Meet The Disruptors: Rebecca Balyasny of Bande On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Focus on what’s most important to driving the business and don’t get bogged down in the details.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Balyasny, Founder of Bande.

Rebecca has always been an athlete. From her earliest sports experiences to days playing tennis in college and moving into adulthood, fitness has always been a source of joy and fulfillment.

When the COVID pandemic hit, Rebecca — like so many others — yearned for connection and inspiration. As a working mom, she needed to make the one hour a day she had to herself count. After trying countless fitness programs, Rebecca found herself still missing the connections she had formerly enjoyed in person, working out with the instructors and friends she loved.

Bande was born from Rebecca’s desire for connection and community in this ever-changing world. She created a beta version of the concept and invited some of her best friends from all over the world to attend a virtual barre class with one of her favorite instructors. Then something amazing happened:

“There was a magical micro-moment in the beginning of class, where I waved to my friend and knew we were sharing the same experience. Then more magic came when the instructor called my name, taking a real interest in what I was doing and helping to push me along and coach me. At that moment, I knew I was on to something that was going to change the way people experience and connect through fitness.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Sports and athletic pursuits have always been a central part of my life. I played competitive tennis growing up and Division 1 college tennis. After college, I took up basketball and made some of my best friends and memories playing on teams throughout my 20s. In the following decade, I went on to raise six kids while also working. I couldn’t find the time to play sports or get to a gym regularly, so I started working out at home. These workouts were okay but were not inspiring me.

When the pandemic hit, I was craving connection more than ever before. I also started to realize that I wasn’t’ as strong as I aspired to be. My family had moved to Jackson Hole, and I wanted to feel strong in order to climb and ski mountains.

A neighbor recommended I go on a live class with an instructor named Bergen who was based in NYC. BOOM! I got on the line and felt the pervasive energy of Bergen and the 50 others in the “room”. Bergen called my name and told me not to drop my weights. I was dying, but these other people were crushing it, and Bergen kept calling my name and pushing me harder. I ended the class feeling high and connected like after a basketball game.

I continued to look around for platforms that were focused on live, two-way interactive workouts, and there were none out there. I knew that there was an opportunity to create a platform in the live two-way interactive space where people would leave feeling exhilarated and connected.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In the initial weeks of our launch, I logged on to class and everyone in the room was named Bergen, the instructor’s name. Somehow, everyone was on the instructors’ account yet the instructor, Bergen couldn’t log in and lead the class. I had to stall and lead the class.

With technology in general and in particular, building new technology, issues will always arise. Have a game plan in place on how to solve tech problems as quickly as possible, make sure a communication strategy is in place, and try to always have a back-up solution.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve organically developed an inspiring group of female founders who include Suzanne Yoon, founder of Kinzie; Kendra Butler, Alpyn Beauty; Lela Rose, Lela Rose; Jacq Tatelman, STATE Bags; Coral Chung, Senreve; Jess Bielgik, Paceline.

I go to these women for advice on many levels. The impact these women make is that I have a front row seat, watching them persist and succeed in building fruitful businesses. I hear about their ups and downs; and they are so honest about their downs. But each one of them gets back up, persists, and have built really successful businesses. They give me the strength to push forward.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are focused on optimizing the live, interactive workout experience through a combination of technology and instructor training. We have built our own video platform that changes the way online fitness is experienced and makes it truly social. Moreover, we are focused on being real. Real social interactions. Real feedback. Real progress.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disrupting is positive when it improves people’s lives, creating efficiencies, optionality, and ultimately, happiness. In our industry in particular, the advent of virtual options has created significantly more accessibility to getting your best workout whenever or wherever one is or lives. People can feel good and improve their lives at almost any given time. The disruption is also positive for the network of instructors who have more flexibility to work from anywhere and spend less time commuting and more time with family, for one example. On the not so positive side of the coin, brick and mortar fitness and wellness studios have struggled. That said, there are significantly wider audiences and a larger pie to attract new consumers.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?

  • You need to be an optimist when you are building a start-up.
  • Look to hire people who are passionate about your mission, first and foremost.
  • Focus on what’s most important to driving the business and don’t get bogged down in the details.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We are expanding with custom programs for corporates and seniors. Everyone has different needs, but they all share the desire for live connection through fun workouts without worrying about going to a gym.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Atlas Shrugged always motivates me while telling an amazing story. The determination to make a change in the world and the grit needed to rise to the challenge.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Live and learn. Starting a company is an exercise in humility. You’re always making mistakes that are glaringly obvious in hindsight, but tough to avoid when you’re moving fast with a new company.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Everyone should do something entrepreneurial at some point in their lives. It doesn’t matter if it’s starting a non- profit, a small business, a soccer team, or the next huge tech company. You learn so much about yourself, the challenge of creating something from nothing, and you grow tremendously as a result.

How can our readers follow you online?

I am a pretty private person, and focused on family and business, but please follow Bande and our amazing instructors @webandetogether!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Meet The Disruptors: Rebecca Balyasny of Bande On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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