Echelon is Dublin’s first boutique indoor cycling studio and has changed the indoor cycling scene for the better. We caught up with Carla Bredin, the woman behind it all to talk about fear fighting, taking risks and the realities of being a solo entrepreneur
Carla has been coaching indoor cycling for five years, and first embraced it as an antidote to some cold and lonely miles being logged as part of her marathon training. She is passionate about the energy of the pack, and the unique quality of indoor cycling to generate something very special. There’s a power that comes from tapping into our strength and determination, fuelled by the music, liberated by the dark. It was always her goal to provide a space for that in the city. And as the owner and director of Echelon, she is honored to lead you on that journey.
What’s the hardest thing about running your own business?
The scale of the workload. It’s incessant, and while you know that going in, it still gets me. It does not stop and you do not switch off. I’m very much speaking from the start-up point of view, the 5 am to 10 pm workday. I think this lasts for most entrepreneurs for the first few years. You have to think of everything, pre-empt everything, deal with it as it comes at you, wear multiple hats and switch them constantly. When you’re a solo entrepreneur, everything stops with you, but I’ve got the absolute best team of people around me now which rocks.
Have you found social media to be a help or a hindrance?
I think it depends on what you use it for. Instagram is the only social media I use and my feed is filled with people I care about personally or who have cool and interesting things to say. I follow a lot of feminists, environmentalists, body-positive practitioners, activists, and thought-leaders. I use social media to tell stories and to listen to awesome people when they tell theirs.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not always. I have had many careers and many paths I wanted to take. My parents are self-employed and I inherited a really strong work ethic from them – if it matters to you, you do what it takes. I apply that to most things in work and in life. I got my first paid job as a receptionist when I was 12 and since then I have had loads of different kinds of jobs from service to retail to admin to education to entertainment to fitness. So while I didn’t necessarily want to be an entrepreneur, I always wanted to do work that mattered and meant something, to me and to the people on the receiving end of the work.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Oh, the one that comes to mind right away is from my sister. She always asks me: ‘and will you die?’. She started it with my fear of flying, but it quickly became her question for every time I wobbled over the finances or the legal or the fit out. When you’re burnt out or under a lot of pressure, the next big problem that comes can feel insurmountable, like it’s the one that will finally break you. Taking all the stresses and the fears to the extreme degree, to really go there with the worst-case scenario, she asks ‘and will you die?’ If the answer is ‘yes maybe’, then the worst-case scenario means its all over. If it’s a no, then let’s work our way back; what’s the next worst-case scenario and can you handle that? It’s awful and uncomfortable, but can you handle it? The answer is usually yes, and so you work your way back to the present problem and the solutions needed to wade through it. It’s called fear-setting, and by leaning into the thing you really fear, it slowly begins to lose its power.
What have you learned since opening up?
The business you planned for and the business you end up with can be different businesses. Strategizing for a new business, doing market research, and launching it into the world are the most important things for any entrepreneur. But once other people get involved, once you’ve clients or customers who begin to take it on board and make it their own, you have to listen to what they’re asking of you. The business might slowly shift in a direction that you hadn’t assumed it would. But your customers will always tell you what they need. If your whole point of being in business is to serve a need for a group of individuals, you’ve got to listen to them.
Now on the flip side, you’ve to be quite clear that this is your vision. My shorthand for it is ‘this is my house’. I will listen intently to feedback but once you start telling me you don’t like my curtains, I’ll thank you to leave it there. This is my house. There’s a fine line between encouraging input and losing your own vision because of it. If you allow them, everyone will tell you how they would do it differently.
If you could do anything differently would you?
I think this question is only helpful if you plan on doing it again. If I were to open a second studio, for example, or open another business, then yes there are things I would do totally differently second time around. But if the question is, if I could go back, start again, would I change how it all played out? And the answer would be absolutely not. It’s not possible for one thing, but to me, it sounds too much like regret. Regret in business is so misguided.
Every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. Failures are fuel. Failures are launching pads. There are processes that I know I will never repeat. There are types of people I will never work with again (and I can now spot them within minutes, which is super handy). But there are dark corners I know I can light up, and there are a group of people I know I can depend on. There are stories I can tell about what it takes to do the thing. I’m a far better businesswoman because of how the whole process played out; the good and the bad. But especially the bad.
What’s different about Echelon?
I think the specialist nature of what we do sets us apart. We do one thing, and we do it really well. Our passion is for the experience as a whole; the workout mainly, but the amenities and the community too. The workout is programmed with precision. We weave the playlists in with care and use coaching cues to bring out your best. We never diminish you or pressurize you into pushing further than you should. And we root for you in class and it’s a wholly positive experience. The added experience of the showers and the luxury beauty products and the shoes and the towels and the water; we give you what you need to get sweaty and then get on with your day. There’s a science and an art to that kind of programming, and we’re incredibly passionate about the results it brings.
What’s next for the business?
We’ve got our official launch in the New Year and from there it’s all about looking after our riders as much as possible. We’ve a small studio and a small team, but what we offer is a big deal. We are committed to honing that excellence.
For more information visit echelon.ie