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Work It Wednesday - Heather Gardner

THE BIG DAY IS FINALLY HERE. Yes, we're talking about the day that we introduce the #WorkIt World to Heather Gardner, Founder of Tribe Fitness and just a kick-butt superwoman in general. I (Christine, President of Work It Social) have known Heather from the beginning days of my social media journey, where she has watched, followed and encouraged our growth to where it is now. I, too, have seen Heather grow from when Tribe Fitness was just an idea in her head, to a passionate group of community-oriented runners, to now a full-blown fitness empire! We'll let her tell the rest.. but first of all wanted to say: Heather, we are SO proud to witness this journey and join along for the ride. Now, as if there's a better time to talk fitness than the start of spring, let's get to it!

1. First, tell us about Tribe Fitness. What makes Tribe different?

What makes Tribe different is our focus on building community - and we do that through fitness. When you show up to Tribe we care that you're working out with us. We know your name and can't wait to hear about your goals. In 2013 we started as a free run crew, over our first three years we did 500 free workouts. We are all about bringing people together and having fun with fitness.

2. What inspired you to start your own business? It's always been a dream of mine, but something I didn't always think was possible. Where I grew up boutique studios didn't exist, and even female entrepreneurs were hard to find. It wasn't until I moved to Toronto 10 years ago and local independent studios were popping up. Experiencing these gave me the hope and drive to create my own.

3. How do your customers find out about you?

Social media has always been a huge piece of how people find us. When we started as a run crew in 2013 I just sent out a tweet to meet on a specific corner at this time and let's run 5km and people actually showed up! And then kept showing up. And kept sharing their experiences online. In building a physical space, social media and the culture to share has certainly played a role in our design as well. From our heart wall to our Tribe Love neon sign, people just want to share.

4. What's something you wish you had known before starting your own business? Ha! So much. And we've only been open for four months, so I'm confident in a year this answer will be different, but at this point I wish I had been more involved in our studio build from the start. I worked with an architect to complete the drawings, and then I hired contractors and project mangers to coordinate the actual build as this was not something I did have any experience with. The people we hired ended up not following the drawings, and sometimes it seemed like they hadn't even read then, almost until it was to late. One day I came in and our spin room wall framing was in the completely wrong position and had been dry walled without any sound proofing as the drawings indicated. I just assumed everyone would do the job we hired them for - but that's not how it happened. So I wish I had been more involved in the construction side from the start.

5. How do you create a community around your brand?

It has always been important for everyone to feel welcome and included in Tribe. From the beginning we've always used photos of our clients and classes and people see others who look like them, all shapes and sizes, and colours, and ages, and know they'll belong. We've always gone beyond gender, age, and race to create an inclusive community and we've extended that to our physical space as well. Gender neutral washrooms and change stalls. Our instructors also use inclusive language (avoid using gendering terms like "girls" and "guys"). It's these little things that matter to create a safe and inclusive space and that's important to us.

6. Any advice for those aspiring entrepreneurs out there? Find your ride or die tribe - even as a independent entrepreneur, you can't go it alone. Find someone who has been there and is open to sharing, find someone who will be there when the times get tough and you just need a hug, and in general just find people who care about you and care about your business as much as you do - find your tribe.

7. What's next for Tribe?

We're continuing to build our Tribe. Building our membership, finding class times that work for our clients, and just working through our evolution from a free fitness community to a fitness hub, that still offers free programs.

8. How do you #workit everyday? I think finding a flow of everything I have going on in my life - I used to use the word "balance" but my reality as the owner of a new fitness start up is that life is not balanced. But if I can find a flow between what I need to do as a business owner, family member, and for myself. Being patient with this change in my life, taking time to enjoy what I've created, and still find time to do what's important to me - that's how I #workit.

Interested in participating in an upcoming Work It Wednesday? Want to nominate an entrepreneur or influencer who is #workingit in Toronto? Be sure to slip us an email at!

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