Forum / Let's Discuss! / Insights and Things to Consider When Opening a Studio

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On: February 27, 2014 17:14 PM
Currently, I have an in-home studio here in Kernersville. I am in my 3rd year of operation and I have 11 clients with a new potential client coming in next week. I work only in the mornings and early afternoon hours and I can only offer private and duet classes due to limited space. I know that I could easily increase my client base if I had more space and were able to offer group classes. On so many levels I want to open a studio, to follow my dream of sharing the pilates method that changed my own life in so many ways. I feel my town deserves a pilates studio, something we don't have. However, to be honest I am scared. I have two amazing and awesome and active little boys, ages 6 & 8. My job doesn't pay the mortgage and everything that comes with it, so at the end of the day I am on the front line in parenting. My husband is wonderful and supportive however, his job is more important to our family than mine and I understand that and agree. Am I insane to want to open a small studio? I often feel schizophrenic with my emotions running from wanting to sell all my equipment and just become a stay-at-home mom again taking classes whenever possible to looking for space to open a studio, often within the same day...and sometimes within 30 minutes! Please understand that I literally can not imagine not teaching pilates. I feel like if I stopped teaching I would lose a piece of what makes me, me. I need an seasoned studio owner to help provide insights on what I need to expect and what I need to consider with the idea of opening a studio. Any insights and advice would be greatly appreciated.
On: February 28, 2014 05:58 AM
I think the biggest complaint I hear from studio owners is - I'm spending more more time on the business than I am on Pilates. That's definately something to consider. Are you crazy? Well - any small business venture requires just a touch of madness to be sure. It's a ton of work and it can take a long time to see any return. And it's always the things that you never thought of that cause the most trouble. You'll just have to think about it rationally with no emotion. Make a list of pros and cons. Have long conversations with your husband and friends and clients about it. Don't rush anything or make any rash decisions - like, "There's a great space available at a steal and I need to snatch it up!" it's too big a decision to rush into for any reason. Jen started her first studio in a 300 sf garage behind our little Venice Beach bungalow. There was no overhead, it was simple, and the clients kind of liked having their little secret Pilates hideout. But it's hard to be completely happy with what you have and to stifle that urge to grow. So we moved it to a tiny storefront a couple of years later - and then to our own building a few years after that (and then to asheville). We took teeny tiny petrified little steps. When you add overhead to your mix - you add stress. When there's space rent due, and utility bills, and you have to deal with the ridiculous paperwork to get a sign permit from the city, and maybe start a bit of retail, pay sales tax, scheduling software, email client software, an accountant, creating an LLC or Corp, leases, liability insurance, city licenses, contractors to do the uplift on your space, the toilet's broken, the heaters broken, someone broke a window, you have to worry about having enough clients to cover everything which could mean advertising, marketing, community outreach.... these are all things that get added to your plate. A bad month suddenly doesn't just mean you have a little less cash to spend - it means you might be in trouble! And all of these things give you less time for Pilates. Those are some of the cons. You mention some of the pros... the ability to give your clients and community a studio they deserve, group classes, maybe even the ability to bring in some other instructors so you can make a little income even when you're not actually there working, the satisfaction of creating a small business, the ability to share the work with more people.... And if your studio is a success - you might actually make a bit of income! These are all great and valid reasons to want to open a studio. The best advice I can give is to imagine what you'd like to do with your new studio - and then cut it in half. Start small. Start WAY small. Don't risk too much. Don't get the space you want to get that's incredible and in the best location and... expensive. Grow slowly and steadily. So many small businesses fail because they have a vision and they just go huge right from the start. They take out massive loans to build their vision - and then realize that even if they're busy - it's not enough to cover it. If your clients and family are happy the way things are - think about leaving it as is. If you have a vision of growing something that you can't shake and you feel in your gut that it's the right thing to do - you should go for it. Unfortunately - there's just no formula to use to see if making the leap is the right choice or not. I wish there were! Any other studio owners have some input here?!
