Karry Summers - From Exhausted Software Engineer to Successful Pole Dance Studio Owner

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Karry Levine, owner of Altitude Pole & Fitness in Auckland and Christchurch, NZ, was a world-class competitive pole dancer with two pole studios. She had grown her business over a few years and gained lots of clients, but she was working too many hours and generating little income. One studio was losing money; the other barely covered the losses.

Raising a young family and having given up a well-paying software engineer job to start her fitness business, she began to judge herself harshly about her business decisions.

Here Karry recounts how NPE helped her take the steps that turned around her business and how one success after another grew her confidence in her ability to get results. After 17 months as an NPE client, both her studios now make a 40% net profit. Revenues have more than tripled. And starting at 50 members, she now has 315. As a result, NPE clients in the Asia-Pacific region have voted her 2017 NPE Asia-Pacific Client of the Year.

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Transcript

Hi everyone this is looking a little bit different than what I expected but would say I’m Karry Summers firm no I’m not I’m Karry Levine from altitude polar and Fitness Summers is my old maiden name and I use it for pole I knew I was gonna get up and start with the wrong name that I own altitude pole and fitness in New Zealand we’re mostly a pole dance studio we also offer some aerial classes like aerial silks aerial yoga aerial hoop kind of all the stuff you see in Cirque du Soleil and anything a little bit alternative Fitness so we offer twerk it out classes zoo fit and contortion so probably a little bit different than some of the people in this room but this is my story I guess that the last 12 months and probably a little bit before that when I joined MPA okay so this is basing my story of how I went from a software engineer to a pole dancer and believe me when I’m sitting on a plane and somebody asked me what I’m doing these days it would be so much easier if I could just tell them as a software engineer because the minute you say you’re a pole dancer you get a different reaction you gotta have to explain things a little bit more so I’ve always loved being firt but I’ve always hated going to a gym I’ve hated conventional exercise my whole life I actually failed my whole last year of school because of PE it was actually a game of golf I don’t think that should
01:20
count but it did but I found pole
01:23
dancing when I was living in the UK and
01:25
I quickly fell into competing I was a
01:27
competitive gymnast growing up so it was
01:30
always kind of in my nature to compete
01:31
at things and it just became something
01:33
so big for me
01:34
something I could do that got me fit
01:36
that got me strong it got me flexible
01:38
and doing things that no one else could
01:40
do which has always been quite important
01:41
to me too and I just thought this is
01:45
amazing I have to share this with
01:46
everyone so when we moved back to New
01:48
Zealand I decided to open my own space
01:51
and buy space I mean I rented a paste by
01:55
the hour and put up four poles it was
01:57
pretty small I never really thought
01:58
about doing this full-time or giving up
02:00
my day job I didn’t hate my day job I
02:03
kind of enjoyed it and it paid well but
02:04
um I just needed to get this out there
02:06
and I had lots of old gymnast friends
02:08
who I knew would be going through
02:09
similar things to me and miss
02:11
that kind of passion of being able to
02:13
move in cool ways so if I could just
02:15
introduce this to a few people then
02:17
that’s all I wanted to do the thought of
02:19
giving up my day job and doing this as
02:21
my full-time job was a dream I never
02:23
thought it was possible but obviously
02:26
there were a lot of challenges quite
02:28
fast in the beginning time was my
02:31
biggest issue I had my full-time job
02:33
still I was competing internationally
02:35
which took a lot of training and the
02:37
studio was growing pretty quickly so I
02:40
was really big on things just happening
02:42
by themselves it was a hobby to me it
02:44
wasn’t a business and as things got
02:46
bigger I just kind of let them do the
02:48
wrong thing I think like Julie said I
02:51
was running the whole thing just kind of
02:53
like a garage space I mean it kind of
02:56
was at that point it wasn’t until we had
02:58
the Christchurch earthquake that I had
02:59
