FOUNDER – BOOTY BY BRABANTS
CHAPTER ONE: Getting Out of My Comfort Zone
G rowing up, just about everything in my life took a backseat to dance. As soon as I could walk, I was dancing around in ballet slippers and tap shoes. When it was time to choose a college, I decided to go against the norm by sticking with dance and pursuing an opportunity at a performing arts university in New York City. A few years later, I moved to LA with a dream of taking dance to the professional level.
Of course I realized it would be hard work, but the unsustainable lifestyle, living paycheck-to-paycheck and being so far away from family and friends on the East Coast, made me reevaluate where I was headed and where I wanted to be.
At that point in my life all I knew was dance, but I was passionate about helping others. I wasn’t sure about what I was going to do next, but I was driven to see what I was capable of. I had a belief that I was able to resonate with people on both an emotional and physical level. I wanted to reach my goals and encourage others to reach theirs. So I decided to morph these passions into a career in health and wellness, where I could continue my active lifestyle from dance, challenge myself to new levels and make a positive impact in the lives of others to help them to do the same.
I moved back to Boston and got my personal training certification. This experience taught me so much about my body and how to take control of my diet and exercise regimen, which gave me a new type of confidence. I knew I wanted to help others feel that same confidence, and that’s when I started my fitness career at Equinox as a personal trainer.
CHAPTER TWO: Starting From The Bottom
The fitness industry is, without a doubt, a grind. You have to start from bottom and climb your way up by building your reputation and clientele. When I started at Equinox, I didn’t have any of my own clients and I was making minimum wage. I never dwelled on the money, though, because I loved what I did. I woke up at 5:30 every morning and worked from 6am-7pm. I was exhausted but felt fulfilled and more motivated than ever.
Starting out as a personal trainer, you begin without a reputation, just a blank slate. It’s critical to build a personal brand as a fitness expert and then learn to sell yourself. No matter what you do for a profession, it all comes back to sales; the story of how I got started and how I continue to excel today is a perfect example of that.
I didn’t have my own clients at first; I had to convince my boss to give me my first two. Even though they were a bit older and struggled lifting small weights, I gave them everything I had. I started to get a few more clients, and after a few months I had about seven or eight of my own; I thought to myself, “Okay, I can do this.”
Equinox had blackout hours during “peak time” on the floor, but I never let that stop me from developing what I considered to be my personal brand. When I wasn’t “on the floor,” I would go on the StairMaster. I would stay at the gym after work hours and continue to work out, surrounding myself with potential clients, always ready for a new opportunity. That’s when other gym members started to notice my hard work and results, and I started to gain credibility. Over time, my client list grew. I proved to myself that I could succeed with the right attitude and work ethic. I learned that the most effective way to sell myself was by being and showcasing the best version of me.
It wasn’t just about fitness, though. No matter the job, I’m a strong believer that you need to show up, work hard, and be a nice person every single day. Not just for a while, but forever, and especially in the beginning. I think that is the best recipe for success. People need to look at you and think, “Wow, she or he is consistently a hard worker, dedicated, passionate, and nice to everyone.” My clients get excited to train with me because they know I never have a bad day when I train them—or if I do, I will make sure to leave any negative energy at the door before I walk into the session.
I can have horrible days and moods just like the next person, but when it’s time for training sessions, I know how important it is to shut it off and bring on the positive vibes. I personally feed off of the positive energy of others and understand the impact. Having this mentality has been a driving force for my success.
“No matter the job, I’m a strong believer that you need to show up, work hard, and be a nice person every single day.”
CHAPTER THREE: BBB Is Born
I was building my momentum while working at Equinox, but I had always wanted to create a business that would allow me to work for myself every day, and I finally had the right concept.
Women were continuously coming up to me at the gym and asking me about my fitness routine and diet. I would offer to train them, but many couldn’t afford personal training at about $110-120/hour. I started to brainstorm ways I could cater to more people, and realized that a group fitness class (focused on my core values) could allow my clients to get the same type of intense workout at a tenth of the price. That’s when my signature class and brand—Booty by Brabants—was born.
I looked all around town and found a little studio in Chinatown. I was so excited to finally do my own thing, I made the first workout free in order to get as many people in the door as possible.
All I can remember is how nervous I was. We had such an amazing turnout, even though it was one of the worst classes I’ve ever taught. I was shaking and my voice was quivering. The class was mainly filled with friends and family. They showed up, supported me, and made it an experience I’ll never forget.
