platform that would give me more time and less stress in my life. Thus, Sub Guru was created! 

Andra started practicing yoga when she met me through my husband. I had been teaching for 4 years. She was inspired to open yoga studios in Miami and asked me for guidance/advice. I gave her my thoughts and mentioned my ideas for the sub system, which she was really in to. She saw the need after completing teacher training at a studio in Los Angeles and from talking to yoga instructors about their sub challenges, and soon enough she became my business partner.

If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be? 

To follow your intuition, always believe in yourself and never give up. It sounds cliché, but it’s so true! I had the idea for Sub Guru, and lot of the reasons it worked was because I listened to my gut. It was a major career shift for as I had never worked in program development before and truly had no idea what I was doing! But one thing led to the next, that I didn’t need to force. I kept thinking, “should I really choose this path?” and then another opportunity would come my way. I’ve been blessed with some amazing mentors and friends who offered advice and guided me along the way, mostly telling me to believe in myself. Lincoln, Nebraska is a wonderful place to start a business because everyone here is rooting for each other and wants to see new ideas thrive. That’s not to say I haven’t endured obstacles, setbacks and challenges because there have been plenty of them! But the moment you surrender to what you think you know and want, the new answer and path will come your way if you are open to it. 

What is one skill that you think all women should learn and why? 

I think interpersonal skills are very important. Having high integrity through communication is one of them. At the end of the day, your business is your responsibility. Ask hard questions, do your best to not assume or place blame. Pause before you act and relax your neck. Admit when you are wrong and give yourself credit when you make the right choices. Be proud of yourself through it all and continuously honor and thank your teammates. I made a commitment to understand that Sub Guru is my responsibility-  I am the one collaborating with other individuals to make it work.  I have a small team of incredible people, and they always help keep me accountable. If someone drops the ball, I always ask myself first how I could have done better, and to better support them. Self-reflection and self-compassion are huge with integrity and is something I am always striving for. Am I perfect? No, but I can take responsibility, learn and improve. Understanding this has saved me from a lot of self judgement. I have been able to build strong relationships with collaborators and clients just by choosing compassion. 

What steps do you take when you want to get through less of a good business day? 

Fortunately, and less fortunately, I have been through a handful of them with all of the different businesses I have worked with and co-owned. But you have to take the dark with the light. I believe true lessons come from the down days. I have dealt with a lot of loss in my personal life, and those times have transpired into my business. You just have to take one day at a time. On the less of a good business day, I try to remind myself that it is temporary and eventually things will get better if I stay the course, even if that means in a way I don’t desire. There is so much power in surrendering. I have found that when you surrender, the opportunities and authentic answers will come your way, even if that means it’s uncomfortable and really hard! In the end, it will all be ok. I also vent to my closest family and friends on the less good days. They always help shift my perspective. I take time to breathe, to get on my yoga mat or do some strength training. When the going gets really tough I schedule time to meet with my therapist or do equine therapy. Both allow me the opportunity to take a step back and take a break. Eventually, I feel rejuvenated and ready to move forward. 

What is the toughest decision you have had to make in in the last 3 months? 

To let go of my attachment to another business I was working with in order to choose ME, to choose my own personal beliefs and truths. While building Sub Guru, my twin sister endured a severe medical event that almost took her life and left her disabled. It has impacted life in so many ways and has been the most challenging experience ever- 100 times more difficult for her. At the time of her event I was managing a studio full-time, and since then I have had to let go of my identity and attachment to a studio that I love so much in order to grow/shift into a new, unknown life. My twin sister reminds me to stay present, and I am so grateful that I still have her on this earth even though many days are extremely tough. I have become her advocate and one of her caregivers, and this has changed me drastically. I don’t have time for anything that robs my energy, which includes giving myself away in the form of pleasing people. I am a people pleaser by nature, and an empath…us empaths have a thin skin sometimes! Undoing these habits has stirred up a lot of tension, but I have found my voice and confidence. It is a work in progress. Instead of striving for perfection, I strive for being authentic. 

How do you think more modern women can be fulfilled in their lives? 