to make the call to move into a bigger
03:01
space
03:01
we lost our hourly rented space and I
03:05
found a place that I could lease for
03:07
myself and I took that punch and did it
03:09
without thinking anything through I
03:14
didn’t know what I didn’t know that was
03:16
my big thing I didn’t know what I was
03:18
doing but I didn’t know what I wasn’t
03:19
doing it had just grown into this big
03:23
thing and I didn’t really ever take the
03:27
time to step back and figure it out and
03:29
look at it as a business I still had
03:31
everything else going on so I came up
03:34
with a really good solution for the
03:35
studio that wasn’t making much money and
03:37
I opened a new studio on the other side
03:39
of the country in Auckland I have no
03:41
idea what I was thinking I think I just
03:44
thought if I could just keep pushing and
03:46
keep going that eventually it would get
03:48
there and be able to support me a little
03:49
bit more and it would all be worthwhile
03:51
I knew all the other polar studio owners
03:53
in New Zealand and I knew that none of
03:55
them were making good money it was just
03:57
kind of one of those things you did out
03:59
of passion and out of love and there was
04:01
never gonna be a way of making money
04:03
from it and I just got into this mindset
04:05
that’s how it was but you know at least
04:07
I was doing something I loved right when
04:10
I had my first child I decided to give
04:12
up that job and do it full time and by
04:15
full time I mean you know in between
04:18
being a mother I don’t think I realized
04:20
how much time that was going to take
04:21
either
04:22
but I just got used to UM not being able
04:25
to pay myself and just doing it for the
04:27
love and I’d still be putting all these
04:29
hours in but not getting anything back
04:31
and there was only Gerson beast along
04:33
that I was could do that for which is
04:36
when MPA came into the picture so is
04:39
actually one of my Oakland instructors
04:40
tagging me on Facebook and an article
04:42
about another pole dance studio in
04:44
Ireland there made me think like this
04:47
was actually an option there was some
04:49
hope
04:50
I was on holiday at the time but I
04:53
wasn’t really off my laptop much and I
04:55
could feel my in-laws silently judging
04:57
me and I was definitely judging myself I
05:00
scoured that MPE website read all the
05:03
blogs all the stories like some of the
05:05
people in this room I read those stories
05:07
so much detail over and over again and
05:10
everything just rang so true with me and
05:12
it wasn’t until that I was reading that
05:15
stuff that I realized what an awful
05:17
place I’d got myself into
05:18
I had this decent-sized business I had
05:20
no idea what I was doing and I had no
05:22
way out and there was only so long I
05:25
could do that for I’ve just never been
05:28
so hit with the truth as on that holiday
05:30
so I signed up with MPA and I must admit
05:33
I kind of regretted it for the first few
05:36
months and thought I’d made a big
05:37
mistake it was a whole new way of doing
05:40
things and not just for me but for pole
05:42
studios in general it just wasn’t how
05:44
pole studios were run and I knew that
05:46
these guys worked with fitness gyms so I
05:48
kind of thought they were just trying to
05:49
shove this Fitness Gym approach on me
05:51
without actually taking the time to
05:53
understand my business but I knew
05:56
nothing and I was doing nothing right
05:57
and so I had no choice I was still
06:00
running the place as a hobby and it
06:02
would become a decent-sized business we
06:04
had a lot of members we had a lot of
06:05
success we just didn’t have a lot of
06:07
money first the prices went up obviously
06:12
looking back now that was the scariest
06:15
thing I’ve done standing in front of my
06:17
other instructors and telling them our
06:18
new prices was horrible and I had to
06:21
kind of put across this trust to them
06:23
like I knew what I was doing and I
06:25
really didn’t I had no idea and I didn’t
06:27
know if it was going to work and I had
06:29
to prove to these people that were
06:30
trusting me that it was going to work
06:32
the prices felt so expensive but looking
06:35
back now we were just you
06:36
Chief before then we had the sale system
06:41
the good old auto closer I’d like to say
06:43
we’re to redo our sales system but we
06:45
didn’t even have one at that point
06:47
people could just book out online
06:48
themselves they turned up they didn’t
06:50
come back I had no idea I thought it was
06:52
