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Case study: How to build a successful Pilates business

Discover how Karen Grinter, owner of Northants Pilates has grown her successful Pilates business using her TeamUp studio management software.

Karen Grinter is the owner of the renowned Northants Pilates. Known as one of the leading pilates practitioners in the UK, Karen has built a business based on her personal values of delivering absolute quality and results. We asked Karen how she reached her current position and her advice for other business owners.

image of karen grinter's son daniel teaching a Pilates class

How did you get started in the fitness industry?

Years ago (around 1996) I saw an article in one of the Sunday newspaper supplements about Pilates. At that time there were only a handful of teachers in the whole of the UK and no formal training providers at all. I wrote to the address to see if there were any teachers locally and got a reply back saying no, but there was a book coming out next year so I wrote back immediately to ask that if any training opportunities came up, to let me know. A few weeks later Lynn Robinson called me to say they were setting up the first-ever mat-based training course and asked if I was interested; this is how I ended up on their first course 20 years ago. Body Control Pilates is now one of the biggest Pilates training providers in the UK and also runs courses around the world.

Tell me about your fitness business?

We have three locations in Northamptonshire, the main one being based at Northants Cricket (who have won the Twenty20 Cricket finals twice in the last four years and made the finals three times!) We run mat classes in all three locations and Group Reformer classes at one location. We have a great reputation locally for working with people with chronic back pain and other rehab problems, and have a longstanding relationship with many local health professionals, from orthopaedic surgeons to physios and osteopaths, who all refer patients to us knowing we will work closely with them to ensure their patients get the right exercise regime and get results. We have mat classes that start with Foundation classes for total beginners to Dynamic Mat for those who want a more challenging class.

image of one of karen grinter's students in her class

What qualifications do you have?

I have Pilates Mat qualifications with Body Control Pilates and with Stott Pilates (I trained in Canada with Moira Stott back in 1999). I also have BCP Reformer, Trapeze Table qualification and Level 4 Low Back Pain qualification.

How many do you have and what results have they seen since training with you?

Our clients are many and varied, ranging in ages from 14 to 85. Many come via referral with back problems, however, many come on recommendation from friends and family, often because they see the difference that our classes have made to them, and decide they want some of that too! What I hope we do is show people how to work out effectively, understand their body, what it does, how it can adapt/adopt positions due to poor posture (often from sitting for hours), then try and gently change that and return it to a more efficient working model.

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Giving people the tools to manage back pain and getting their lives back. That’s priceless.

What packages do you offer and what are the prices?

We have recurring mat class membership for a weekly mat class, which is £33 a month; six-week Foundation class packages for new people is £60, and Group Reformer packages are £20 per session. Our numbers are limited in each class and we don’t offer any reductions for multiple classes at the moment.

How did you find TeamUp?

A recommendation from someone I spoke to who suggested I contact TeamUp. So I did and got signed up.

What did you use before TeamUp?

Mindbody…don’t get me started on that. Nightmare.

What do you say to other gym owners who are keen to make the switch to TeamUp?

Do it now. Unlike many other booking systems, you get everything they have right from the off; some other companies start you off on a lower price and lower package but many of the things they offer are not accessible until you are paying top dollar, which is useless when building a business. TeamUp also offer the sliding scale which is great to build up your business.

More than anything, it’s automated, and anything that makes it easy for us to run our business and for our clients to book in is great. There are enough barriers to health and wellbeing so a system that makes it easy for them to book in and get started has to be a winner. And the more time I can spend teaching and not chasing payments or booking people in is also a very good thing.

image of students in karen grinter's studio

Anything else you would like to add?

Talking to other Pilates teachers, especially like me who have been teaching a long time, we put barriers in our way by assuming our clients won’t like it. Let's face it; the two things that are likely to send people into orbit are change and money. I have run my classes the same way for 19 years and this year it was all change. From asking for payment in the penultimate week of class to reserve their space for the following term, chasing payments and finding out what people are doing, losing £850 in September from people not turning up for their class after the summer break… I had enough. We moved 400 people onto a monthly Direct Debit, we put 37 classes on to TeamUp on a recurring booking, took out our holiday dates, and moved everyone across (with massive help from the team). 99% of clients were delighted and many of the older ones (who you might have expected to be resistant) were totally fine. Only 1% were not happy and we lost a few because of changing to Direct Debit, but what I lost in revenue I saved in admin support, and if anyone leaves they have to cancel their membership so I know I have space instead of wondering if they got the email about the end of the term.

So to anyone considering it, I would say just do it. We ALL pay council tax, phone, etc. by Direct Debit so it’s not a reason to worry about the change for your clients — just because they are older does not mean they won’t do it. Don’t assume. It’s a business, run it like a business. If your clients value what you give them, they will come. If they don’t, find new ones that will.

Thank you, Karen!

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