Discussion #4557

Find your Inner Entrepreneur

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Join Jackie Hinton and Gia Calhoun as they discuss how you can find your inner entrepreneur. They will talk about how Jackie developed her company, Good Citizen, and all that she has learned from starting a business while maintaining a regular teaching schedule.

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- Good Citizen Website

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May 28, 2021
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(bright music) Hi, I'm Gia, an I'm here with the Pilates report today. And I have the honor of talking to Jackie Hinton from Good Citizen. She's the CEO of the company, and she's gonna tell us about how she created her loops and all the trials and successes that she's had in her company. Welcome, Jackie, I'm so happy to have you here. My first question for you, Jackie is how did you get the idea for your product and what was your inspiration?

So, when I was getting certified in Pilates in 2006, I was at the studio all day, every day, you know, teaching and taking class and observing. And there were just so many people going in and out of the studio and using the equipment and the loops and putting their hands and feet in it, and I just thought it was just so gross. And, you know, you can, there's studies out there that tell you how many germs and like, dead skin cells, and oils can stay on fitness equipment. And so it just made perfect sense that if you can take your own yoga mat to the yoga class, why can't you take your own Pilates loops to Pilates class? Yeah, I'm a bit of a germophobe too, so when I first found out about it I was just like, oh my God, this is genius.

Why didn't I think about that? 'Cause you never think about how often are they washing these loops? Like they clean the equipment and the carriage in the box every time but the loops, they're being used throughout the day and you don't know if they're washing them daily, weekly, monthly, or at all. So just total genius idea. Yeah, what kind of research did you, oh, of course.

What kind of research did you do in order to start creating the product and did you know of anything else at the time that was around that was like it or was this a brand new thing that you came up with? So there wasn't anything that existed when I came up with this idea. I did a lot of, thank God for the internet because I did a lot of Googling, and I did contact a few friends that I have that are in the fashion industry just to see if they might have some insight on kind of what we were doing it 'cause it's kinda similar. You know, you're using some padding and some fabric and different materials that you will find, you know, in different stores out there. So I had a girlfriend who directed us to a manufacturer who apparently was supposed to be like, the best person to get out here in LA.

And that was a big fail. But after that, we just kind of, really just looked around to see who we could find and got a lot of samples sent to us and just really like took our time to learn about the materials and all the different options that we could use for our loops. That's amazing. And so when you found the fabrics and the manufacturer, what did you do next in creating the product? Like, did you get samples sent to you with different, like different kinds or different, did you decide if you wanted to single and double loops or both?

Like, what did you kinda do next in your process? So we started off with the single loop just because it's very simple to make and we just had several manufacturers make that one loop for us. And so, like I said before, the first manufacturer made it and it was like the ugliest, saddest looking loop you've ever seen in your life. And so we ended up finding this other manufacturer who was actually like 45 minutes outside of LA and he was amazing but he took too long. And so it was like "The three little bears." And so then we finally went to this other manufacturer and hit it off and he made a bunch of samples for us and he was timely and made good quality work.

And so we ended up working with him, and once we were able to see the single padded loop and test it out and make sure it was comfortable and up to par with what we wanted, then we were able to kind of expand to our other two lines of loops. Very cool, and then I know you have like the padded loops too. So what gave you the idea to add the padding to the loops instead of just like, the regular loops? So, I work with several older clients that, you know, as time goes on, as we get older, our hands become a little less padded, a little more sensitive and the strap can kinda cut into your hands and just be very uncomfortable. So we wanted to make sure and see if we could solve this problem.

So we decided to add this padding to help, first of all, my clients, 'cause they were the ones who were being our little test models and we wanted to test it out on them and make sure it felt really secure but comfortable and that they were able to get through a full, you know, hour, 55 minute session with it, not bothering them like some of the other loops had prior. Nice, yeah, I have a pair of the padded loops and I love them. They're so comfortable on the hands and usually loops you have to break them in a bit but I was able to use them right away without any kind of irritation. So they were wonderful. If you haven't tried them, I recommend them.

So, during your creative phase with the loops besides finding the manufacturer with like the right fit, were there any other setbacks or challenges that you faced during this creating phase or was it pretty smooth? (Jackie chuckles) Well, once we found that right manufacturer, it was pretty smooth, but then bringing it to market was an interesting process 'cause as we all know the Pilates industry is a hard industry to change the minds of. And so, because there was nothing out there like this, people were like, "wait, I can take my own loops to class? "Like, I've never heard of this." And we were like, yes, yes, you can do, you know, you can do whatever you want. It's just like taking your own yoga mat to yoga class.