awesome because people could just do it
06:54
themselves but really it meant that I
06:56
had no control over anything but we just
07:00
kept on keeping on we followed through
07:03
all the steps Tom would never let me
07:05
give up at every step of the way he was
07:06
always Christian man challenging me I
07:08
think I questioned and challenged back a
07:10
little bit too but everything just
07:11
started to work and each time we did
07:13
something the proof was there and the
07:15
results started coming in and so we just
07:18
followed the dang instructions so how
07:21
did it go it went pretty well so we just
07:25
kept working through the lessons I use
07:27
everything from MPE from the margin
07:29
calculators they raise the rates
07:30
template and of course the auto close
07:32
the technique and everything just worked
07:35
out the raise the rates was fine the new
07:37
prices just became the norm the norm and
07:40
we got rid of our old five packs and ten
07:43
packs and we actually had members now I
07:44
could actually tell MPE how many members
07:46
we had each month I knew what a lead was
07:49
finally and I actually knew how to give
07:50
them the numbers of how many leads we
07:52
got him the sales system actually worked
07:55
every time somebody signed up on a
07:57
12-month contract with us without ever
08:00
even having touched a pole I was amazed
08:02
and I think our instructors for her to
08:04
who I don’t think they ever thought
08:06
people would sign on to a contract
08:08
without even trying Pole first it’s just
08:10
too different but they did because we
08:12
had the systems in place they trusted us
08:15
it mostly went well it was me I
08:18
completely held back on things every
08:20
step of the way I would tweak things
08:22
just enough that it wouldn’t wear it
08:24
quite right or I would meet all with
08:25
things just enough so we couldn’t get
08:27
full results I just felt like npe still
08:31
weren’t listening to me and my business
08:33
and how unique it was but what I started
08:36
to realize in looking back now and
08:38
behave really done all the tweaking for
08:39
you and all the trialing and erroring
08:41
for you and they kind of just know what
08:43
they’re doing and it did work I never
08:44
had any reason to doubt them as I saw
08:47
the results come in it’s probably take
08:49
me about 12 months to 100% be doing
08:52
things the way that Tom’s asked proper
08:54
consults no trials actual contracts with
08:57
people and the results have just kind of
09:00
spoken for themselves so where are we
09:04
now
09:04
this is kind of 16 months on from
09:06
joining MPA we started off as a company
09:09
that had two Studios one that was losing
09:11
money consistently and one that was
09:13
probably making just enough to cover
09:14
that one losing consistently both
09:17
Studios are now making a profit most of
09:20
the time each month and a decent profit
09:22
in fact just one of those Studios
09:25
recently made a bigger net profit than
09:27
both the studio’s ever do combined in a
09:29
whole year before the revenue is still
09:32
going up each month and I know exactly
09:34
what I need to do to keep those numbers
09:36
going up I know my targets I know my
09:38
numbers I know my goals and I can do
09:40
this I know I can now I don’t know how I
09:44
think most importantly for me I’m not
09:47
working in the business anymore it was
09:49
really important to me to get myself out
09:51
because in about six months time I’m
09:53
having my second child so I kind of knew
09:55
that I had to be out of the business by
09:57
then if I’d have got pregnant 12 months
10:00
ago it would have probably meant either
10:02
the end of my sanity or the end of my
10:03
business it would have been an awful
10:05
thing but now I’m in a place where I
10:07
have an amazing team running the studio
10:09
for me that I trust and that almost run
10:12
it better than I ever did and I could
10:15
bugger off to Europe for a year and work
10:17
over there and the studios would still
10:19
go and that’s definitely the biggest
10:20
thing I’ve got out of this it’s bigger
10:24
than I ever could have dreamed it could
10:25
be
10:25
so the Christchurch studios just moved
10:28
into a new location a studio that’s
10:30
probably bigger than most studios in the
10:32
world definitely the biggest in New
10:33
Zealand by far in the first eight months
10:36
of MPE we grew to the point of heading
10:38
capacity at that first location with 95
10:41
members when we opened the new studio
10:44
which was about three or four months ago
10:46
