Behind Pure Barre: Brooke McMillan & Jordan Malkowski
Brooke McMillan was busily preparing her new fitness studio. It was 2015 and the new mom was nearly ready to open Pure Barre Green Bay — a venture that the young entrepreneur nervously hoped would find success. As she bustled around the Oneida Street location she heard a gentle knock on the door.
“This woman walked in with her husband,” McMillan smiled. “We hadn’t even opened for business yet and she said, ‘I want to buy a 12-month membership.’ Karen Stone was my first-ever member and she still comes almost every day. That’s the kind of family we’ve built here.”
McMillan, a lifelong athlete, found a recipe for success — in merging her love of fitness and community into what is now a thriving business. It’s one she proudly claims feels more like a support network than a mix of strangers. And now, at just 29, McMillan owns two Fox Valley Pure Barre studios.
She partnered with one of the instructors from the Green Bay location, Jordan Malkowski, to launch a Pure Barre studio in Appleton, which opened in early December. The two co-own the Appleton studio. Malkowski manages the new location on
Calumet Street as the two women work together to grow their niche fitness studio.
Pure Barre is a low-impact, high-intensity group fitness class that works on lifting and toning muscles and improving overall fitness. Participants often complete moves at a ballet barre and sometimes use light weights and resistance bands.
With a lifelong background in dance, Malkowski was familiar with the ballet barre. She had been busy with endurance running, but decided to attend a Pure Barre Green Bay class for “a killer workout.”
“I loved the first class,” Malkowski said. “After the second class, I talked with Brooke and said, ‘I know you have a lot of teachers, but I’d love to teach, too.’”
Three years later, she was working at a job in Green Bay in corporate sales while teaching part-time barre classes when her husband suggested she fully commit to the company.
“My husband Josh said, ‘Why don’t you open a Pure Barre? It’s the only thing that you will happily get out of bed at 4:30 to do,’” she recalls. “He was right. I’ve never been more confident. When you take the time to focus on yourself it radiates. I just want to share that with so many people.” Now, under McMillan’s guidance, Malkowski is spreading that passion.
“I love Brooke’s energy,” Malkowski said. “Having her as a mentor and guide is truly invaluable. She makes me celebrate the little things. I tend to set a goal and won’t celebrate until I accomplish it. She’s like my cheerleader and encourages me to acknowledge the steps along the way.”
It’s an approach McMillan (who happily refers to herself as a mompreneur) learned from her own role model, Brook Nash. Nash owns the Savannah, Georgia, Pure Barre — where McMillan first discovered the fitness classes — among other locations.
“I used to teach at her studio and she really took the time with me in helping answer questions I had when I was in the process of opening the Green Bay studio and beyond,” McMillan said. “She is one of the kindest people I know and I am forever grateful for her and giving me an opportunity that truly changed my life.”
In the five years McMillan built her business, she and her husband Tate also had three children. It’s been a joy-filled whirlwind for her.
“I like to be busy,” she laughs. “I get used to something and then I get bored. So I like to make changes. For me to have made a dream on paper after having a flicker of an idea ... It’s amazing to see it all happen and grow.”
McMillan has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science. She played Div. I softball, ran half-marathons and was an avid Crossfit athlete. But it wasn’t until she was working in Savannah that she tried Pure Barre.
“It took a little bit to fully get the moves,” McMillan said. “But once I saw the results, I was all in.”
McMillan grew up in Green Bay and despite a several-years’-long diversion to attend Tennessee Technological University and work as a youth
personal trainer in Savannah, she always knew she wanted to return to her roots.
“My parents and two brothers (and their families) all live within five miles of each other. My backyard actually connects to my brother’s yard,” she said.
Having family nearby is particularly helpful for the McMillan family, who is always on the go.
“I have to get up early — usually at 4:30 a.m.,” McMillan said of her jam-packed schedule. “And I don’t hesitate to ask for help. My husband, my family help with the kids. And the kids have become extremely flexible. I’m always pre-pre-planning. If I’m not a step ahead, I’ll be 10 steps behind.”
McMillan tries to tackle a little housework and some paperwork tasks before the rest of her family awakes at 6:30 a.m. Tate is a special education teacher, so McMillan handles the morning kid shuffle: school, day care or a family’s home dropoffs.
“My days are always quite different — some days I am at the studio with clients or teaching and some days I am at a coffee shop for work
meetings or at my home office working,” she said. “My role as an owner has shifted in the last year as we are opening studio No. 2 — I am shifting into more of an operations and management role.”
BELIEVING IN HERSELF
At just 24 years old, opening a business can be a terrifying concept. McMillan didn’t doubt the greater Green Bay area would love Pure Barre ... but she admits the financial risk was a genuine fear.
“Financially, you just never know,” she recalls of her endeavor. “This was my dream, though. And I just felt the support. I could envision it
being a success here.” Her gamble paid off. The business grew quickly. Today, 15 teachers in Green Bay offer 45 classes a week. The Appleton location is currently holding 35 classes a week. McMillan will fill in for an instructor on occasion — and she still insists on taking classes about four times a week — but her work presence is now more of a behind-the-scenes one. She has the logistics of two locations
and employee scheduling to keep her busy.
“I love taking Pure Barre classes and know I’m the best version of me when I have already gotten a class in for the day,” she said. “It’s my one hour of self-care, where I can have focus on my health. Taking a class really fills up my cup so I have the energy to be a better mom, wife,
boss and friend.”
Plus, her family life is a constant focus. “I am a mom of three babies under 4. My kiddos keep me very busy right now!” she said. “My favorite part of my day is after work and settling in for the night and spending time with my babies. I just spending quality quiet time in my home with my family.” w