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Discussion #3875

Corporate to Studio Owner

20 min - Discussion


In this quick discussion, Niedra talks to Nicole Hawthorne, owner of Temple Pilates, about how she made the transition from the corporate world to become a Pilates teacher and studio owner. She shares what motivated her to change as well as how she was able to do it. She explains how she needed to be strategic and creative and how this has helped her to have a successful studio.
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Sep 04, 2019
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Welcome everybody following the business section of this course. I wanted to introduce my good friend Nicole Hawthorne, who is a pilates studio owner in Ventura, Ventura Temple [inaudible]. How many years have you been in business now? A as temple polarity is, I've been in business about two years and then I had a small business out of my home for about a year. So three in total. Okay. So the reason I thought Nicole will be such an interesting person to interview is because she came from the corporate world. She is completely an example of somebody who's jumped ship.

She had a fully established career of many years. In fact, her income was in the realm of $150,000 a year. That's her annual income. And what's more interesting than that? She was a single mom, so she had a huge amount to lose by changing careers and she had to be very strategic, creative and do this with our eyes wide open about our whole set of circumstances. So the first part of my question is what motivated you to lead such a great salary and become a pilates teacher? And how the heck did you do it? Wow.

The epic $100 million question. Um, I think I'm completely insane. Um, just to start, we're just going to throw it out there. Um, I have was somewhat of a spiritual awakening. Um, I got to a point in my life where I had had cancer myself and I had started to have all these health problems. And so the lifestyle that I was living was just unsustainable. And I was doing Pele's as much as I possibly could, but my life would get busy and I would find myself pulled out of the studio and back to just the same old grind, sitting in coach seats, traveling across the world to do conferences and here and there and everywhere. And I was miserable. And I enjoyed what I did. I enjoyed the people that I worked with, but it wasn't, didn't feel like fulfilled in any way.

What I was doing really didn't make a difference in anybody's life. And so when I would step into my studio that I, the studio is going to, I just felt alive and I could see what a difference it made in my life and what it was doing for the others around me. And I just had this, this thirst, this desire to be more part of that. But I didn't understand what that role was here I was, you know, with my business degree and my corporate career, I had been working for 20 years. I had this great salary, amazing benefits, single mom. I went through a divorce through all this time, everything, all these things happened and I just kinda kept dealing with it and dealing with it. And then I lost my best friend to cancer. Wow. And it floored me. It totally like it kind of crippled for, uh, you know, a short period of time. And it was the awakening that I needed. Um, life is short and I just realized that what I was doing was unsustainable.

There was a lot of shifts happening at my job at the time. And I realized now this is the time to make a move. So the move, uh, took a little while and it was messy. It wasn't the easiest thing to do in the world. It's, you know, as you can't just package it up and hand it off. It was, it was, it was, I'm going to do this, I'm not going to do this. It was insecurity. It was fear and it was a lot of processing and all of those things. But I realized that it was the right thing to do and I just went for it.

Um, well going forward to me means sitting out, mapping it out, making 500 different excel spreadsheets, um, coming up with a strategy, figuring out where the money is going to go. How am I going to make my mortgage for the next two years while I get bootstrapped this business and get it up and running and am I completely psychotic or can I pull this off and reaching out to my support people around me. And, and frankly, I had started dating this wonderful man and he just looked at me and he said, you know, we're hitting our middle age. You'd be crazy to not do it. And so I took every little bit of savings that I had and I just started, started taking those steps forward. I learned as much as I possibly could from every single resource I could find. And I immersed myself and decided to take the big plunge and become a teacher.

Um, I realized that becoming a teacher, for me to be able to reach the kind of income levels I needed to reach and to maintain the lifestyle that I wanted to have, that I needed to achieve a certain level. And that really translated directly to owning a studio. I'm also fiercely independent, very, very strong ideas about what, how to teach, how I want people to learn and how I want to host this experience of [inaudible] for others. So I, um, I mapped it all out. I remodeled my garage, turned it into a studio, invited friends to come work out with me, bought a piece of equipment from grots and that's where it all began. Amazing. Amazing. Now, I know you've shared a story with me that when you first started as a teacher, you walked into a studio, you were going to start actually as an employee at a facility and that experience made you realize very, very fast how unsustainable it is for you.

