Advice on opening a pilates studio in a small town
Guest blog post by Jill Hinson
“Why would you open a Pilates studio in a small town when there is a larger town twenty minutes from you?” they would ask me. hmmm….” Well, there is not a pilates studio in my town and we are tired of folks having to drive to Charlotte for everything,” I replied with confidence. Still, I questioned myself often; is this truly possible and why did Downtown Monroe mean so much to me? Is it feasible to open a studio in a small town? I fell in love with Historic Downtown Monroe the moment I moved here thirteen years ago. With three children, Downtown Monroe is only 4 miles from school. It was important to me to operate my business in a location that would also allow me to be Mom.
With advice from a great friend, I decided to open a home studio first to determine the location of my clients. I created a professional postcard offering one free class for a particular week in May to introduce Pilates apparatus to my clients. With one piece of each apparatus, I turned my kids’ bonus room into the smallest studio you have ever seen. I offered private sessions at a reduced rate since I had no overhead and was a new instructor. I immediately picked up eight clients. Their love for Pilates and commitment to me gave me confidence to branch out. I began teaching mat classes at multiple locations, including a local gym, an attorney’s office (after hours) and in my neighborhood.
My next challenge was finding staff since I was the only instructor in my town. I had no idea how to make this happen, but I played tennis with someone who loved fitness that I thought might be interested in Pilates training. We met over lunch and I showed her my business plan. After becoming my client, she decided to begin her training to become a certified instructor. I had another student at the gym where I taught who I did not know well, but I knew she had a degree in Exercise Science and loved my class. I mentioned to her one day what I was doing, and she immediately signed up for training. Looking back now, this was risky, but their work ethic is as strong as mine, and we have become very close friends over the past year. Our backgrounds are all very different, but we complement each other quite well. I also knew that, no matter what, I wanted my studio to have a great atmosphere and my staff would be fully supported by me.
We opened Core Studio Pilates and Yoga in Historic Downtown Monroe in September 2011. With over 150 clients, we are shocked at the wonderful response we received from our community. At our Grand Opening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, with our local Chamber of Commerce and Mayor, we offered 10 group classes (Pilates Mat, Yoga, and Barre) for $50.00. We overwhelmingly sold almost 100 of these packages. Guests purchased for friends and family. We retained about 25 percent of these clients; however, we are thankful for everyone because this initial special allowed us to pay rent for a couple of months while we got on our feet.
In addition, we invested in a fantastic website. Big Ring Interactive, another Downtown Monroe business, worked with me to create a website better than I could have ever dreamed. It has brought me a great deal of business. I believe a good website is crucial in our business, because it sets the tone for professional instruction. We have also invested in Big Ring creating a monthly newsletter for us through Constant Contact that is sent to our email list. This has been very good for us, in that clients are able to know what we are offering monthly. Facebook has also been very good for our studio. We use Facebook daily to remind users of classes we are offering, workshops, and fun quotes to keep them coming back to our page. We offered contests to gain more likes.
In May, I invested in a billboard on US Highway 74 for five weeks to make sure everyone in Monroe knew there was a studio in our small town. I recently offered Groupon for new clients only, to continue to build my group classes. This has been a good way for me to advertise, although Groupon is not a way of generating revenue for me. Finally, we have been featured in our local Community Magazine, Union Lifestyle, as well as the Enquirer Journal newspaper. Everything helps!
It was important to me to invest my time and money wisely. If I were going to invest in studio equipment I knew that marketing was a must. It is not something I am great at, but I have a very open mind to receive advice from people who have been there before me. I also believe that it is important to be connected to good people. Through connections with people who want us to succeed, we have been featured in SkirtSports apparel for women, I taught at the Kathy Casey Skating Seminar and will be teaching this summer at the Ryan Bradley Skating Seminar. I will never pretend to know more than I know, and for that reason I refer to physical therapists, massage therapists, even other trainers if I believe they can help someone more than I can at that moment. This is my passion, and for me, although I want to make a living, it is more about helping other people become physically fit and feel good about themselves.
My advice to you:
If you love what you are teaching, your passion will gravitate and others will become passionate, too. I love receiving advice from other business owners, although most in my circle do not own a studio. I believe you are only as good as your staff. I am very considerate of my clients’ time and money, and I will never take their time to text, answer calls, or handle other studio issues. My staff is extremely professional at all times and we have created a community that is happy. We are all competitive bodies, but when we come into the studio it is all about teamwork and being there for one another. We take classes from each other and work to keep our studio very clean. Our Yoga staff takes Pilates and our Pilates staff takes Yoga. We are currently offering a “Karma Drive” for our local community shelter and try to give back any way we can.
I have a big dream and vision in a small town and the exciting part is that it is happening! I received great advice recently from a friend who suggested I try not to grow too much, too quickly. When I first heard this, I did not think much about it, but now I see how true it is. I would rather bring in programs slowly that are phenomenal and make folks want to come back, rather than bringing in programs that are unorganized and not professional. I have also learned that this studio has required more heart, blood, sweat and tears than anything I have ever undertaken in my life besides my family. I do not mind hard work, though, and am thankful every day I have this opportunity. The reward is great, and I wish you luck pursuing your studio!
Jill Hinson is a pilates instructor and studio owner of Core Studio Pilates and Yoga. She has a Bachelors Degree in Dance Education and is STOTT PILATES certified as well as faculty at Extreme Ice Center Skating School.
Learn 9 Proven Strategies to Help You Grow Your Pilates Business
Enter your Name and Email below to Download your FREE Report!
Want to Contribute to ThePilatesBiz.com?
If you’ve got an idea for a juicy guest post about running a pilates studio, making a living as an instructor, personal reflections on our craft or want to be one of our success stories, we want to hear from you!
Just enter your details along with a short description of your proposed post and we’ll get back to you on whether it’s a fit.
"I have been a member of Profit with Pilates for only 2 or 3 months, and feel I have already gotten my money’s worth and more!The last 3 months (since joining Profit With Pilates) have been my most profitable months ever… I have almost doubled my usual sales. I feel like I can breathe again. It is invaluable to have Gina’s coaching and the forum to communicate with. Being a part of this group has changed my mindset. It has given me new ideas, and given me the motivation to act on ideas I have had. I can’t thank you enough. Joining The Pilates Biz and Profit With Pilates has been a turning point for my business.""
- Meghan, pilates studio owner
"I was in search of taking my business to the next level but I wasn’t exactly sure how that was going to look. But after The Pilates Biz I felt that my confidence was restored along with a very clear guideline of what to do next to boost my business. It was the “A-AH moment” that I needed! Thank you!" - Kate, pilates instructor
"I recommend The Pilates Biz to other pilates professionals because it changes lives! I had no real idea how thorough and complete this experience was going to be until I joined! Before Gina & The Pilates Biz, my pilates business was feeling a bit stale and stagnant. I believe this program will help every business owner or instructor realize their true potential, thank you!" - Lynne, pilates studio owner
"Learning from Gina has made all the difference to me in being a good instructor who could pay the bills to becoming a great instructor who had a successful and fulfilling career! She has been both a mentor and friend." - Valerie, pilates instructor