Many Pilates instructors dream of owning their own studio. The dream is pretty common. However, looking back over the last 9 years of having my business, I realize that I had no idea what challenges were in store. I had no idea how much I would need to grow. I had no idea how hard and rewarding this path would be. And there’s no doubt I have made mistakes. But the skills I have gained are immense.
I have always been obsessed with physicality, dance, and design. After college I was still pursuing dance while I found myself taking on marketing and design projects for small movement related businesses just for fun. I created studio logos, websites, flyers. I even began to get hired for fitness photo shoots because I understood movement. My best friend and I started a design business specifically for Pilates studio owners and health clubs.
While working professionally as a designer and dancing, I realized I wanted to train to become a Pilates instructor. I researched all the training options and decided on STOTT PILATES. I relocated and enrolled in training courses.
My mom is a communications expert and I realized that I too enjoyed reading books about interpersonal communication and teaching philosophy (My favorite by Parker Palmer The Courage to Teach). I wanted to better know how to communicate so understanding is achieved so I read and read.
While teaching as an apprentice instructor, I learned from my Pilates mentor not just how to teach but the business of running a studio. I also watched her work really incredibly hard to keep her studio running. I helped her open a second location and watched her struggle to make it work.
As I continued gaining experience as an apprentice, I worked with another mentor while she opened a studio and began publishing several Pilates books. I help her with designing the book, photography, and she even asked me to write a chapter.
After relocating to San Francisco, I worked at two very different studios, the then STOTT PILATES teacher training center and a studio that focused on post physical therapy rehabilitation. I became a Senior Instructor and the manager for the teacher training center. I learned about hiring and firing, client relations, and studio finances.
All these female entrepreneurs worked tirelessly to keep afloat.
I realized now all these skills — design, marketing, management, communication, leadership, and more — would be put to the test through entrepreneurship.
By the time I was ready to start my studio, I had already been teaching and managing operations at other studios for over eight years. I had a business partner so I naively thought I would still have a time to dance and pursue other endeavors. This partnership lasted only about a year and I found myself in a position I hadn’t anticipated—I was solely responsible for managing all operations, mentoring instructors, payroll and accounting, reception, and teaching a lot. Every day since, I have felt the weight squarely on my shoulders of the huge risk of being the sole person responsible for the finances of a large studio in a major city.
Within a year of taking over as sole owner, the stock market crashed and I found myself with a new business during the biggest economic downturn so far in my lifetime (fingers crossed). I had huge debt to repay and large monthly overhead. It was a struggle to say the least. At times I felt like giving up but I pushed onward.
Slowly over the years the studio required more and more of my time. It squeezed out my other interests like choreographing and dancing. I foolishly thought as the studio grew, I would have more time because I would have more help. Now I know that growth always requires time.
In order to stay current (and in business), you have to continue to change and evolve to survive. And survival for me means not only making ends meet financially, but constantly feeling invested and excited about what I’m building.
I love getting up every morning to go to this beautiful community that I built. I work with others who are as fascinated as I am with deeply investigating the body through movement. Everyday I learn something from the wonderful instructors I work with.
I feel so lucky to work everyday (and yes, you should expect to work everyday) towards helping people feel better in their bodies. I help my clients feel good, and I assist my community in becoming healthier, happier, and more fit. I guide aspiring teachers on their path towards becoming skilled Pilates professionals, who then go on to help their communities.
Would I do it again? It’s hard to answers “No” because I have become the person that I am through Blue Sparrow Pilates. Blue Sparrow Pilates became a vehicle for human transformation both in my clients and in me. I reflect on the teachers I’ve been honored to work alongside, the friends I’ve made, and the love and support from the studio community that has grown around me. There’ve been many sacrifices but when it’s all said and done I absolutely would do it all over again.
I would never discourage others from pursuing the dreams of owning a studio. You absolutely should if it is your dream. I would just caution that it’s not an easy road and it’s a long road. It’s not a short term commitment (5+ years minimum) and the rewards you’re seeking must be far deeper than financial gain.
Blue Sparrow Pilates was, and still is my dream.
Sending you love and success!