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Discussion #3876

Taking the Leap

20 min - Discussion


In this discussion, Niedra talks to Daniela Caesar-Roden, owner of Old School Pilates, about what inspired her to start her studio. As a young studio owner, she shares how she didn't fit within a corporate structure and how she developed a community which allowed her to thrive in her business. She also gives advice on ways you can make this leap in a strategic and practical way.
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Sep 04, 2019
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Welcome everybody. In our last session we covered ethics and professionalism. And today I would like to be interviewing my good friend and peer, Daniella May Zell, who actually just got married three days ago. Congratulations. Yeah. And although she's, I know, what is that cool? And she's 27 years old. That's what's so amazing. And what's more interesting to me is she's a studio owner.

How many years have you had your studio? Not even a year yet. Jumped in and opened our own studio with such a young age. And I know I've been there old school Palladio's in woodland hills, bright pink reformers, and it's thriving. So what inspired you to start your studio?

Um, okay. Well, I, I guess I've had the entrepreneurial spirit from a very young age. Both of my parents worked for themselves. Um, so I always knew that I wanted to work for myself in some manner. I guess that started with like lemonade stands when I was a young child. I do too. But um, but then it became very clear as I got older and started working for other people that that just wasn't gonna work out.

We've had the [inaudible] you mean working for the people? Working for other people? Yes. Um, I think as as strong with age and I we've had this conversation number of times before, like unemployable. Yes, I was very strong willed and driven women. Um, it's, it's difficult for us to find our place within a company that's already structured right. We have to kind of define our own structure. Um, so I think Pilati has gave me the creativity and, and structure within itself, especially classical plotty is it does have a very defined structure, which I love because I get to be creative and work within that structure. But working within that structure didn't necessarily mean that I worked within a corporate structure of changing. Elsie do I have, yes, I've worked what happened? Um, I think that my creativity and individuality was just, it was just too much for the corporate world. It just wasn't gonna work out. It didn't work out. I was let go.

Okay. So I'm going to dig a little bit because you know, we love to gossip. I, between us girls here, why were you let go? I was let go because my classes were, um, wait listed all of them. And I created a new system where clients that were regularly coming to my classes earned their space in class by signing up weeks in advance. And the company that I was with didn't like that I was doing that because they wanted everyone to have a fair chance in class. So they told me I couldn't do the system that I had implemented and I wanted to know why because being an only child whose mom told me from a young age that I'm just as important as everybody else, I always need to know.

I am not very good at just accepting something for what it is. And I think that genuinely is why I'm also a fantastic Polonious teacher because I'll never take an issue or an ailment at face value. I always have to go deeper and understand why things are the way they are. How can we change them? How can we make them better? Right. So I think working in a corporate structure where I was just given this, not that without the why behind it, I just, I couldn't accept it.

I couldn't accept the why for even the simplest little things. May I just introduce a little something, a little point here about professionalism and ethics because there was a counter conflicting intentions here that were coming into play about how something should be run and this does happen in life, but the system you put into play with amazing customer service from your point of view because you were really validating and enhancing the flow of the clients that were regular and giving them first choice so I can really understand your thought process. I can also understand how you can be a problem. So what was the happy ending to this tragic departure of ways? Well, as this was going on kind of separately but clearly connected, I had already noticed a giant gap in the market in the area that I live, I, the closest classical plotting studios to where I was teaching were at least 15 miles in either direction. There was no classically equipped studio in the area that I was in.

I had been telling my clients for years about this magical equipment and if you do the exercise on this equipment, this is what it would feel like. And I think I just had gotten to the point that I was like, you know what, why am I telling them what it could feel like when I can just show them what it will feel like and I'll just open my own studio. So on a whim with the help of a couple of credit cards, I made my first order with growths and it took quite a long time to get my equipment, um, which gave me the amount of time that I needed to get my ducks in a row. I found a space that had beautiful floor to ceiling windows and the rest of the space was a disaster. But I saw these windows and I said, I mean, this is where you want to be doing plays with these gorgeous natural light. Um, and my clients were in, I mean, I'd been talking about it for years. They, they were on board. They were excited that the prospect. So I started taking them to a studio about 20 minutes away and I told them this is temporary. And they came to the studio that was not close by on this magical equipment.