On: February 28, 2014 12:47 PM
Hi Claire, My husband and I have a fully equipped home studio with full schedules. We are in Los Angeles and know many people in the mind-body, exercise, and healing arts community who work in various ways: rent by the hour, run their own studios, work for someone else, work from home. Many strive for the situation we have because we have managed to keep overhead low, be our own boss, and maintain a level of professional development that is essential to us. We have consistently been mindful of how we are building our business to suit our personal goals in business and life. When your business runs your life, you can lose the joy that brought you to your work in the first place. You can even be victim to your own success and lose control of your personal time, draining yourself and not being able to serve and help others in the way you intend. The biggest mistake I see people make is opening their retail space (whether you are selling services or products, it's retail) on a emotional desire without doing a practical analysis to make sure they know what they are getting into. Take time to assess your goals and motivations. If you make some goals and work backward, you will get a sense for what you need to clear your expenses and make it worth your time and efforts. It does not have to be complex but be clear on the numbers at the very least - you should know that renting a space is going to give you a fixed expense that you need to clear every month. Look at the extra costs and your time to determine what you need to just get to even. How many sessions do you need to clear to make that nut? How many more do you need to equal what you are earning now? How many more sessions can you teach a week? And how many extra hours (uncompensated) will you need to put in to simply maintain the larger business (count on at least 10hr/wk)? Will you still enjoy teaching if you have 20 sessions a week? 30? How does working those extra hours look to your personal life? What if you are averaging only half your current rate on an hourly basis? This analysis is not purely about money, it's about your time, your efforts, and your sacrifices to achieve your personal goals. It is highly satisfying to work hard and achieve goals, so please don't think I am trying to discourage you. In fact, you will learn a lot about yourself in the process. However, the clearer you are in what you need and want, the more the numbers can help you understand what you are getting into. Many successful studios have one person dedicated to the operations and they are typically life partners or business partners who do not take a salary. I once ran a cooperative studio, taking on that responsibility without really consulting anyone or taking time to think things through. Seemed simple enough and spread the costs. Ultimately that did not work out because the numbers just didn't make sense: it was easier to rent hourly and I would say I was a little less than where you are now. And I was tied down by a retail space that needed daily attention, which took away from my time to develop my skills, market my services, pursue my other interests. But it was a great experience: I met many people from the community of a wide range of practitioners, learned about practical matters in running my business, and ultimately allowed me to re-connect with a man who eventually became my husband! All my best wishes to you as you self-reflect, analyze numbers, allow yourself to feel excited, feel scared, and then, once you digest from the many streams of information, follow your gut! Sue
On: March 02, 2014 05:09 AM
I honestly can not thank you enough for your responses. Your honesty and insights is exactly what I need to hear and to consider as I mull over the thought of studio ownership outside the home. In many was my motive is good. My town doesn't have a studio and we deserve and want one. The reason I haven't gone to nearby towns to work is because I want to build a community of mindful movers here in my home town. I know that one day I will open a studio, but right now isn't the time. What I am doing working from home is working very well and allows me the flexibility that I need to be full time mom when someone gets sick or whatever. It also allows me to go on summer vacation and spend afternoons by the pool in the summer with the kiddos. After deeply considering your insights and suggestions, I realize I am not ready to give that up to dedicate time to the studio and in turn throw my balance "under the bus". Angelo, you are so right about not rushing. Twice I have been so close to signing on the "dotted line" to rent a space but then things started moving very quickly and it just didn't sit well with me. I back out because I just couldn't shake the feel of "not now". Sue, thank you so much for encouraging me to deeply access my motives and goals. Because while some of my motives are pure others are not. It made me realize that there is a part of me that seems out of prove something. This is prideful and I don't like that side of me. Human emotion of course, but not one I wish to encourage. What am I trying to prove? That I did it? Well, heck I already did it. You see, pilates changed my life not just my physical body but it gave me a confidence that I feel I have struggled to attain my whole life. Through these beautiful and difficult movements I have achieved a sense of accomplishment. Achieving strength and control through movement that I thought belonged only to professional movers, something I most definitely was not. I was the soccer player with thick thighs, the mountain biker with strong legs like a tree trunk, and I was the runner desperately trying to lose those 10-12 vanity pounds that never wanted to go away. With a constant aching back and painful shoulders I would push myself and injure myself and almost punish myself because I didn't think I was strong enough. Now through pilates I am strong and HAPPY. My body feel GOOD, great even!! Graceful and living a life with little to no pain...AMAZING! This is what I want to share and I believe if I can achieve this, anyone can!!!! Yes, I will open my studio outside of the home one day but not now. It is too important for me to grow slowly and not plunge myself into debt. In order to remain balanced and happy I must protect my time, something that is already a challenge with 15 classes a week on my schedule. I need to protect my family time while my babies are still young and protect my life balance so that I can stay passionate. If we don't have passion about our work then we might as well be a human instruction manual, and well, anyone can read directions. Thank you both again for your insights and honesty.
On: May 22, 2016 09:23 AM
This is all great advice, especially the idea of taking a vision and cutting it in half. As an attorney who has represented lots of small businesses heading into bankruptcy, dissolution or sale (I'm transitioning into Pilates as a retirement career), I'll add two more thoughts. 1) Do your projections on an annual basis, taking into account clients who go away for extended summer vacations or become too busy over holidays to keep up their Pilates work. 2) Think of your next move as simply that--not the ultimate studio, not the place where you will exist forever in nirvana. Chances are it will be but a step in your voyage, so view it as an opportunity to position yourself for whatever comes after that. In addition, it will help curb the impulses to go for broke!
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