we had 50 members pre-signed ready to
10:50
start so I had already covered by
10:51
opening costs in the three months since
10:55
opening that new location we’re just
10:57
about to hurt one hundred and eighty
10:59
members so I remember
11:03
about a year ago we hit 100 members at
11:07
altitude of the studios combined and
11:09
that had been such a massive goal for me
11:11
that I remember writing down and like 10
11:13
Xing it and thinking I probably not
11:15
going to make that number but I’m about
11:18
a year ago we did and I remember putting
11:20
this post up on Facebook this took ages
11:22
to find searching on Facebook is a
11:24
nightmare that it kind of just shows
11:26
that that was such a big deal for me
11:28
reaching that 100 members so I remember
11:33
very since then so when we started with
11:35
MPA 16 months ago we probably started on
11:38
about 50 members and that was after we
11:39
switched them over from those 10 packs
11:41
and stuff we ended up with about 50
11:43
members through the two studios combined
11:45
12 months ago we hit that 100 member
11:48
mark so that was already some pretty
11:50
good growth that I was really really
11:52
proud of at the time so six months ago
11:56
we had about 160 which is pretty cool
12:00
today we’re going to combined total of
12:03
about 280 285 members so you can see
12:06
what the last 12 months has done being
12:09
under MPA and just starting to do things
12:10
right we didn’t make any massive changes
12:13
we just made constant changes ok we made
12:16
quite a few massive changes but it was
12:20
nothing rocket science so this is some
12:22
photos of our new studio in Christchurch
12:25
we went from a space of around 100
12:27
square meters of our old location we’re
12:30
now at a space of 425 so we’ve kind of
12:33
like quadrupled in size physically we
12:36
have three studio rooms now so we’ve got
12:39
two pole spaces we went from 12 poles at
12:42
the old studio to 24 poles at this
12:44
studio so there’s 12 in each room we’ve
12:47
also got a dedicated aerials and dance
12:49
room and contortion and twerking and
12:52
whatever the people want to do yeah I
12:54
don’t know we’ve got a dedicated waiting
12:57
area which is probably a first for a
12:59
studio in New Zealand and has massively
13:01
helped our culture people just sleep
13:03
there mostly actually but they hang out
13:06
there it’s the place for them to really
13:08
build that community the whole place is
13:11
branded in our colors and our new logo
13:12
and it’s a space I never dreamed I’d
13:15
ever have like I’ve
13:17
ever seen a studio nicer than that
13:18
across the world and the fact that I are
13:20
in that just blows me away every time I
13:22
walk in so what’s been the end result of
13:26
all this the biggest thing my business
13:29
is no longer a hobby it’s now run as a
13:30
business it doesn’t drain my time and
13:34
money and it gives back to me and my
13:36
lifestyle I finally see myself as an
13:38
entrepreneur almost as a leader I’m
13:40
getting there I’m really proud of
13:43
everything I’ve achieved though and
13:45
everything I’ve become and I trust that
13:47
I can kind of do anything I want now as
13:49
long as I work hard and have that
13:52
support around me I know that anything’s
13:53
possible
13:54
which is a big mindset change from where
13:56
I was a couple of years ago I’m at the
14:00
point now where I get to decide on the
14:01
next step of my business and what that
14:02
means and I’m really excited about the
14:04
different future possibilities and I
14:06
know that having my second kid is not
14:07
going to hold me back from that for me
14:12
personally so we’ve made this new
14:15
philosophy in life at the start of the
14:17
year is reading this book and it was
14:18
talking all about how there’s all these
14:21
society’s rules around you that you know
14:24
you have to go to uni after work after
14:27
school and you have to marry someone of
14:29
the opposite sex and all this stuff that
14:32
is the norm of society and basically
14:34
it’s not true you can make your own
14:37
rules for life so I’ve got me thinking
14:40
and I decided that I didn’t want to work
14:42
40 hours a week just because of this
14:43
magic number 40 that society thinks we
14:45
have to work so I wanted to work 20
14:48
hours a week and I wanted my husband
14:50
about work 20 hours a week too because
14:52
there’s no point in him working all the
14:53
time
14:53
I don’t enjoy the kid as much when I’m
14:55
by myself with him that sounds way worse
14:58
than it should
14:59
[Laughter]
15:00
