Founder of Bari Studio on the reality of becoming a new mom as an entrepreneur, her philosophy on food, delegating and multitasking
by Colleen Crivello
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Her mega-watt smile, “say-it-as-it-is” personality and the very sense that being around Alexandra may actually make me smarter via osmosis, meant from the moment we met I was instantly hooked – zero to friendship in 60 seconds.
Six years ago, on the verge of burn-out in her former career, Alexandra went out on a limb and launched her fitness studio Bari. Now, with a cult following, she inspires women to be the best version of themselves – a message we stand firmly behind! Having recently joined the mom-tribe – without skipping a beat – we caught up with this fierce female between conference calls and breast feeding to get the lowdown on the reality of managing the demands of her business with new motherhood, the power of learning to delegate, her food philosophy plus what makes her feel sexy these days. @yayabonetti @thebaristudio
Photos by: Chloé Crane-LerouxAs a mom and an entrepreneur, how has the transition been into new motherhood – seeing as the demand of your job doesn’t change, but now you have this new responsibility? I wouldn’t say I manage spectacularly well – I’m not quite there yet! I keep reading all these interviews where moms really truly do it all, and I’m either a slow learner or these women are actual superheroes. The truth is, my twelve hour semi-productive workday is down to maybe 6 turbo-charged hours of productivity like I’d never known before. Even though I’m more tired than I’ve probably ever been in my life, I’m so grateful to have the flexibility to continue to run my business and spend so much time with my son – even if it usually looks like bouncing him on an exercise ball while on a conference call.
Do you think it will be important for your son to grow up with his mom working and running her own business? I think what truly positively impacts your baby, child, teenager is to have a genuinely happy mom. If working makes you happy, then yes! If you’re miserable and wish you were home, maybe you need to cut back on work and try to be home more. Thanks to Bari I’ve been surrounded by all types of moms for the past five plus years, and I’ve learned that what makes women glow, great at work, great in bed, great at multi tasking, etc. is doing stuff they really love to do, not for other people, but for themselves. Do you really need to be CEO to be happy? Maybe an entry level position keeps you busy and gives you enough responsibility to keep food on the table and your mind at work, and also allows you the flexibility to get home in time to bathe your baby. Whatever you love, go after that.
Has motherhood changed your perspective on your business or the way that you work?Yes. I wonder how much is permanent and how much is situational because I’m at home right now with a four month old. I’m delegating more (I also have the best team I’ve ever had at Bari), I am extremely productive when I do sit down to focus on work, I don’t blink an eye at multi-tasking (breastfeeding and replying to emails, for example), but I also have, maybe for the first time ever, real family time that is not interrupted by work. These slivers of my day make me the happiest right now and are why I’m so excited about my work life and my home life.
Do you cook?I do cook, and I love to cook, but since the baby was born it’s probably the last thing on my priority list. So maybe I don’t love it as much as I thought I loved it, because it was the first thing to go out the window!
What are your philosophies around food?Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Okay, okay, that’s Michael Pollan’s motto — but it’s a good one, and I’d like to think he doesn’t mind that I borrow it. I believe in real food. I over-consume kale and think life is too short to eat food out of a box; I also think life is too short to eat food that doesn’t taste delicious. So, while I prioritize my health, I never neglect my taste buds.
Any recent health discovery?I’ve been meditating for years, but finally this past year found a practice that I’ve been able to stick to. It’s called Vedic meditation, which is effortless and mantra based. I meditate twice a day for 20 minutes each time which at first seemed like it was consuming my entire day. Once you get in the groove of it (similar to exercise!) it’s actually given me more time, calmed my anxiety, and focused my mind. I realize this isn’t anything new, but to people who have been trying to meditate or are curious about it, I can’t recommend Vedic meditation enough.
On how you launched Bari and why? I really went out on a limb when I started Bari. Fitness certainly hadn’t been my planned career path, nor was it really a passion. I had been borderline allergic to sports growing up and had never been a fan of working out. My relationship with fitness evolved while management consulting for large oil corporations; I was running myself into the ground — taking multiple flights per week, eating all my meals at airports, consistently working overtime and getting pretty used to the feelings of anxiety and stress. In what felt like the blink of an eye — but was actually five years — I became constantly exhausted, unhappy, on edge and, as the story goes, had gained fifteen pounds. I realized I was in urgent need of self care and started to run 10 minutes a day. Even that little taste of doing something good for myself made me feel like the most accomplished athlete in the world. Running became my gateway drug to other exercise disciplines and classes, and all of a sudden I found myself craving daily sweat sessions and finding anyway possible to fit them into my hectic schedule.
