My Shanghai, an Urban Family series where we ask a Shanghai-based somebody to tell us about their life.
Hailing from Denmark, Siri Nordheim arrived in Shanghai during 2010 for a job unrelated to fitness. She then decided to follow her passion, and with encouragement from James (her business partner and husband) she changed direction and studied to become a fitness instructor. At a time when personal fitness was yet to take off, Siri and James opened Z&B Fitness, one of the first boutique studios in Shanghai. Together, they are shaping the personal health industry with their thriving business that offers 250 classes a week by 70 enthusiastic instructors. In addition to managing a competitive business, developing the MYbarre training program and teaching her own classes, Siri is most importantly 'Mom' to two young girls. Talk about motivating. Let’s find out how she does it!
When did you launch Z&B Fitness, what was the inspiration and where does the name come from?
Z&B stands for Zumba and Barre. When James (my co-founder and husband) and I started running our own classes, it was on a very small scale. We were so passionate about our respective workouts (he was Zumba and I was Barre), that we started with just a few classes a week. Z&B Fitness has grown into what it is today through a natural evolution and our love of seeing new fitness workouts. Along the way, we have met a lot of other amazing instructors who have helped us enhance our programs. There’s not much you can’t find at our studios these days, and it’s hard to believe that it all started from a few sessions of Zumba and Barre in a tiny studio.
It seems like you offer a wide variety of regimes at Z&B Fitness; ranging from Zumba to ZCycle, Yoga and Body Combat. How would you describe your own personal approach to keeping fit?
We do offer a lot and we’re happy that people can find everything they need in our studios. I teach 10-15 classes weekly, which keeps me fit on its own, but on top of that I listen to my body for what it needs and craves. I really don’t restrict myself from the things that I love, but I also know everything has a limit. Stay active and eat everything in moderation. If I feel I need a chocolate bar here and there, I will have one.
Over 6 months ago you launched a new business MYbarre, can you explain this program to me?
MYbarre is a group exercise class; a full body workout inspired by Ballet and Pilates combined with functional fitness training. Myself and Ann (my friend and fellow Z&B instructor) initially created this program for our students, in response to the demand for an energetic sculpting, elegant Barre workout. We've also developed an Instructor Education Program for this workout to expand it to other gyms and studios throughout China. Between us, Ann and I have a combined 25 years’ experience in the fitness industry across many group exercise programs, and Barre fitness is something we are both passionate about. We are the first Barre training provider with a program created and delivered in China, for this ever-changing and exciting fitness market.
In such a fast involving industry, I am sure managing your business requires constant innovation; what do you do to keep on top of this and what are you seeing as the fitness trends for 2018?
For sure, students like to keep up with the fitness trends, so we aim to be at the forefront of new programs and bring them to our Z&B members. For 2018 we see clients looking for efficient functional workouts that get results. With this in mind, we recently launched an interval-based class called GymFit Circuit that uses equipment and floor space for a combination of strength and cardio training, and this has been a massive hit. We will also offer more Barre fitness with MYbarre in 2018; at Z&B we will diversify the program to include a MYbarre focused Pilates and core strength, and a cardio and interval-based class.
You have two young daughters (Sophia 3 years old and Isabelle 15 months old); how do you balance your family with managing a thriving business?
As any business owner and working mom will tell you, it’s all about balance. I have a wonderful team at Z&B who assist with the day-to-day running of the business, so I am not always required to be on-site. James and I still teach classes and we are involved in the studios and gyms, however it’s great that we can work different hours depending on what the kids are up to. The girls love routine and we try to make sure they have consistency; the great thing about managing a 24-hour business is the flexibility. For example, we can have dinner together and then head out to a class or switch on the laptop and work once they are in bed.
What has been your most challenging experience when launching a business in Shanghai and what motivates you to keep going?
I’m such a perfectionist, so getting all aspects of the business to function the right way is important to me. Seeing growth in the efforts we have put in is what has driven us to keep moving forward. We want to be the best when it comes to offering a high value place for our members to work out. Seeing the community that we have built around us can be overwhelming, and we don’t want to let anybody down.
Where do you turn for business advice and what is the best advice you have for others looking to start a business in Shanghai?
I believe I have a great group of friends I can trust; who, in their own right, have developed wonderful businesses and lives in Shanghai. I like to get a few opinions here and there, to weigh in on what makes the most sense to me. My advice for those wanting to start their own business in Shanghai is, follow your gut, be open to opinions but at the end of the day, the energy that you put into something is the result that you will see. Work hard, and everything will work out the way you visualize it.
For more My Shanghai series, click here.