Would you share that story with us? Because it I'd be interesting to, yeah. So I actually had two kinds of experiences like that one where I was working in a more corporate setting for a larger um, fitness organization that had a plotty studio within it. And I was, I had an apprentice there and I started working there as an employee and I realized that I needed to build my own business there. It wasn't this easy stream of clients. And so I started building the business and I realized quickly why would I be building the business to work my way up to $25 an hour, which is just sincerely not a living wage. Right?

Why would I take the time to do that when I could be doing it for my own business? I already had my own business starting to build on the side. So I, I quickly realized that that wasn't a good use of my time. And I think that's so important for people to really look at your resources, not just in terms of dollars but in terms of energy and in terms of time and what you're investing in, what you're building. Uh, so that was one experience that I had. And then I, um, I am a good portion Irish and I've got a little bit of a temper and a little bit of a little, just a little fire to me. And I had a teacher that I had been working with and that I had looked up to a long time and she offered to have me come work and teach classes in her studio and she said, you know, I'll pay you $25 an hour since you're just getting started. And, and then in the course of the conversation she said, bring your equipment and we'll give you this area and you'll be limited to this. And so she laid out exactly how it was going to go based on her control factors. And she called me a baby instructor about three or four times in the course of that conversation.

And that made me so mad that I quickly just decided that I was going to, it fueled my fire. I already knew I'd be opening up my new studio, but I realized like I think within two weeks I had my order filed and I was looking for a place downtown Ventura. That's hilarious. Because now three years, two years later, I was about, yeah, just shy of two years ago. Well, Nicole is no longer accepting clients. She, her schedule is full. However, did you succeed that Charmin style and good teaching? Um, I think it's a combination of, I've just worked my, I've worked really, really hard. I've networked like crazy. Uh, I have created deep, solid relationships and I've just given, I've just given it all to my teaching and it's paid off. So a lot of my team, a lot of my clientele is referral based. People love the experience they get with me. They love to do Pele's that's an easy sell plays as amazing as you know.

And um, and as I've worked with them and help to support them and encourage them, it's spread. And so I've, I've done a little marketing, one of the things that really helped me a lot that I recommend for others, and this came from a a fellow teacher is to to donate certificates to different organizations around town. So I donated, um, gift certificates to every organization. I like to donate my time anyway. So it was just an easy thing to do and it translated to new clients. And so between that I did a little light marketing. Uh, what probably the key element is the website. My background's in business development and marketing. So for me I had easy access to understanding the language I needed to use to sell what I had. When you sell what you have, when you make it very clear that this is what the experience you're going to get, your, your retention rate, your, your conversion rate in terms of your clients turning into long time customers, long time clients is going to be much higher.

So I spent a lot of time focusing on creating the right website that would reflect the brand that I wanted to build and what I wanted to offer people. So that was a key element that I just can't stress enough. It's so important. And then so know your black, know your brand, know who you are, know what's special about you. And I can vouch for Nicole because I know so much about, she keeps it so simple and really she's not trying to say anything but the truth of who she is, what her services like. There's no kind of magic fakeness about it.

It's about as authentic as it comes. And I'm just going to inter inter put in there, I forgot the words, but you have a very interesting approach to social media. And I ask, and I would like to elaborate on how you deal with that is yes, she comes from the marketing world and I'm aware that many of us in this community, we spend a humongous amount of time in social media. We feel we need to do it in order to have a business. And um, frankly it looks like sometimes people become social media, uh, photographers and posters and they don't spend very much time teaching. And not that this is a good or bad thing, but what is your view and how do you manage it because you develop a thriving business probably on a shoestring. Absolutely.

When it comes to social media and Instagram in particular, I do keep it very simple. I want people to, I need to have a presence and I want people to again, be able to visit my Instagram page. They need to find you. So I want them to find me. And when they get there, I want to them to have a taste of what I offer. But what I'm all about is not just a bunch of, you know, teaser pictures and no offense to anyone who does that. That's fine, but I look at every single minute that I spend. I have a 14 and a half year old son. I have a 14 and a half year old stepdaughter and a 19 year old stepdaughter.