But the thing is, no matter how much I was working out, I didn’t look or feel the way I wanted. I couldn’t find a method that offered the right recipe of cardio and muscle sculpting. Like many people, I only had a limited amount of time each week to dedicate to my workouts, and I really needed an efficient, effective one-stop-shop. I decided to take my fitness plan and my body into my own hands and little by little started crafting a method that actually worked. I mixed and matched exercises that worked for me and that I loved doing, I worked with personal trainers who had trained some of the biggest celebrities in the world to understand what exactly they were doing differently that worked and felt so good, and I surrounded myself with all types of stakeholders that could give me feedback in different ways about the method I was crafting.
As I started putting the pieces of the puzzle (that would later become Bari) together, I felt a shift from constantly trying to figure out how to do it all to being effortlessly motivated by and excited for a workout that was working for me. As soon as I figured out this formula that felt really good, I fell in love with the feel-good power of a consistent workout practice.
When my body started changing in all the right ways with less than one hour of working out per day, I knew I was onto something, and I couldn’t shake the opportunity to see it through. I was good at consulting, but I was invigorated by Bari. So I left my job in consulting and followed a passion that evolved from a most authentic place: a need for a workout that didn’t exist. I knew that if I wanted a more efficient, fun workout, other people must be craving the same.
Plus the why behind the name and the tribe you are creating?Bari is named after an indigenous tribe in Venezuela, where I’m from; I chose it because I wanted to foster a close-knit community of like-minded people. That same intention — creating a community-driven, feel-good atmosphere — drove the creation of the studio, from layout and design to our instructor trainings and class offerings.
What’s next for Bari?We’re starting to sell franchises to open some more studios outside of New York and are also very close to launching an online platform so people can work out with us from home or wherever they are! Basically, more bari babes in more states, countries, and continents.
Have you started working out yet? If so, what was that like and if not when do you think you will?Yes. As soon as I felt I could give it a shot, I did, but I started with Bari’s streamed videos at home. I just started taking classes in the studio again and it feels so good! The reason it took me almost four months to get back in the studio wasn’t that my body couldn’t do it – I was just too tired. Joaquin is not a good sleeper and there were weeks where I was waking up every hour or so to feed, and you can’t possibly work out when you’re completely sleep deprived. Now he wakes up once or twice and I feel rested enough to take classes again.
You worked out throughout your pregnancy – do you think that helped you in labor/ has helped get your body back post-pregnancy?There’s no doubt in my mind that staying fit helped me in labor and now post-pregnancy; it also helps you feel like a completely normal and healthy human being while you’re pregnant, which should be the way you feel. You feel strong, beautiful, sexy, capable… during and after pregnancy, and with everything happening and changing in your life, that’s a pretty great tool to be able to count on.
What are some tips for moms wanting to get their bodies back post-pregnancy?Don’t worry about it, but care for it. Don’t worry about dropping the pounds or your belly skin – just eat well, move, sleep when you can, drink a lot of water and take care of your babe. If you’re breastfeeding, whatever you’re putting into your body is what you’re giving your baby to start life with, so just be kind to your body and theirs, and everything else falls into place. Your body is beyond wise if you respect it.
Fave workout gear/brands?Outdoor Voices, Lucas Hugh, Koral, PE Nation
Has becoming a mom affected positively or negatively your marriage – or both? Positively! My husband was extremely supportive and loving and caring throughout my pregnancy and I think that’s where the bond started strengthening even more. My baby is still three months old, so I’m still doing most of the work, getting up at nights, staying with the baby throughout the day — and he’s very understanding and empathetic about it. Seeing him as a dad is also the sexiest thing on Earth.
How’d you meet your husband?We met at a Halloween party in NYC, around 3am, wasted.
I know this might feel far off right now, but what makes you feel sexy?My husband. It doesn’t matter if I’m covered in breastmilk in my PJs and haven’t showered all day – he finds a way to make me feel like the sexiest woman alive.
Where did you grow up? Caracas, VenezuelaMorning and night skincare regime?Before I got pregnant I was following 12+ step processes at morning and night – I’m in love with beauty products and love trying everything and anything. When I got pregnant, I cleaned out my cabinet and since then have only used natural products. In the morning, I wash my face, put on a toner and a sunscreen. At night, I wash and put on a serum and then some oil.
What inspires you/keeps you inspired?Everyone’s stories around me and now my baby. My team and my clients are probably my biggest source of inspiration. I’m surrounded by a tribe that likes to work hard for results, in and out of the classroom. No one feels entitled to anything, they’re willing to sweat their asses off for it – and that’s a pretty amazing energy to breathe inspiration into your life.
A mantra…I heard Thom Knoles say “No matter what you think is happening, only evolution is happening,” and I fell in love with the way he is reminding us to trust the universe. Even when you feel like you’re taking two (or ten) steps back, you’re really moving forward, evolving, learning, growing.
One tip (anything on love, life, work, etc…)Empathize with others; love others. You commonly hear that you have to love yourself in order to love others. I truly believe that when you connect with and stand with the people around you, your heart will be filled and you will have more knowledge and power to love yourself.