Leanne Shear is hands down one of the most influential people you'll ever meet. If it means meeting her for 5 minutes and having a great conversation or getting your a** kicked by her during a training session, she will somehow change your life. She's one of those ladies that will force you to open up without forcing you to, relate to you and inspire you. It makes sense that she is the co-founder of Uplift Studios a women's only #FemaleSociety of strong women. The studios offer workout classes that leave your legs like jello and your abs so sore you'll avoid laughing for days. On top of classes, Uplift offers inspiring panels (always with wine), weekend retreats and a sense of community that's hard to find in NYC. Earlier in 2016, Uplift launched its second chapter in LA in the chic West Hollywood neighborhood. Read on to discover more about Leanne's journey from a hobby to a 5 year old business that continues to inspire. #Ladyboss
1. I love that Uplift is a female only studio that hosts retreats, panels and much more. What is the origin story of Uplift?
Our origin is a perfect example of a person (me!) unearthing her calling, rather than slogging through a job or profession. I was a writer for most of my career and started doing some running coaching and training on the side, mostly with friends and just for fun. An editor I was writing FOR caught wind of this and did a couple of workouts with me and then decided to write ABOUT me (for the now defunct Daily Candy newsletter). Overnight, I had hundreds of new client inquiries (and found my original Uplift co-founders that way, too) and it grew from there. I always say even if I wanted to do what became Uplift on the side, the universe wouldn't have let me, since so many doors kept opening, leading me to where I am today.
Ironically, I've never considered myself a fitness guru. I simply saw working out was a powerful conduit for me to help advise and empower women in all aspects of their lives: a means to an end, which was feeling great physically but also mentally and emotionally.
Right from the beginning, I branded myself as a women-only trainer and later Uplift as a women-only business. When one of our early group classes got rained out in Central Park, instead of canceling, we herded everyone across the street to a bar to hang out. For hours, women who had never met before were sipping wine, networking, hanging out, and becoming friends and workout buddies. Men have historically created these opportunities (and advantages) for themselves, while until recently, women have not. I saw that and ran with it in the creation of Uplift. This was the seed to the powerful community that exists today!
2. Congratulations on your recent expansion to LA! You were able to secure an incredible location for your 2nd location, what prompted the LA launch? Are there any other markets in the works?
We're thrilled to be in LA! I'm convinced that cracking the NYC and then LA markets is the path to creating Uplift empowerment zones in so many other cities! LA was another example of the universe providing--my amazing colleague Britt went out to scout the city and within a week, found the perfect studio in the perfect location (in the heart of West Hollywood on Melrose Avenue) that was already built out. It was a turnkey space that needed no work and hardly any up front costs so we just had to run with it! Ideally we would love to open in a number of other cities (Austin, San Fran, Chicago, even my hometown of Buffalo, Ny!) in the same way Six Degrees Society has done!
3. As a seasoned entrepreneur what's been your favorite moment of building Uplift? What's been your biggest challenge?
OH man, there have been SO many challenges and SO many amazing moments. The thing about being an entrepreneur is that there are challenges, and new ones at that, every single day. They also are completely unpredictable, too: someone in finance might be regularly challenged by, for example, by market fluctuations, but I'm challenged by everything from a broken mirror in our studio classroom, to dealing with all manner of staff issues, to having to sit on the phone with an investor and run her through our P&L, to figuring out how to grow our business in a whole new and entirely different market like LA. Luckily, I really do thrive when I am crazy busy and getting challenged every day. It's hard to pinpoint one favorite moment because I love what I do so much, but I have to say that after one of our "Strong Women Uplift Each Other" events (which deal with different difficult issues women may face like infertility, mental health, etc), a client came up to me, very emotional (crying even) and hugged me, thanking me for the amazingly powerful and supportive community we've created. It really touched me that what started as a fitness studio, which are a dime a dozen, could grow to something that influences women in such a way.
4. Day in and day out how do you find balance managing a business and still having your hands in the business as a trainer?
I've said for a long time that I honestly don't believe in the idea of "balance": it's another way the patriarchy makes women in particular feel "less than" if they can't do or have "it all." The same applies to me! Life is rarely balanced. It's chaotic and exciting and stimulating and fun. I am typically running around like a madwoman every day and literally every minute counts: sometimes I have to adjust a meeting or training session by just five minutes just to squeeze the next thing in. That said, I love love love what I do--all of it--and working with women on the ground is the added bonus of really understanding our impact (and having a lot of fun while doing it)!
5. Where do you see Uplift in the next 5 years? Do you think women only gyms are a thing of the future?
Is it too much to say that in the next five years I will have created an empire of empowerment all around the US?! But seriously, as I have mentioned, I want to continue to evolve Uplift in the direction of a lifestyle business: so fitness will be just one part of the Female Society we have created, buttressed by career, life coaching, dating/relationship work, wellness in general and other things. I absolutely think we are only seeing the beginning of a huge trend toward women-only everything--in fitness and in life--and I am thrilled with that development!