It’s International Women’s Day and while Kalon celebrates women and sisterhood everyday; today we take an extra moment to stand proudly and reflect on the incredible progress women have made over the past decades in all parts of society.
That’s why Kalon has decided to start a series of articles about strong women #girlboss. We’re kicking off with our CEO and Co-Founder Sophie who truly represents a set of values that every woman in this world should be able to dream of.
An ex-professional dancer at the Lido de Paris, Sophie completed a Master's degree in Translation and Intercultural Management at the Sorbonne and ISIT alongside her dance career before moving to the USA, developing incentive programs and running events for high-end clients such as Microsoft and Porsche all over Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C & Toronto.
Working closely with female entrepreneurs, Sophie used her time in the US to gain a deeper understanding of business creation and development. After discovering the popular ‘Barre’ workout, she was inspired to bring a similar class to Paris and create a workout that combined the essence of the upbeat and motivating US style of fitness with the glamorous and elegant parisian ‘je ne sais quoi’ . Her drive, ambition and ability to assess the needs of the business and recruit accordingly have allowed her to spearhead the company.
First of all, how did you manage to balance your studies and your Showgirl life ?
Hi ! First of all, thanks for having me for this interview to start of the #girlboss series, I’m honored ! To answer your question… well I wasn’t happy doing the same shows night after night and wanted to go back to challenging my brain ! It was definitely hard but pure determination and motivation got me through, and my showgirl friends !! Also the support from the girls at work was wonderful and really helped .
You discovered the barre method when you were living in Chicago - tell us what inspired you to create Kalon and about Kalon’s Cardio Barre Method.
I started doing Pure Barre classes in the US and wanted to bring a similar energy into our own business project (Kalon) back in Paris, but it was Emma who created the method itself and I turned it into an integral part of our company. The method really sculpts the body in the same way a dancer sculpts their body, but with accessible movements and straightforward exercises that anyone can do ! It’s challenging because of course, as they say: « no pain, no gain! » but you can really see a difference after only a few classes. It’s low impact with small, repetitive movements so it really is for everyone.
Initially you thought about developing a lingerie brand, what were the reasons that made you follow another path ?
Haha ! I had so many ideas floating around in my head before creating Kalon. I was making vegan cookies (which I still do now !) , designing lingerie, imagining a consulting agency for dancers in career transitions…
But once we created Kalon I realized that in fact the reason why it works is because we are so passionate about it, and it’s not based around one single « idea » , such as opening a studio, creating a fashion brand or developing a fitness method. It’s a whole lifestyle and concept which can constantly evolve around new projects and ideas related to the movement. Fitness, retreats, clothes, food, teacher training, fashion, travel… These ideas wouldn’t have come from day 1 writing it all down on paper like in a business plan, they came through observing opportunities and seizing them, and knowing how to nurture them with a team of people as motivated and excited about the company as you are.
Can you describe the early days of Kalon ?
At the start it was just Emma and I and our pop up workshops in Paris! The concept was nomadic (as it still is today) and we would run events in different locations with a Cardio Barre class taught by Emma, followed by a plant based brunch made by me.
It was fun but a lot of work preparing all the food... ! It started to give us an idea of where we wanted to go though… because then we naturally moved towards Wellness Retreats (in France, Spain, Italy, UK and Portugal) in which Emma taught classes and I prepared the food.
Then our first team of teachers joined us, Victoria Chavez and Emma Castel, teaching Yoga, before we started training dancers in our own Cardio Barre method and grew the team gradually ! There are about 25 of us now, some running the classes and others in charge of marketing, brand development, design, photography, videography, blog management and social media.
In France, there is a tendency to look only at the academic achievements, while today, the skills you develop in your athletic or dance careers are appreciated and even required on the international labour market. So, according to you, what are the skills dancers develop during their careers that are useful in the world of work ?
It’s very true that in France there is a tendency to look solely at someone’s academic achievements and base your judgement upon that alone. For many jobs of course the right education is key, but professional dancers have so much to offer that their history as dancers makes them powerful candidates (plus a course or degree in their field of transition). Years of professional dance training and careers have made them used to hard work, rigor, discipline and perseverance, as well as being very creative and confident with public speaking, which is so valuable in any company.
As CEO, what is your vision of Kalon ?
I love what we do and my vision for our future combines all the talent that our current team has to offer as well as the support and love of our clients and « tribe »!! Our future holds a number of different paths and projects which we are already undertaking, all of which interconnect in the Kalon web ! Going international with our digital fitness, developing our athleisure wear, working with professional dancers in their career transitions and continuing constant collaborations with hotels and lifestyle brands...my vision of Kalon is 360° with a growing team and international expansion!
Can you tell us three tips you would give to a female entrepreneur?
Observe the potential around you and grab the opportunities which present themselves.
Don’t burn any bridges, you never know who might be able to help you when your time to shine comes !
Always be open to learning !
Finally, could you tell us how to best manage life as a woman, a mum and a CEO at the same time ?
This has often been very challenging for me, I myself need to look for advice on how to get better at work-life balance!!! It can be very difficult when you’re so excited about what you’re doing professionally that you let it take over.
Something that always works is taking the time to go outside with your family, leave your phone behind and get some fresh air on a weekend. Enjoy that disconnected family time when you know it’s a Sunday and no one is expecting you to work ! Same goes in the evening, put your phone on airplane mode and try to disconnect with a glass of wine, herbal tea… whatever works for you ! (It’ll be wine for me thanks)