Let go of the thought that you can “have it all” and “do it all,” or at least change your perspective around what it means to you. I think when you know your worth and are in alignment with it, you are better apt to set boundaries and stick to them. For me, setting a boundary brings me more fulfillment because then I don’t feel at the mercy of my expectations. I can say “no” and let go of feeling guilty or resist the need to please someone else, and instead take time for self-care.  Right now, I am working on breaking the habiting of saying “yes” right away and canceling last minute, and instead taking time to see how things work out. In the business world, not taking on so much at one time is also fulfilling. Even though I might really want to do something, I listen to my instinct on whether or not something is right to do, for me and my family. I trust that the right moment for action will come with the best opportunity. This practice saves me from being over-worked or burnout. When I have more balance with my work and family I definitely feel more fulfilled, but self-care will always be the center-pointe of it all for me. 

What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them? 

I would honestly have to say most of my failures have been in relationships, personally and in business. Some relationships have ended, and some are a continuous partnership of working things out, as they naturally do. In this moment, I know that if a business relationship is not healthy by being open and honest, and holding each other accountable, then it’s not going to work out. When I was in my 20s I tended to play the victim card if something went wrong, and sometimes I still do- it’s just my comfort zone. But allowing myself to be held accountable and also do that for my partners creates an empowered relationship. My yoga practice has truly been a staple in my life and saved me time and time again. Now, I have a conscious on whether I am acting based on emotion or logic, and I take time to let the storm pass before I take action. I have learned that compromise is important, and to agree to disagree before things go too far. I have learned how to truly listen to co-workers and customers in order to understand their needs. Some days I do all of this better than others. One of the reasons I created Sub Guru is because I am very intrigued by social systems (I have a master’s degree in Sociology). I wanted to help empower boutique fitness owners and instructors so they can be more present at work and have happy clients. When a social system is in sync, things are less difficult and more peaceful. 

How do you improve your financial knowledge? 

I have always been someone that enjoys finding new ways to learn. My rule is that if I don’t know something and it’s outside of my comfort zone, then it’s an opportunity learn. Finances are definitely not my thing but are crucial to any business and in life! When I first created Sub Guru, I hired an accountant and sat down with him to ask questions and learn more about the ins and outs of small business finances. He has been very helpful. I also learned a lot from co-owning a yoga studio which I am so grateful. I have relied on my mentors for financial advice and guidance as well- my twin sister’s significant other is a successful business owner and he has been an awesome resource! In continue to lean on all of them and ask for advice. I am always wanting to learn more and feel more confident, so If any female business owners reading this article have suggestions or resources, I would love to learn! 

What is your next big goal? How do you think you can achieve this one? 

To get Sub Guru into the hands of more studio owners and instructors in order to make their lives more fulfilled, and to build Sub Guru’s social impact program while doing so. I think we can do this by listening and leaning in. My intention is to personally connect with more studios, so they can get to know us and the people behind the company. There are so many apps and businesses out there with no connection to the founders. I wonder, how would businesses feel more confident and connected if they did? Our team takes the time to personally email and/or call all every new studio that uses our program. If there is an issue, I personally call them. I always want to learn and understand how I can build Sub Guru to best support studios. I know a lot from managing subs, but change is constant, so I always strive to learn. Some studios do it one way, and others another based on values, priorities and resources. I love to learn the WHY and figure out if I can help or pivot our system to fit their needs. At this point we are unable to customize features for a particular studio, but we do a lot of market research before adding on something new. The more customers we have, the more impact we can make with Humanity Unified, our official social impact partner. One of the coolest programs they are raising money for an initiative that brings nourishing organic meals to new mothers and children in hospitals. In Rwanda, poor people often starve in the hospitals if no one brings them food as it is not provided, sadly. The goal would be to plant fruit trees, vegetables and medicinal plants next to the hospitals and use the food to feed families and sick children. They also hope to train mothers to grow their own food, and provide health, human rights, financial planning and yoga to the mothers! It would bring so much joy to my heart to know Sub Guru could be a huge part in making this happen. I know we can do this by gaining new partnerships and creating awareness for Humanity Unified on our social media platform! 

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