Eau Claire fitness instructor becomes studio owner


Emily Balow (center), owner of Dragonfly Dance and Wellness, instructs a Zumba class at her studio in downtown Eau Claire. © 2017 Jenna Ambrosius

By Jenna Ambrosius

One woman went from running around taking care of children to running around in a fitness studio.

After taking Zumba classes at a local gym, Emily Balow, owner of Dragonfly Dance and Wellness, decided to become a certified Zumba instructor and began leading classes once a week at the studio under its previous owner. At the time, she was running a full-time day care facility and caring for foster children. When the woman who ran the studio decided that she was going to move from Eau Claire in 2013, Balow decided to step up and take over, despite her limited experience with fitness or running a business.

“I had never run a business,” Balow said of the life-changing moment. “I didn’t have a business degree or a fitness degree. I just took it (the studio), told myself I’m going to do this, and prayed.”

In the four years that have passed since Balow took over Dragonfly Dance and Wellness, her passion for fitness has continued to grow, as well as her success as a business owner.

Before that point in her life, Balow had never planned on becoming a certified fitness instructor or a studio owner. Balow said that being an instructor was out of her comfort zone and that she struggled with leading a group at first.

“I would say that for the first six months my whole body shook every time I taught, but I worked through it,” Balow said of instructing Zumba. “Once I was more comfortable, I really enjoyed it.”

Zumba was just the start of Balow’s passion for fitness and her journey to becoming a studio owner. Once Balow had made the decision to take over Dragonfly, she knew that she would have to become a certified personal trainer, as well as a nutrition specialist. Balow wanted the hand’s on experience of training as well as the certification, so she began to take classes and pursue a healthy lifestyle, which allowed her love of fitness to grow.

“You have to be passionate about what you do if you’re going to succeed,” Balow said. “It’s not just about looking good. It’s about how you feel, it’s about attitude, and it’s about making lifelong friends. With all of that put together, my passion just grew.”

Balow has found that there is a lot that goes into being a business owner. On somedays, she is in the studio from before the sun rises until after it sets.  However, Balow is not the only instructor at Dragonfly. There are multiple instructors who rent space Balow who teach different classes alongside of her.

When Balow first took over the studio in 2013, she said that she had never expected it to be as successful as it is now. In her first year as studio owner, Balow said that she only made a profit of $100 or $200. However, Balow said that she knew that she would have to go through that and was going to stick it out and make things right.

“Sometimes it takes a long time,” Balow said, “Sometimes it takes a lot of different doors and avenues, but you just keep doing it until you find a way to make things work.”

Today, Balow has has her certifications in personal training, fitness nutrition, Zumba, Insanity, and Amp. She instructs classes seven days a week to over 60 clients. Ellen Sorenson of Eau Claire is a client of Balow’s who works out regularly at Dragonfly. Sorensen said that Balow is an intense trainer who has helped her meet her fitness goals.

“Emily is pretty rad,” Sorensen said of Balow. “She works you pretty hard, but also meets you at your level.”

Balow says that she is a “take-control” type of person, and because of that, she is making the best of her owning a studio. Balow said that there are far more positives than there are negatives to running Dragonfly, and she continues to learn and every day. Balow wants to continue to follow her passion and impact people’s lives through fitness.

“I wouldn’t say I’m successful as in money,” Balow said. “I’m not super rich off of this business. I mean that I’m successful as in people, their success stories.”