Tara-Lyn: Overcoming the Obstacles of Owning a Pilates Small Business in Today's Economic Climate

Apr 08, 2024

The Business of Pilates is having a rebirth and Pilates studio franchises are popping up in just about every city and suburb around the globe. Gone are the days of having to travel to a major city to find a studio if you were one of the few people who knew that it existed in the first place. There are many advantages to that, and yet this resurgence is changing the Pilates landscape drastically in ways that threaten the Pilates small business. With today's unstable economic climate, the risk/reward balance for a Pilates small business owner is looking more like a roller coaster at Six Flags and less like a gradual climb up a mountain. Both are challenging, but the first much harder to predict and problem solve for sustainable growth and success. 

I've been in the Pilates business since 2001, where the most known Pilates studios were small businesses in major cities like New York and LA, and the teacher training programs were part of the original lineage to Joseph Pilates himself (yes Pilates is named after the man that created it back in 1920's!). I left my job as a TV Producer, got certified at one of those programs and taught in New York City for many years. Later I found employment at some small studios closer to my home in northern New Jersey before opening my own Pilates Studio several years later.

Now 6 plus years and 2 Studios later, founding faculty for an International Teacher Certification Program and Pilates coach to students around the world, I can attest to the labor of love this business is to run, and what a major challenge it is to thrive in this new era of fitness. Oh, and keeping a business alive through a Global Pandemic is a checkmark on my resume I will always be grateful for and proud of! 

So what are these challenges specifically and how can we overcome them?

Although opening a Pilates small business in today's market is a wild ride with lots of trial and error, plus getting very comfortable with the constant pivoting, there is solid ground to stand on with well thought out planning and knowing your business in and out. 

Obstacle #1- Competition

With the increasing number fitness studios and online platforms offering Pilates classes, standing out can be a challenge. That is why your branding is so important to attract your ideal clients. Finding your unique niche, valuable offerings and delivering your strong brand with consistency through targeted marketing, your customers are just waiting to find you. I always say that your customers are your everything, but you can't be everything to every customer. 

You have to know who you ARE and who you TALKING TO to attract your tribe.  

Obstacle #2 - Financial Constraints and Operating Costs

Let's be truthful. The cost of everything is going up and economic downturns can lead to reduced consumer spending on "non-essential" services like fitness. You need to provide a customer experience that is unique but has true value. This requires true empathy for every person that walks through your doors and training your team to do the same.You must make that experience for the client BECOME essential.

How do you do that? Stand out by creating individualized programming that tailors the offerings towards the clients needs. Create experiences that are based on the clients you are trying to attract and that walk through your door, and stay sharp with your skills to consistency deliver this personalization. 

Obstacle #3 - Customer Retention

It is easier to keep a client than get new ones. If your customer sales funnel is solid and your staff is trained well, not only as teachers, but with a business minded approach, then you have a much higher chance for retaining current clients. 

Making sure your staff is on-boarded properly to not only teach Pilates aligned with your vision, but to be your front line for keeping clients in the door and in their schedules. Using a software system that automates texts and emails with metrics about sessions left and creating scarcity buzz about reserving sessions ahead so they ensure the times and instructors they want are all ways to motivate client behavior to keep them in your doors. After all, the more they are in your studio, the better they will feel and see the results they are looking for! 

Obstacle #4 - Staffing Issues

This is a tough one. Highly skilled Pilates Instructors with comprehensive training are hard to come by. Hosting a reputable certification program and solid continuing education is a fool proof way to ensure the quality of your teachers, and will attract more skilled teachers wanting to sharpen their skills. It will also add to your studio's growth and expansion as they will become part of your studio revenue and are possible vetted hires. Your teaching staff is your bread and butter so offer competitive pay, opportunities for advancement and create team building experiences to keep your studio community working as a team.  Customers come for the teachers, atmosphere, experience and vibe of your community. Happy inspired staff, a vibe that is unique to your business, and organized management equals happy clients that trust you. 

Obstacle #5 - Cash Flow Management

In a seasonal industry there will be some months where attendance isn't as robust- summer vacations, holidays, etc. You have to be prepared to cash flow the leaner months with some reserve, get creative with tempting, short term offerings to boost revenue and you must have a realistic formula for expenses.  Make sure you plan out overhead that is not bringing in direct revenue from the clients. That is the bigger expenses like your building lease down to the smallest items like toilet paper and cleaning services. 

Despite these obstacles, there are plenty of opportunities for Pilates small businesses to thrive by offering unique experiences, cultivating a strong community, diversifying revenue streams, and adapting to market conditions while staying in alignment with your vision. 

With a smart business plan that allows for growth, a tight financial plan, attracting and fostering your staff, brand consistency and effective marketing, it is not only possible to survive in this ever changing landscape, but to thrive and grow. You just have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, growing, learning and pivoting with tangible research and action while you keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. 

You can't do it alone. Great leaders and successful business owners have a lot of effective people behind them. They invest in and build up the people working for them. They also work with expert coaches who have this experience, to save them money, tons of sweat equity and to ensure they stay on track with the mission and purpose of their business while soaring to the heights of their dreams. And a (not so free) Roller Coaster ride included...


To learn more about Tara-Lyn or 1:1 Coaching, click the link below!





If you found this article helpful and want to learn more about how to create a successful Pilates business, feel free to contact me at any time! 

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