Not all Pilates instructors and teachers set out to become business owners. It can be challenging to both manage a business and balance teaching, especially when you’re not familiar with the business management and development side of things. But if the opportunity presented itself to become your own boss and own your own studio, wouldn’t you jump at it too?
While it definitely helps to have some business experience under your belt, there are many helpful strategies and lessons you can learn along the way. Lou Conyers, owner of Move Move Pilates in Melbourne, Australia, recently walked us through her experience learning “the business side of things” when starting her Pilates business. Find the many strategies she has implemented for finding her niche and ideal clients, marketing her studio, using Pilates booking software, her advice for new owners, and more by reading her blog below.
My name is Lou Conyers and I run Move Move Pilates. We’re a small studio in Melbourne, Australia. I started running Pilates studios about 12 years ago now and Move Move has been in its current existence for about seven years.
We run small group Pilates, so we never have any more than four people in our classes. And we do a mixture of group classes and also studio or clinical style classes where we tailor the session to the people in the classes.
We mostly cater to women over 50. That's our demographic and we work with helping them get moving and keep moving as their bodies start to change as they start feeling a bit older, feeling like they need to do something maybe a bit different to what they've done before, or they're just getting back into exercise after family commitments. We see most people twice a week and keep it very personal.
Starting a Pilates business in Australia
Moving to Australia from the UK was something that I always wanted to do and the opportunity presented itself. I moved out here and I was working in corporate at the time. I then retrained as a Pilates instructor whilst in Australia. I became a certified Pilates instructor through the Stott Pilates teacher training certification programs through one of the training centres they had in Australia. It was pretty straightforward and was part of the studio I was already going to so I signed up for the training and did it on the weekends while I was working.
Once I qualified with Stott, I quit my corporate job and took classes in different studios and then I decided to open a Pilates studio myself. I opened a very small studio on my own near where I lived. It was a tiny little room and I built it up from there.
Since then, I have also received a diploma in Pilates Movement Therapy, which is a qualification recognised by the Australian government. That was something that was important to me moving through my Pilates career because Stott is recognised internationally, in Australia they like to have qualifications the government recognises. I did the diploma, so I had that extra level of qualification that was recognised here.
Learning the “business side of things” when starting a Pilates business
Because I came from a corporate background and I'm an accountant as well, I already understood all of the business side and I was very aware of that. I’d worked with small businesses as an accountant in the past, as well as in large corporations. That knowledge really helped me with the business side of things.
Moving to Australia, it wasn’t too different to the UK and I could find most things I needed because I knew the terminology. Even if I didn’t know exactly what it was called in Australia, I was able to find it pretty easily.
Marketing a Pilates business
My husband works in marketing, so he could help me with marketing strategies as well. We mostly do Facebook advertising, which has worked really well for us. We use a company in Sydney that does that for us. They have really helped us over the last few years with our Facebook advertising and we’ve had really good results from that. We target our specific demographic on Facebook and it really works for us. We also market in some of the local business groups and also just word of mouth through our clients as well.
We also do social media posts. We normally try to do a few posts a week depending on what we’ve been doing in class that week. We also keep everyone updated with our newsletter.
Find out how investing in Pilates management software can help your studio thrive
Investing in Pilates booking software
Booking software has helped since opening a Pilates studio. It was a no-brainer because it makes sense to have the ability for clients to be able to book their classes and control everything themselves rather than having to do it for them. I’ve never tried to run anything without having booking software.
Even when you’re really small, it can save so much time. I used another booking software before I switched to TeamUp, and TeamUp has really worked for us. I’ve had really good support from your support team. Every time I have a problem, they get back to me really quickly. They always do their research and answer my questions. Even if it’s not the answer I want, they try to give me suggestions and help show me how I can solve my problem in other ways.
I find that the system is pretty simple for clients to pick up and use. Most of my clients can and do use it. Even some of the less technologically advanced clients have managed to figure it out which is great. It’s something that can sometimes be a challenge for people, and I think that the simplicity of it really helps with that. And the fact that once they're set up in the system, they can just log in and really easily book a class without too much hassle is great.
Finding your ideal clientele for your Pilates business
We didn’t do that to start with women in their forties and fifties and then that became very much our key demographic just because they were the people who were coming to us. We’ve really moved with that and decided that’s where we want to focus. Most of my staff also fall into the demographics themselves. We’re all in our late forties, early fifties so we really understand the clientele because we’ve had our own experiences similar to what they’re experiencing.
Figuring out your niche and ideal service
I always liked smaller groups when I did my Pilates. I started off working and going to studios that did very small tailored groups. I've done some large classes as well and that was fun to do. But, they don't really give you the time to really focus on your own body. I had a number of injuries and issues that made it much easier for me to get what I wanted out of my classes in those smaller groups. That’s where I felt like I got the best out of Pilates and where I could offer the best to other people.
But also appreciating that people do that type of group class where you feel more camaraderie with your people in the class. Which is why we also run small group classes with four people in them so they're keeping up with everyone and they're doing the same thing as everyone else. And sympathizing when they realize their instructor has counted to 10 twice and they’re still going with the same exercise!
But we still keep that small group feel about it so we can make sure people are getting the best of it. We give them personal corrections and cues when they need them. And even give modifications as well, which is harder to do in a bigger group environment.
Advice for Pilates instructors starting their own small group Pilates business
Stick with it because it’s really challenging. Define what makes you different from everyone else. There are a lot of Pilates studios and businesses in Australia. There are a lot of studios that offer bigger groups as well as many that offer small groups as well. It’s quite a competitive marketplace.
You really need to define your difference and establish what that's going to be. Stick to your guns as to why you’re going to offer small classes if that’s what you’ve decided to do. Come up with a message that really sells what the benefit of doing that is to your clients versus the bigger class.
Recently I had a client who has just started with us. She came in and did her first initial session with us. She did one class and she came to her second class and was extremely happy because she had her first good night, pain-free sleep in six months. She couldn’t believe that after one Pilates class it made such a difference for her. She had been suffering for a long time and she really wished she had tried Pilates sooner because it worked so well for her. It’s now a few weeks later and she’s still feeling good. That’s a good sign for us because we have been able to help her with her issue.
What to expect in the Pilates industry in 2022
I think there will be a real focus on moving again and getting back to normal after spending most of 2020 and 2021 in lockdown. I think that’s really going to be everyone’s focus across their entire life, not just exercise. We reopened in November and people have tried to get back to a sense of normalcy and doing what they do on a regular basis. Everyone has come back and slotted back into their old classes again because they want that back to routine feeling rather than anything new.
Thanks, Lou! To hear from more TeamUp customers about how they grew their businesses, check out our customer stories here.
Why Lou Conyers chose TeamUp to manage her Pilates business
They gave me the features that I needed and TeamUp and really met my needs and my budget. It helps my clients to be able to book themselves online.
To find out more about how TeamUp can help you grow your fitness business, sign up for a free 30-day trial.