I enjoy my work but I also enjoy sitting
15:05
in the Sun having a cup of tea going on
15:07
lots of holidays and just hanging out
15:08
and being a bit lazy at home so that’s
15:11
what I want from my life and that kind
15:12
of became my way that I set myself and
15:15
thanks to MPA I’m almost there like this
15:18
still a little bit more work to do but
15:20
because of this deadline on me now my
15:22
husband can drop down to part-time work
15:25
and March and we’re both going to be
15:27
able to enjoy our life and our work and
15:30
our kids together and like my company
15:33
supports that it never would have had
15:35
the money to allow my husband to drop
15:36
down to part-time before so that’s
15:38
really exciting for me personally I’m in
15:41
a completely different place than I ever
15:42
thought was possible so what’s the point
15:46
of all this I guess the main point to me
15:49
and that I’d like people to take away
15:50
from this is that it’s okay to not know
15:52
what you’re doing I definitely did it
15:54
but then why should i I didn’t have a
15:56
business degree I came from not even a
15:59
fitness background a gymnastics
16:01
background I guess I know pole dancing
16:04
but I don’t know how to run a business
16:05
you might think you’re doing awesome but
16:09
somehow you’re just not getting the
16:10
results you want to be or you might know
16:11
that you have no idea what you’re doing
16:13
but you don’t know how to find out what
16:15
you’re doing if you’re here then you
16:17
obviously had the passion to succeed you
16:21
just need to combine that with the right
16:22
blueprint and you can kind of have
16:24
whatever success you want so this is
16:29
some of the photos of my journey just to
16:31
finish off with a more visual thing so
16:33
in the top corner is my original studio
16:36
with my very first instructor just being
16:39
done up and moving off on the top right
16:42
corner is the new studio in the new logo
16:44
and then our team down the bottom
16:46
there’s this thing and pop tart thing
16:48
called stunned a bum day so every Sunday
16:51
everyone’s expected to do an Instagram
16:53
tag like a photo with their bum and hash
16:56
tag at Sunday bum day so that was us
16:58
trying to do a kind of tame version of
17:00
that and then we’ve got our student
17:02
showcases so we’ve run these three or
17:04
four times a year and our last one that
17:06
we ran had 150 spectators and 30
17:08
performers so that was huge for us
17:10
and last year we won the
17:14
new zealand studio of the year and the
17:15
new zealand pole industry awards so it’s
17:18
just kind of showing this journey over
17:20
the last seven years of of everything so
17:25
while I’ve got the opportunity I’d like
17:26
to say a massive thank you to MP e to
17:28
Sean Greely for having the vision to
17:30
help so many of us to rec for being the
17:32
best salesperson ever and getting me on
17:34
board and to Tom of course for coaching
17:37
me through some really tough decisions
17:38
believing in me and encouraging me every
17:40
step of the way there’s a quote that we
17:44
had a little bit at the studio that if
17:46
you stumble you just turn it into your
17:47
choreography because nobody’s going to
17:49
know about you and I think it’s the same
17:50
with business right we’re allowed to
17:52
make mistakes like we were told
17:54
yesterday failing should be okay and
17:56
allowed in business because it’s not
17:58
until you fail that you can kind of
18:00
figure out what you’re doing wrong and
18:01
fix it and as long as you just make it
18:04
part of the dance and just continue on
18:06
it all kind of work out so thank you for
18:08
listening to my story
18:10
[Applause]
18:17
thanks so much Kerry for sharing that
18:21
story it’s been an amazing honor to be
18:23
part of your journey for the last 16
18:24
months and it really comes down to you
18:27
once you kind of got on board and follow
18:28
those instructions your execution was
18:31
amazing and I think having such a strong
18:33
vision that you had it allows you to
18:34
kind of get through those hard points
18:36
because you know what you’re kind of
18:37
aiming for so amazing story this is just
18:40
the start when I first visited Kerry was
18:43
actually on holiday in Christchurch
18:44
Poppins he carrying a studio I’ll tell
18:47
you what the one you’ve got now is just
18:48
next-level and I know your customers
18:50
love it and it’s just gonna be huge so
18:52
congratulations and also congratulations
18:55
on your second child

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