They got a taste of what my studio was going to be like. And I think that's really when we started to develop our community because everyone that was willing to travel that far to stick with me during this transitional phase started to get to know each other a lot better and we would go to lunch or you know, what have you. And we just kind of became like a family. So when the studio finally opened, I had this group of people that loved hanging out with each other. I love spending time with each. I loved doing plots together. Um, and that was really the base of the community that we formed. So gutsy. I just love it now, taking such a big leap of faith and getting started with a new studio, there's a lot of money needed up front.

So how did you manage this financially? So I'm not as well as I could out. And um, my poor now husband, he saw the look in my eyes that I was just going for it and there was nothing anyone could do to stop me. So he, he supported me in every way he could, but he also kind of took a step back and kind of let me do this knowing that down the line he was going to have to kind of step in and help me fix what I was about to do. So I made a choice to put everything on credit cards with 0% APR thinking in my mind, this is great. I have 18 months to pay it all off. Strategic planning. I mean it doesn't always work out, but she was thinking a plan which Kudos to you. Great.

The thing I didn't know, no at the time that I've now learned from fabulous business coach and my fiance, well now husband, is that it takes at least two years for your business to truly demonstrate its ability to produce income. So you won't fee for two years what you're capable of. And if I only gave myself 18 months to pay off what I, my startup costs, I haven't even gotten to my full potential, let alone recovered from what I started with. So I definitely don't recommend doing this. I don't recommend giving yourself 18 months to pay on your start up costs.

So what would you recommend? What I would recommend is finding a legitimate loan or financing that you can do through most equipment companies. The interest rates are not great, but they're reasonable. It's about the equivalent of a car loan, right? Because it's a secure loan, it's easy to obtain a secure loan because you have something tangible they can take away if somehow you can't pay it off. So if you go with that kind of loan, you can get a larger amount of money that would cover all of your costs rather than having to kind of sprinkle it out over at various cards. And then you have one manageable payment every month, which is what I ended up doing almost a year later.

I've now refinanced and now have one manageable payment that I will be paying for the next two years. Had I done this year before, it would have been a little bit different. But it's just so much easier to manage when you just have to think about one amount each month rather than like all of these things sprinkled about. Yeah. Very, very impressive. Yeah. One of the things I've noticed about you is you're very organized the whole way your business is running now is efficient and you have payroll and you have teachers. How did you learn the skill to get this organized?

Um, it's funny that you say that because I, I grew up with severe ADHD, like could not get a homework assignment in on time. If it saved my life. I couldn't even get the homework assignment home to complete to get back on time. So organization and time management and um, all sorts of, what's the word for this? Um, executive functioning skills. Okay. As, as a whole has never been my strong suit. So I have worked diligently to try and, and manage this as something that I struggle with. So, um, just in terms of the business itself, I have a fantastic business coach. Her name was Saran Glenfield. I hope I'm saying that right. Um, she is springs three. You can look her up on Instagram. And um, she helped me create a structure, a membership model for the way that money comes in and the way that we run our studio and, and it's genius and it makes my life easy because I don't have to chase after my clients for money. They're already paying every month.

And because they're paying, they come and because they come, they see results. So the system is genius. I can take no credit for that whatsoever. So you found it, but I found you got found it. So an implement but implemented it and found a way to make it work for us. So that completely was outside. I mean the, the number one thing I can recommend to new studio owners is, is find help.

Find someone that has found a way to run a successful business and can teach you from their mistakes. Because trying to recreate a wheel that's already running elsewhere is just a total waste of time. Um, but then in terms of actual organization and how do I structure a schedule and how do I make materials and things like that. I spent a year as an Americorps volunteer. Um, yeah, with city Boston. Um, you know what Americorps is, right? Yes. But tell us about it. Okay. So Americorps is like the Peace Corps in the United States is the easiest way to explain it. Your stations somewhere. Um, generally speaking in an inner city of a city. Um, so I was in the inner city of Boston and I did leadership development in service learning for inner city high schoolers, which was really cool on so many levels. But for my own personal growth, I, a big part of what I had to do with them was create these events for anywhere from a hundred high schoolers to a thousand corporate sponsors.