You wouldn't share, you know, and sweat and all over your yoga mat and then have somebody else use it. So it was just that a little bit of a learning curve of trying to get the Pilates community to see that yes, you can take your own loops to class. Yes, you totally can. Before you started the creation of your product, did you talk to any teachers to see if there'd be any interest or did you kind of just go into it knowing that because you were interested, there had to be other people like you? Well, first of all, I was like, if this doesn't work, at least I will have a ton of my own Pilates straps to use for the rest of my life.

(both laughing) So that was like the first round, but then I have a really good like, core group of Pilates instructors that I teach with and just know in the LA area. And we're really good about like getting together and chatting about like things that are going on with clients and stuff like that. So I really like went to those groups of instructors and talked to them and just picked their brain. And I also spoke with my Pilates clients about it and just kind of, you know, got people's feedback on their thoughts of having your own loops, comfort, how easy it would be to bring your loops to the studio. Would it be something that they would wanna do?

'Cause it is, you know, an extra step that you have to kind of remember to bring your loops with you but once you get in the hang of things, it's pretty simple. Totally, so now that you've created the loops, it's time to start selling them. So how did you go about starting to sell them? Did you go to studios and do like a wholesale deal or did you just reach out to individuals and have them start buying it? So it's so funny 'cause it's like, you think like, if we build it, they will come, you know?

(Gia laughing) You know, like a movie. (Jackie laughing) Yeah. And so, I was like, this is what's gonna happen. We're gonna make the loops, we're gonna put it online, and then everybody's gonna buy them. And so it took a minute and we set up our Instagram and luckily I feel like Instagram was a great way to reach the community all over the U.S., all over the world.

So that was kind of really where we started was social media. And then once we kind of felt established there, then we reached out to a couple of the events that go on within the Pilates community. So our first event that we went to was the BASIs learn from the leaders event in, I believe Laguna, or maybe it was long beach, I can't remember now, this is a while back. So that was our first event that we went to and that was super fun. And we had really great feedback, and also a lot of that, oh, I can take my own loops?

So it was really interesting and we learned a lot from going to that. Great, yeah, and I actually wanted to transition into marketing next because I know you have a pretty big Instagram following but what other kind of marketing did you do? Did you do collaborations? Was there are a lot of paid marketing or was it mostly organic? We do a lot of organic marketing.

I really feel like it's good to partner with our community. And so I try to reach out to different companies that are doing similar but different things than we are. Mm hmm. And we're always like people will reach out to us and we'll collaborate that way, but we're always opened and our platform is always available for any kinds of collaboration, but I definitely love collaborating with our community. That just is like makes me so happy to be able to like share what other women and other Pilates instructors are doing out in the world.

We have a question from Christie. She wants to know, did you leave your job beyond teaching Pilates to make this business happen? She remembered that you had worked in other places and I know you were a dancer and actor. So did you leave all of that in order to create this company or are you still able to do all of it? I'm still able to do all of it.

I have a very set schedule and I teach early in the mornings and in the afternoons slash evenings and keep my days open for Good Citizen and dancing, auditioning, and stuff like that. But luckily my Pilates clients are very flexible and work with me if I do need like reschedule or something. But because I do teach so early in the morning, it doesn't ever really interfere with what I'm doing. That's great. Yeah, it's nice to be able to like balance it all.

It's hard to do but it's definitely nice when you can find that balance. Going back to Good Citizen, I know you have the loops and that's what you're most known for, but have you branched into other products besides just loops? When we first started, we did have some T-shirts and some wine glasses and we also sold the body brushes, but we really decided that we're passionate about keeping good hygiene within the Pilate studio, so we really want to focus on that, but I do think eventually we did have this really popular Pilates pouvoir tank top that I created because of my Latina background including our vibrant colors is where all of that inspiration came from. But I really wanna bring that tank top back 'cause it just spoke to me and was like just a fun shirt to have. So I dunno, maybe that will part some plan.

Yeah, I remember that one. (Jackie laughs) Yeah, I could do like a special edition type of thing. Yeah, yeah, I would love to bring it back at some point. So who knows, maybe for like Hispanic heritage month or something. Exactly, that'd be really nice.

So we're gonna move into the pandemic 'cause that's affected everybody in such a huge way. So I'm sure your business is impacted a lot. So how did the pandemic affect your business if at all? (Jackie chuckles) That's a loaded question, Gia. So, last year when the word pandemic hit everywhere, our company just went insane and everybody wanted their own loops because you know, everybody, didn't, no one knew what COVID was really, and if you could catch it from touching objects or just from the air.

So studio owners were contacting us to get loops into their studio. So we sold out, I think in like a month and we're only doing pre-orders after that. And that took a long time to catch up to but we're finally caught up and back to our normal, regular, everyday schedules. And it was a very interesting year last year but exciting too, because we were able to help so many Pilates studios stay opened a little longer maybe or reopen and make their clients feel better while they were in the Pilate studio. So it was like a challenging hard year but like very, very rewarding.

