When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Rebecca Balyasny—like so many others—longed for connection. As a working mom, she needed to make the one hour a day she had to herself to work out count. When she found herself missing the community feel she had enjoyed in group classes pre-pandemic, she created a beta version of the concept that would become virtual exercise platform Bande (which means “gang” in French). She was so inspired by the magical feeling of sharing this live (if virtual) experiences with others, she knew she was onto something that could help people connect through fitness in ever-changing times.
Jess Cording: What about those early days of the Pandemic inspired you to form Bande?
Rebecca Balyasny: We had gone to Wyoming to basically get away from society and just watch what was going to happen. It was really on me to take care of the kids and figure out what to do. The only time of my day that I really had to myself to work out was 6:00 a.m. I started thinking, “How can I optimize this time and have a really meaningful workout?”
Cording: Was there an “Aha” moment that inspired Bande?
Balyasny: What really shifted is that I craved connection and I wasn’t getting that at all. I just started looking around and trying to find a platform where I could really connect during my workout and not leave feeling empty, but leave feeling really inspired and happy. I wanted to do yoga to support a favorite instructor because I knew it was a tough time for people in the fitness industry and thought, why not just invite a bunch of friends? So I invited 25 friends and almost everyone showed up, which was pretty amazing, just considering that most people were juggling a combination of work, kids being homeschooled. It was really magical just to see everyone in the same virtual room. I kept looking to see if any companies offering virtual classes were really focused on livestream, as opposed to just leveraging content, and I couldn’t find anyone at the time who was really advancing the tech in this field.
Cording: What was the process like of making this idea into an actual company?
Balyasny: I thought, if someone else does this and takes it to another level and I think I could have done it better,, how will I feel about that? I was like, “I just have to do it. I think I can build a great business that really impacts tons of people in a really positive way.” I wanted people to be able to come to Bande every day and find their best workout and know it’s going to be a really high-quality class. I think it’s important for your body to mix it up, so I tried to build a platform where we offer everything from barre to cardio sculpt to HIIT, to boxing, to dance, to yoga. It’s your one-stop shop for great classes in boutique fitness.
Cording: What sets this platform apart from other virtual workout services?
Balyasny: Connectivity is what we aim for. So you come into a Bande class and the teacher will acknowledge you and call you by your name. They’ll care how you’re doing. Our video platform is not Zoom, so you don’t feel like you’re in a work meeting. There are some fun features that you can use too, to make the classes more socially oriented. But our real value is in offering excellent livestream classes, and you can tell that’s our focus.
Cording: What self-care lessons has this experience of starting Bande during the pandemic taught you?
Balyasny: I’m still continuing to strive for balance in my day. You can only do so much, but I think the number one thing is to take care of your health. I work out every day, sleep eight hours a night, and I eat really well and drink a lot of water. I also spend time with my family and do things outside of work that will make me a better business builder, a better manager, and also really represent what we stand for, which is health and wellness and happiness. Not working until the wee hours of the morning has probably been my biggest challenge, but It’s important to turn things off for a couple hours before bed. It’s hard for me to do, but I think it’s important to read, to go for a walk, to watch a movie with my husband or just do something relaxing.