Fred Devito: Co-Founder & EVP of "Mind Body Fitness" Programs, Exhale

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A member of the founding Exhale team and co-creator of the company’s highly publicized fitness programs. Fred is EVP of Teacher Training for exhale. He is responsible for the teacher training curriculum, program quality and safety. As a lead trainer and fitness expert in the barre and well being industry, Fred has been featured in the New York Times, Fitness Magazine, New York Magazine, Shape Magazine, USA Today as well as appearances on Fox 5, Good Morning America and CBS News.  Along with his wife, Elisabeth Halfpapp, Fred has created choreographed and starred in 11 Exhale Core Fusion DVD’s, co-authored the Barre Fitness Book and is a contributing teacher on both and

How did you get into the Health & Wellness industry?

I graduated from College of Central N.J. with a degree in Health, Physical Education and Sports Medicine, taught in the public school system for 5 years before joining the legendary Barre Studio business, The Lotte Berk Method in 1984.  With my 3 other partners, we started exhale in 2002 and that was the birth of the Mind Body Wellness Industry as we know it now.

Tell us about Exhale. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

Exhale is a concept created by our founder, CEO + President, Annbeth Eschbach.  She was a student in one of my Lotte Berk Classes back in the late 90’s and came to me and my wife/partner, Elisabeth Halfpapp with her vision of merging the worlds of mind body fitness and transformational spa services. We were excited to create a new brand and experience in the fitness and spa space, one that never before existed. Today, exhale has grown to a leading wellbeing brand with almost 30 locations, dozens of boutique fitness programs, and almost 2000 associates. Our team has remained true to our original mission and vision to deliver transformation through mind and body, spa and fitness.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Exhale's success?

We have always been dedicated to delivering transformational results in all that we do with our proprietary mind body fitness classes and signature spa and healing services.  When we do that, our guest base grows. Our largest driver of new guest traffic is guest referrals, happy guests. We have never relied on external advertising—we have built our business through ambassadors, happy guests, positive press, awards, and testimonials.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?  

When we started exhale the fitness and spa marketplace looked very different than it does today. We were moving in a totally new direction, and we chose different language to define our unique exhale paradigm, such as mind body classes, and “core fusion” and transformational spa + fitness in a “boutique setting.” We were told many times that this language was confusing to consumers. We never expected was that in less than ten years time, exhale’s terminology would become the industry standard, or that this direction would be gather so much momentum.

Life Motto?

My personal favorite and quote:  “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” Tm

Your greatest success as Co-Founder of Exhale? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

My greatest success is in seizing this opportunity to share the gold of the barre class with the world.  At the Lotte Berk Method, we knew we had something very special that could change people’s lives, but it wasn’t until the birth of exhale did we have a platform to share it.  Since we opened exhale we have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to create 11 DVD’s and our recent book, Barre Fitness which is now reaching thousands of students worldwide.  My most difficult moment was closing one of our properties, a studio in Venice Ca.  I learned that when you build something from the ground up, you have the freedom to create a special culture and brand. It is much more difficult to morph an acquired business into our brand.  

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Follow your dream and take each hurdle one at a time.  Don’t look too far ahead and always understand that your time in front of your customer is the most important interactions of your day.  Be present with them, give them your full and undivided attention and watch your business grow one guest at a time.  Word of mouth, referrals and reputation are everything in building a business.

Describe the ideal experience at Exhale.

COME IN- take a class, relax in our quiet lounge with signature tea and a hot neck pillow, get a massage, facial or acupuncture, buy your favorite exercise clothing in our boutique EXHALE, and LEAVE BETTER.

How do you motivate your employees?

We have a special language at exhale. Our “employees” are “associates” or “teammates” and we know that they are delivering the dream….they are part of the dream……so we let them know that we really appreciate them and show them that we mean it through our actions, not just our words.  Offer positive feedback when needed and be willing to take suggestions from them with an open heart and mind.

What's next for Exhale?

We have spent a decade building a leading lifestyle brand that has a solid footprint, loyal following, killer management team, and we are on a mission to share our vision with the world……our Barre Teacher Training program is growing each year, reaching more potential teachers and allowing them to be “barre certified by exhale” so they can teach our style of barre in their own studios.  Our classes and teacher training will soon be available on line via live stream and we will be opening more properties and stores at a robust rate, coming soon to a neighborhood near you!