I bet. Did you get any pushback or criticism from customers who maybe had to wait longer for their loops than they were used to, or were they pretty understanding about that? I do have to say everybody was really understanding. I was just like, it made my heart feel so good. It was like the sweetest, most wonderful thing 'cause we were over there having complete meltdowns and panic attacks, like, 'cause we just wanna make everyone happy and give everybody what they want, and it was just such an unusual time.

We did have a couple, you know, little stinkers in there, there's always someone. But you know, we worked it out and figured it all out, but for the most part, everybody was just so wonderful, and just loving, and supportive, and it was really lovely to see. Yeah. Were you expecting anything like that to happen where like you would sell out basically, or were you kind of like pre-pandemic where you just kind of just hoping to grow a little bit every year? Pre-pandemic, we were just, you know, hoping to grow a little bit and just kind of slowly scale the business and this just really just gave us a hard shove in the back and made us have to, you know, scale a whole lot faster, and man, we learned a lot in a year.

It was crazy. Yeah, I bet. So how is it now that things are starting to open up again? Is it back to a more normal pace with your production or is it still a little bit faster than it was pre-pandemic? It's still little bit faster.

This is definitely the way Pilates studios are moving and to keeping their space and their clients clean and healthy, and feeling comfortable coming back into the studio. And we're excited to move forward with the Pilates community and continue to offer what we have to offer. That's amazing. And then are you planning to continue teaching while you keep expanding your business or are you gonna scale back your teaching at all? I'm gonna keep teaching.

It works for me. You know, I only teach usually like seven to 11, seven to 10 in the mornings. And so it really works great with my schedule. It forces me to get up early and I'm ready for the day. And when I'm done teaching, then I can focus everything on Good Citizen or my dancing or whatever else I've got going on.

So, and I think my Pilates clients will kill me. (Jackie laughs) (Gia laughs) Yeah, they always wanna keep their teacher. I just wanna remind everyone watching too. If you have questions for Jackie, we're gonna start the Q and A section in a little bit. So feel free to add your questions to the chat and Jackie will be able to answer them.

My next question for you, Jackie, though is, what has been the most challenging aspect of running a business? I would say the most challenging aspect of running your business would be changing the minds of the Pilates community. Just getting everybody on board and knowing that yes, we can take our own loops into the studio. I know it's something that was new and different, and I mean, how long have people been doing Pilates without their own loops? So it was just the norm.

So that was the challenge. And then the other challenge is just having a small team. It's just myself, and my husband, and our dog, Riley. And so we do everything ourselves and at some point it would be nice to be able to, you know, add a few people to our team or something like that. I don't even know where we would start or what that would look like but yeah.

So just running our business on our own is a challenge just 'cause, you know, we have to stay on top of it. We don't wanna drop the ball for anyone. Yeah, definitely. I'm just curious, how did you come up with the name, Good Citizen, for your company? That's one, we took a long time to find the perfect name.

I just, I don't know. We'd had lots of ideas, but nothing seemed to fit, but I was super obsessed with Helen Keller growing up. I loved Helen Keller. I think she's like so inspirational because of, you know, she was a blind and deaf person and was the first woman to get her Bachelors in college and like did all these amazing things and just overcame so much. So she, growing up, I learned that she was considered like the epitome of a good citizen.

And so it just kind of naturally like fit and felt like a good fit. So well, Helen Keller, shout out. (Jackie laughs) I didn't know that. That's amazing. (Jackie laughs) Yeah.

And then when you, this like, figured out what the name should be, went through the process of like trademarking it and, can you explain for someone who's never done that before what that process is like? Yeah, so you can just go online and do a lot of it online by yourself, or you can hire a lawyer, and it's pretty simple and self-explanatory. You do have to pay a fee for it but it just kind of protects your company and keeps your business name yours. And so it's a pretty simple and easy process. Yeah, great, thank you.

What advice do you have for people who are looking to start a new business venture in addition to teaching Pilates? I would definitely say, reach out to some companies that you feel are, you know, kinda doing something not exactly what you're doing, but if, you know, you want a little advice or like maybe a mentor or something like that, reach out to a company, question them, ask them things that, you know, their opinion on ways to do things easier, quicker, smarter, because I mean, you don't wanna have to reinvent the wheel, and also maybe join different organizations that might have trainings or take some classes, business classes at your local like community college or something like that. I'm a member of the junior league of Los Angeles, which is a wonderful all women's organization here in LA, and they offer a ton of training not only to be able to work with underserved communities but also to be able to build your leadership skills for all kinds of different aspects of your life whether it's business or volunteering or just to like be able to get in front of a Pilates class and like really lead the class. Like, I've found that has been very helpful and being around like-minded women too has been really empowering and has helped me, I don't know, just to be able to find my voice and just feel more confident in, 'cause sometimes it just feels like, what am I doing? So, Yeah.