And these were very multifaceted, multi-site events where we would do service work together, we would refurbish community parks or playgrounds, things like that. Amazing. So you had a lot of experience running, a lot of people planning, projecting, managing it. You were really a production manager. And, and you also have told me that you did a lot of talks, leadership talks. So that was, yes. So one of the, I mean there's two portions of Americorps. It's the service you're doing for others and then it's the own personal and leadership development that they offer us.

So there's a ton of training and a ton of leadership development for us as people to be able to use the skills that were given to help the communities that we serve. So I pull from that training every day. So have you found any challenges running a studio being 27 and have you felt any criticism from the community around you? What has been kind of hard for you? Um, well, to be completely honest, the challenges that I faced in my first year of operation have been things I had no idea were coming my way. I had a concussion in October. Wow.

And then my mom was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in January. I, sorry, I was planning my wedding, which was supposed to be in September. We moved it earlier so that my mom could be there. Um, and then I had to go and leave my business for almost a month to, um, on and off to help my mom through an, an unsuccessful surgery and just kind of helping her decide what was gonna come next. So, um, I think the challenges that I faced were, what do you do when you have to step away and is your business still going to be able to survive without you there? Yeah. And I think what I found is that with very dedicated community of teachers, that's possible.

And I've found someone that I can truly rely on that has made it possible to have my business run as I step away. I mean, she's just absolutely fantastic and, and I, I can't give any advice to how to find someone like that. I think that these people just kind of come into your life, right? We exactly. When we need them the most. Um, and I hope that everybody has a person right in their life that helps them through these times. And, um, I'd say, yeah, I mean, building community. And if you truly build a community, it will stand its ground whether you're present or not. I love that, you know, in the, in my challenge, not my challenge, but my, the chorus that you are part of the inspiration for.

I talk a lot about teams together. Everyone achieves more and how important it is to be friends, to respect each other, to be honest with each other and to be there for each other. Because we're in this together and it's a tough world. And one of the qualities that you really inspire me the most it is you've got grit. Grit means I don't care how tough it is I'm holding on and how amazing the inspiration of all these different solutions you had to come up with.

You had to think on your feet. And yes, we can have a plan or direction we're going in. Life can hit us from that field. And my goodness, you've been hit from many directions and you're not even open a year and you're booming. And I have to add, you know, she hasn't even done much marketing. What's your marketing? Let's just share your great strategic plan for getting clients. I have a banner outside my door that says [inaudible].

Well, we'll pull audio with my phone number and I swear I get more business from that sign than anything I've put out on the internet or elsewhere. Yeah. If you just let the world know right there in her front doors, put out a single. So thank you so much. Daniela. Before you leave or close, I'd like to ask you if you had a billboard to put up with three bits of advice that you would like to give future teachers, teachers about the subject, how do you thrive? How do you, how do you stay happy? How do you do well? What, what, what would you like to let, let people know? You have to be true to yourself. Um, you have to surround yourself with people that love and support you for who you truly are. And um, you have to find things that bring you joy.

I love it. Thank you so much. I wish you so much success. You are such an inspiration. I know your business is going to go from greatness to greatness and that you will go from greatness to greatness because you sure don't rest on anything you keep on going. Thank you so much, Daniela. Yeah.


WOW!  "Take the Leap," confirmed I am on the right track.  I will be celebrating 2 years with my Itty, bitty studio in the next couple of weeks.  With this milestone on the horizon I am presenting my clients with a rate increase off-set with studio improvements that I can afford and my growing expertise. I have 3 clients who have been with me from my very first class.  I consider these ladies my Core Clients!  I have decided to award their commitment to me and their practice by not raising their current rate.  I feel this is the right thing to do. Each of them has brought me new clients, respect my business model, arrive on time and honor their practice.  
Lina S
2 people like this.
Very inspiring interview. I like the idea to stay true to oneself.
2 people like this.
Lina I totally agree!
2 people like this.
Catherine Nice Catherine! Glad you've found a system that works for you and your community!
Niedra thank you for share it
1 person likes this.
Thank you for sharing your business and personal story. Our mums are so precious enjoy your time together ...big hug xx
1 person likes this.
Great tips for opening the studio. thank you Daniela for sharing your experience. 

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