Every minute that I spend his time, I'm not spending with them and the fiance and a fiance who is amazing. We share the same space. We actually spend a lot of time together, which is lovely, but aside, it's all about return on investment and this is something that I think I co I bring with me from my business development and my marketing background. Every single moment that we spend is a resource, right? It's not just money. That's a resource. Our energy, our time is one of our most important resources. I think that you can spend all this time making things look pretty, but if it's not actually, if it's all superficial and it's not true and authentic, if you don't have that depth, if you're not practicing, if you're not doing the things in life that bring you joy and finding the balance and time to make all of that happen, then it's thin and it's not going to take you very far.

So for me it's closely mirrors all of the principles of Palladio's quality, concentration, minimal effort expended for maximum results. Like I'm so in love with PyLadies as a film, like as a philosophy and it's so mirrors the way that I approached my entire life, my home management, my business management, and the way that I like to experience life. I love travel, I love my garden. We have to create space to be balanced and we have to spend our time in the studio too. So keeping it simple is a very selfish way that I actually opened an approach to keeping my life balanced and keeping my tanks full, keeping myself happy.

And so, and then once I'm happy, everyone around me is happy and my business reflects that. Isn't that true? Isn't that true? Yeah, I get it. So I guess it's a little bit of luck. It's a lot of hard work. Um, it's a lot of geeking out and just trying to pull as much like resources as possible and it's a pure joy and pleasure because the work is so good. I have a very specific question to ask you because as you can see, Nicole is extremely strategic and she really has a good look to see is this the right direction she wants to go. I know that you have plans for the future, which I want to hear about.

And I also know that you were, you went once to one of those big conventions. You were presented there. I know this because she actually had to cover for me because I had to back out of a, a big event in China and I knew she would carry the weight and do an excellent job. But she came back and she had something interesting to say. She said, you know, it was amazing. I was a celebrity, I got to hang with superstar teachers. I was, you know, treated like, but I'm not sure I want to do that. I'm not sure that's the direction I want my career to go in. I kind of liked teaching Peloton to my neighbor in the noodle shop who's had polio or something and she's, you know, she doesn't walk too well.

That's more meaningful to me than just being out there and famous. So I don't think I'm going to do that. So what are your plans? And I just thought that was, I just want to hug you for it because you weren't just being struck by the stars and wanting to be famous and let the world know about you, but you actually want the quality of return coming back to you when that obvious thing was not it. So what are your plans? And if you can enrich on this experience and what it taught you would be great. Well, I think that stems from knowing yourself and understanding yourself and then creating a life that reflects that, who you are, what you're good at.

So that was really fun for me, but it took a tremendous amount of energy. And so again, looking at ROI, is it worth it to take that energy when that's not did, it didn't feel like me, I was wearing someone else's jacket. I think that for me, uh, it's, it's about mentoring other people and teaching and I love teaching my students and I love sparking that fire for them to catch that, that just the, the amazing depth of what Pilati is can give them in their life. And for me, that natural next step is to help bring others into the fold and share that joy in that spark of teaching. So for me, I think it's a lot more exciting and interesting to want to create a teacher training program and bring on apprentices. Now that's like, that's what fuels me and lifts me and makes me excited. But that's also mirror that matches what I need to do for my business to create scalable business results and to create a scalable business that will continue to bring revenue to me where I don't have to push all the buttons myself, where I can actually bring other people into the fold, share it with them, and ultimately create the lifestyle that I want to have and spread it and create more community out of my studio. Well, Nicole, you're such an inspiration. You're so such an amazing example of someone with so much courage, so much grit and so much success and that you love what you do.

So much of it feeds your soul and feeds the rest of your life. If you had three things you wanted to put up on a billboard and I say billboard, just so to stay short, um, three bits of advice you would like to give teachers as a step forward in their career towards thriving. What does that mean? What, what would you suggest from your wisdom, your life experience? Well, I think first and foremost, practice, practice and practice some more. Don't ever give up your practice. It's so easy to let things slip when we get so busy. And when the life starts to get overwhelming.

