Dibs Barisic Sprem
Running a business

Dibs Barisic Sprem's Goal is to Keep the Community Moving

In honour of Pride Month we are celebrating amazing LGBTQIA+ small business owners that are a pillar in their community. 

Name: Dibs Barisic Sprem 

Location: Montreal, QC, Canada 

Business: Dibs Fitness

What does your business do? 

Dibs Fitness provides LGBTQIA+ inclusive, fun-fuelled, body-neutral personal training, group fitness, and virtual coaching services. I'm also an adaptive coach, which means I have done training to accommodate people with physical and cognitive disabilities. Most recently, I've launched a line of t-shirts with unconventional fitness slogans.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

Like many body workers, physical therapists, and similar professionals know, it's hard to make a living when you're working under someone else's roof. I started my training career back in Sydney, Australia (where I am from), and worked at a boutique studio that was paying the employees a quarter of what the clients were being charged. I was working from 5 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., with a long lunch break in between. It wasn't sustainable for my mental health or my relationships.

I had a small social media following of less than 1,000 people when I decided to start my own business about five months before moving to Montreal. When I arrived in Canada, I had to work a hospitality job on the side while I figured out the industry in a new city. I had just quit my hospitality job to go full-time on my business when the pandemic hit. I didn't qualify for any financial assistance, so I had to make it work or start eating into my savings.

What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year? 

Charge people what you're worth! Don't give low prices because you think it'll get more clients. Some won't trust the quality of your service if the price is too low. Or you will start to resent your clients for taking more energy/ time out of your day than you were prepared to offer for that lower price.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner? 

How easy it was to do without any bachelor's degree or fancy courses. I was in university for almost three years before I dropped out and worked for a year before finding the certification I use for my business.

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it?  

TAXES! GST and other provincial taxes that you need to register for and how to separate all of my expenses. I got an accountant, and he helped me with all of the legal stuff that I needed to know. I'm still working on streamlining my bookkeeping, but it's a lot better these days!

How does running your own business make you feel?  

I am stressed at times, but the feedback I get from clients, who have never had such a positive experience with a fitness trainer before, keeps me motivated. It's extremely joyful to see people gain confidence, reduce pain, and become stronger under my guidance.

What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business owner?   

I've overcome not having any days off. I used to work all the time and had bad boundaries when it came to booking appointments because I was afraid of losing work. Now I'm stricter with my work hours and try to refer out when I can't take someone on.

I'm still trying to overcome marketing strategies. For the first two years of my business, I did free social media content and relied on a lot of word of mouth. Now I am transitioning from services to products too, and it's a new playing field.

What are your proudest moments? 

Helping a woman get off of her blood pressure medication was an awesome achievement and hearing when clients tell me that they have been pain-free for weeks at a time. The thing I'm most proud of is when I launched my first online program for people recovering or preparing for top surgery. That was a world first!

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?  

1. Always being myself and being honest to my client's face, and in my online content. 

2. Finding a gap in my industry where vulnerable people were being left behind and then learning more about how I could help those people who are also part of my community. 

3. Meeting people where they are. I used to be brainwashed by diet culture and then swung heavily in the opposite direction. Now I'm at a sweet spot in the middle where I can help people who have aesthetic goals if that is what they feel good about and help create goals around other health markers, like strength, resting heart rate, and sports-specific skills.

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If you have a dream, keep chasing it. We are all very supportive of each other, and you will find strength in your community.

What challenges do you feel are unique to small business owners in the LGBTQIA+ community? Have you come up against any bias?  

Many of the other small business owners I know in the LGBTIQA+ community also mainly serve others in our community. This can be an issue as many of us don't have much disposable income, largely due to; ongoing medical costs associated with gender-affirming care, mental health treatment due to trauma and discrimination, and the fact that queer and transgender people are statistically less likely to be employed. It's always a challenge making prices accessible to those on lower incomes while still covering costs.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the community?  

If you have a dream, keep chasing it. We are all very supportive of each other, and you will find strength in your community.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

Showing that it is possible to run a business that is ethical, fair, inclusive, and profitable. You don't have to cut corners, be a bully, or use unsustainable materials.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

Almost anything by Queen. I have a tattoo of Freddie Mercury on my arm and the lyrics "Don't Stop Me Now" across it. How could you not feel motivated by those epic masterpieces? Freddie was an amazing performer.

Why should people come see you?

If you're seeking to heal your relationship with your body and with movement, or if you're after fresh inspiration on your fitness journey, Dibs is here for you.

What are the next big plans you have for your business?  

I'm going to be outsourcing to video editors so I can release more exercise programs for people to follow at their own pace. There will be something specific for thick glutes and thighs coming soon. I'm also adding more merchandise to my shop with original designs that I created!

To learn more about Dibs Fitness and support their business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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