ENGINEERING PERFECT BALLET BARRES
FSB members are a truly varied lot! Since we started trading as FSB Insurance Service we’ve been speaking to some businesses we never even knew existed! This is part of a series in which we talk to you and find out more about your passions, your businesses and your histories.
In this instalment, we caught up with Peter Mann, who introduced us to the dazzling, celebrity-riddled world of professional-grade dance Barres.
Tell us about yourself
My background is in engineering, and my wife is a dancer. Before setting up The Barre, I ran my own company supplying Warehouse equipment and tools to other businesses, and we would also do some installation and maintenance work.
40 years ago my wife, Barbara, opened her own dance school and at first, the dancers would use the backs of chairs to keep balance and so we set up a few, slightly wobbly, wooden handrails as a slightly better option than the chairs. I could see that this still wasn’t what was needed so I designed and built a standalone metal barre for the school.
How did you build the business?
Once I’d built a barre for my wife’s school, I was asked to make one for a dance examiner who saw it, and word began to spread. Soon, I was creating a couple of new barres every month as custom orders, and I was getting asked to make add-on fittings to extend the barres too.
The way my products work is that they all can fit together, as a modular system so you can buy a 2 metre barre that’s standalone, but you can then order a bracket and another barre of the same or a different length to add on the end. We have portable barres that can be easily dismantled, and we have wall mounted brackets too.
Gradually The Barre has taken up more and more of my time. We even started a hire catalogue of barres when I was approached by a US company who wanted to use 60 of our barres for a tour of the UK. We then started developing fitness and cardio versions of the barre, as traditional ones are meant for balance and although ours can take a fair bit of weight, the fitness barre can take more punishment!
Our son has now gotten involved as well- he manages our website and online presence, helps with some of the logistics and my wife tests all the barres in her dance school, which means this really is a family business.
What’s been the highlight of running The Barre?
There’s so many. Although the bulk of our business is selling the modular barres, the hire catalogue is exciting as we get to see our products on TV in shows such as Strictly come Dancing, Dancing on Ice and ITV’s This Morning.
I also really enjoy our yearly trip to the ExCeL in London for Move It, an annual dance event where we have a stand and get to meet our customers and other industry professionals face to face. I love this industry, and the people who operate within it are all fantastic to work with, so making connections like this is a really great way to build the business.