Just where I solve all my problems is on my reformer. So I would just stress like always stay dedicated to the practice. Everything else will fall into place. No yourself, really learn yourself and know yourself and then create a life that is aligned to your strengths and your desires. And I guess like the third thing, um, I would say don't let fear stop you. You have to believe in yourself. It's so important. It's so intimidating.

Even with all my business acumen and my business background experience and I mean I worked with heavy players in the software industry. I sat at really important tables and with all of that stepping into this industry with such vulnerable teachers, leading the leading the industry, it's like who am I? Who am I to teach? Who am I? What do I have to offer? And I would just say, shut that in the back room and believe in yourself. And find your s your gift, what your spark is, and what you have to offer, and then share that with the world. And don't be intimidated and don't be afraid. I just love you to death. Thank you so much.


3 people like this.
Thank you Niedra for this discussion and Nicole for sharing your story.  I am in a similar situation, fear of leaving corporate security and this was inspiring!
3 people like this.
I so appreciate this discussion as I built my business in Egypt from 0 !! With very high standards what I wanted to provide to the community ... And I refused all the generous offers for 6 Dollars an hour in all the 'prestigious' fitness facilities (unfortunately, this is the average rate here although we pay European/American rates here for training and further education) ... Never looked back and have a full schedule since 12 years !!  I love your approach Nicole and wish you all the best and Niedra, I  adore you !!! one day I will join you in  one of your retreats, it's on my ',to do' lists, definitely... 
Nicole Growdon
Randi  So happy to hear it's helpful to you! Transitioning careers was very challenging and costly from a financial perspective -- but from a quality of life perspective, it was the best thing I have ever done! Giving up the stress and shifting from such a low vibration in my day to day has given me a whole new level of happiness and motivation and success. Happy to share more about the lessons I learned -- what I would do again and what I would do differently. Best wishes to you!   
Nicole Growdon
Petra Thank you so much! Awesome and inspiring to hear your risk has paid off and has been so sustainable for you! Maybe we will meet each other one day at one of Niedra's AMAZING retreats!
Niedra Gabriel
Randi ,Petra ,Nic  you are all witnessing and sharing - i LOVE this.  how strong we will be supporting each other. My dream is to have a way for everyone to brain storm what is next...  ( next course maybe) and just as an aside - I am smiling here reading about you wanting to join my retreats - I just finished one in Tuscany and am putting together my 2020 schedule.   If you sign up to my mailing list via my website, you will get my posts on what is going on.   Big smile here... 
2 people like this.
Very inspiring indeed! I love what Nicole says about the importance of knowing oneself as it resonates with the exploratory work I've been doing ever since taking the first step of commencing Pilates teacher training. It's amazing what opportunities unfold when we stop trying to do things because we think it's what we SHOULD be doing and start doing things because they align with what our core values and beliefs are. I would love to own a studio one day but for now, I'm loving the process of learning what I do and don't like about teaching and what my strengths and weaknesses are in that regard. In the meantime, I'll ensure that I'm maintaining my own practice and nurturing a deeper understanding of what Pilates' philosophies were and how that translates into my own life.
2 people like this.
Nicole is awesome! In a world where social media are overwhelming, she points out she's put there merely because people need to find her. I love this approach. Back to what really matters: yourself as a teacher. LOVE IT!!!
Niedra Gabriel
Thank you Andrea and Anna for your posts. 
Kelly F
2 people like this.
This discussion  completely relevant to me at this point in my life.  I left the corporate world and opened my studio in January 2019 after my friends urged me to get going on my lifelong dream.  I appreciate your honesty and your passion.  
1 person likes this.
Thank you for this delightful session - Nicole is so true to herself, and that radiates from her as she speaks. Like her, I also solve many of the issues that crop up on my reformer -  both mental and physical.I now schedule my practise in my diary so I ensure time in between clients. Niedra- this is a very special and uplifting course.
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