Even though the class didn’t go as planned, I got the feedback I needed in order to make it better. Looking back, it was a great way to test out my concept with a forgiving audience before I put it out into the world. There were a lot of changes I had to make to improve it, and I did.
After a bit of time in the Chinatown space, I got approached by a big hotel gym. From there, I started teaching BBB at luxury gyms throughout Boston.
CHAPTER FOUR: Turning an Idea Into a Business
Growing up, my family would take trips to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, every year (my mom is from there). Unfortunately, when I was training and teaching my classes, I wasn’t able to make the trip as often. One summer, my mom went and brought me back a pair of leggings. It was a green pair I’ll never forget, because I was absolutely obsessed with them. I was wearing them to my classes all the time. They had a similar texture to some of the popular products on my site today.
I had a drawer full of high-end workout leggings, but I was always gravitating toward this one particular pair that my mom got from Brazil. They made me feel so comfortable while teaching that I wanted more; washing them by hand in the sink every night so I could wear them again the next day was getting old. And I wasn’t the only one who loved them. People kept coming up to me after class asking where I got them and wishing that they had a pair.
A light bulb went off in my head—there was definitely a market for these leggings. I realized that I could not only create them, but I could also make them even better. I put everything on hold and flew out to Brazil to meet with the designer. After many sleepless nights, my first BBB leggings were en route to Boston with me and I was selling them in two colors. When I was choosing colors, I had no idea if they were the right ones. I had no help; I just went off of what I liked. Luckily, clients agreed with my color choices and they sold out pretty quickly.
I took a leap of faith and trusted my gut, just like with my classes. After delivering my first product, I used my customers’ input to continuously improve and perfect it. Growing the brand meant that I no longer had to follow my gut; I now had feedback and data to leverage.
Even with a quick start to sales, I learned that you can’t just make some leggings, print your name on them, and call it a business. I had a good idea at this point, but a successful business is much more than that; it’s hard work and it’s not meant for everyone. You need to be prepared to fail and to come back fighting ten times harder. You need to market, understand supply chain, sell to the right customers, know who your customers are, get the warehousing space, and coordinate the logistics of how you’re going ship to customers when they buy online. All of these things were part of an intense learning process. We took measures to make sure BBB was built the right way and on the right platform, as a sustainable business that could thrive.
I truly believe that everybody is born with talent and passion; however, that’s not the deciding factor for whether or not you succeed. That’s why, unfortunately, not everybody gets to see their dreams come to fruition. Every business has to start with passion and a great idea, but like my Dad said during the first days of Booty by Brabants, “it’s just a concept until you have consistent data and dollars to prove that it’s actually a business.”
CHAPTER FIVE: Tough Love, Tough Skin
At the time, I would get defensive and offended. I felt as though my Dad didn’t believe in something I was so confident and passionate about. Today, I look back and realize that his advice was what fueled my dreams. His words made me hungry to learn the ins-and-outs of all things business and work even harder to prove to him that this was more than just a concept. Through the tears and sleepless nights, my Dad has pushed to me to my limits, and then some, calling for hours of behind-the-scenes “homework” that I would have never thought about doing (like learning how to make a P&L sheet, or how to determine what my ROI was going to be from a photoshoot I wanted to do). What’s crazy is that writing this now, I realize that those little things, like doing my homework and getting advice I didn’t want to hear, is what made me stronger and more confident as a businessperson in the long run.
My advice to young, aspiring entrepreneurs is that yes, passion is the soul of your company, but a successful business is hard work, and it’s not for everyone. You need to embrace failure and value the importance of self-awareness; only then can you make positive changes. Thanks to my Dad, I believe that tough love creates tough skin; you can’t expect a pat on the back every time you do something right. You’re supposed to be doing things right, it’s when things go wrong that you need to shine and get them fixed. Why spend time talking about all the things that are going great with your business, when you could spend that time talking about the problems and improving your business? Stop dreaming and start putting your dreams to work.
Whenever I receive feedback from clients who take my class or see a woman on the street wearing my leggings, it motivates me. It motivates me to wake up every morning and be better for them, because they deserve my very best.
I feel fortunate that I’m able to impact so many women in a positive way. The fact that the fitness movement and clothing line I’ve developed through Booty by Brabants has inspired so many people for the better is what gets me out of bed every day. It’s what I’ve devoted my life to and what I work tirelessly to improve on, even on days when I feel like giving up.