(both laughing) I think we all feel that way sometimes. (both laughing) That's wonderful advice. I think it's also just really great to see that you've taken like your Pilates career but then evolved it into something else 'cause it can be really exhausting to just teach Pilates 'cause if you don't own a studio, you end up driving to multiple different studios, you spend a lot of time in your car. Your schedule can be kind of staggered and inconsistent. So I think finding something else to either feed your creativity or just another way to earn some cash flow is just, I think it's really helpful to do and really inspiring to see you doing it from like, you started with just an idea and then you've built this whole company.

So it's really nice to see. Thank you, thanks. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. Of course.

Where can people find your loops if they're interested in purchasing them? So we have our website, which is goodcitizenla.com and our Instagram is the same, Good Citizen LA, and we offer amazing wholesale pricing for Pilates studios that you can add an additional revenue stream for your studio and keep your Pilates clients safe and clean and healthy at the same time. John wants to know which loop is your best-selling loop, and do you know why? Yes, our double padded loops are our best-selling loops also particularly the spot on because they are leopard and very snazzy, I think 'cause they're very fierce and people just wanna look cute, but I think the double padded loops are the best-selling because you have one loop for your hands and one loop for your foot so you're not like cross contaminating. So you're just staying even extra clean and healthy.

Yeah, also just very versatile 'cause you can, you don't have to make as many adjustments to the length of the ropes. You can kind of keep the shorter one for your arms and it's heavy enough. And then when you get to feet, it's long enough so you don't have to keep adjusting. So I think it's also just really versatile. Totally, exactly.

Carolyn asks, she says, I haven't seen these loops in the UK. Is the shipping and customs putting people off? Maybe, yeah, I kind of think a little bit because it does add a little extra to get the loops over there. What we've been suggesting to people over in the UK and other countries is maybe gather a group of friends that you do Pilates with and order all at the same time and then we can ship over that way. That helps a little bit with the pricing.

And also if you know a studio owner purchases through us wholesale, that's another way to just save a little bit. And then also, you know, the Pilates studio owner would be able to make profit off of that. But you know, we have goals of making it more financially feasible for our international clients 'cause we want all to have them too. Do have any plans to expand your shipping options for more international shipping to make it easier or is that just a little more difficult? It's a little challenging.

We are in the middle of working on that because we do see that it is causing our international clients to not be able to get our loops, which we wanna definitely fix. So we're hoping that we can solve this problem by the end of the summer. So we're definitely working on it. Ah, that's awesome. John has another question.

Do you have advice on how to market a Pilates product on a limited budget? Social media is the greatest marketing budget of all time? The reason that I love social media is not only can you reach the exact person that you would like to sell your product to, but you can also really make an amazing community. We've made so many friends on social media that we talk to on a daily basis, a weekly basis, and we've just built this community and this platform where we just feel like a little family within the Pilates community. So it's like the Pilates community and then our little Good Citizen community.

So I definitely feel like marketing your products on social media is a great way. And then word of mouth, like, that is the greatest, you know, another great way to market is just have a great product that you really stand behind and get your friends to try it out and write some reviews for you. Use those reviews on social media so that you have some, you know, backing to really show that what you're doing is something really good and has great quality. Yeah, does it help when people tag you in like using their products too, they tag Good Citizen, and then you can repost it. Is that kind of stuff helpful as well?

Yeah, so one of my favorite things that we do is we really try to use our community on our Instagram, on our social media. So we love sharing teachers or Pilates lovers on our main page. And we've been using the hashtag #gclooplife, and so when people tag that, then we know that we can reuse their video or some people like, will show us a tour of their studio or like an exercise that they really love, or maybe just their really cute dog that's sitting by the loops. So it's so fun. Like, we get to see so many different aspects of our community.

Yeah, animals always sell too. (both laughing) They totally do. They get the most likes on Instagram for sure. Yeah, they definitely do. Caroline has another question.

Have you thought to personalize the straps with people's names? Is that an option that you have-- We've had a lot of people reach out about that. We haven't really looked into it too much, but I do know like, growing up, we always had a lot of monograms like towels and tower apps and bags and stuff like that. So, I mean, technically, you could probably take your loops to a really great monogrammer and have them monogram whatever you want on it. But we definitely, it's on the list of things to look into because so many people want their own loops with their name on it.

And I think it's a cute idea. Yeah, that way they don't lose them too, like, they'll know it belongs to them in case someone has the exact same pattern. Totally. Thank you again, Jackie, for being here. If you have any more questions for Jackie that we didn't get to, this video will be on the site in a few days.

So you can always add them to the comments in the video and we'll get back to you as quickly as we can. And again, you can find Jackie at info@goodcitizenla.com. Is that correct, Jackie? That's correct. And thank you for joining us and we hope you learned a lot about Good Citizen and loops.

(bright music)

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