Setting Up a Home Pilates Studio

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Many Pilates instructors aspire to own and run their own Pilates studio and for many the attractions of running such a business from

Advantages include:

  • No additional Rent and commercial business rates taking away profit

  • Maximising time availability to see clients between other commitments

  • Multi-tasking with domestic work and family matters between clients

More time with the family home vastly outweigh the disadvantages that a home-based business may bring.

Disadvantages include:

  • Work life encroaching on family life

  • Isolation and loneliness

  • Inability to expand the business

  • Procrastination and lack of focus on business essentials

  • Potential for poor professional appearance

However, when all of this is taken into account - some of the happiest and financially secure studio owners run studios from their homes and the number of studio owners who wish they had never moved out of their home studios to take on larger commercial properties is considerable.

2. What floor area and size should a Home Pilates Studio be?

There are two approaches to Planning a home studio:

One is to allow the space available to dictate the Business Plan whereas the other is to 'size-up the studio to meet the needs of the Business Plan. Both can work, and indeed quite often the first approach is the only one available when sharing family life withbusiness however from experience the second approach leads to the most successful 'home' businesses.

You will note however that in both scenarios there is a 'Business Plan' - because without this you will fall into the trap of setting something up that is not going to work.

Here are two different real scenarios which illustrate the need to build different business plans that will affect the size and layout of the studio needed.

Scenario 1 - “I've completed my Studio Induction module with Mbodies and two of the Repertoire modules, I am an experienced Group Fitness and Pilates Matwork Instructor and have been working in local health clubs I'm insured to teach and I have completed one of the follow on Pilates Repertoire modules but most of my existing clients have only experienced Matwork pilates and it will be about 6 months before I complete the studio qualification.We have been looking at Timber buildings to put into the garden - what size should I be considering?”

Scenario 2 - “My husband and I are considering dropping our jobs down to part time to start our own business from home. Rob is a Physio working for a professional sports team and I work in the Sports Conditioning department:working in small groups on the Align-Pilates Reformers with half Cadillacs and doing Functional Movement Analysis and prescription. We are thinking of focusing our home business on therapy and Pilates for Sports players - What do you think of this plan and what kit would we need? We have found a house with two rooms next to each other which we think would be perfect for a treatment room and studio room, the studio room is 16ft x 14ft.”

The backgrounds and experience of the two instructors dictate completely different business plans.The first instructor with a fitness background is at this point in her career fitness rather than wellness focused and more of a generalist having an existing large class Matwork customer base - over time she will hopefully become more able to offer wellness solutions on a one on one basis but for now for her business to be successful she needs to be able to offer variety and small group Pilates.

The second instructor is more of a sports and remedial specialist than a fitness generalist and in association with her medical husband the business plan, selection of equipment and layout of the studio needs to reflect this.

Scenario 1 Studio:

The Pilates Studio business plan agreed catered for Pilates Equipment specific Privates, Duos or Trios on either Cadillac, Reformer or Chairs - at the same time the studio needed to be able to cope with a maximum of 9 in a group fitness Pilates setting.The room needed to be versatile so that equipment could all be moved to one side to allow 250 square feet of Matwork space.To accomplish this the client shopped for 3 professional reformers that could stack and push up against either Spring walls as a 2nd choice but wall mounted half cadillacs as a first choice, 3 split pedal chairs completed the capital purchase with a range of mats and accessories.

Align Pilates was the favoured brand not purely as a result of the massive cost saving but also because it was the only brand with the versatility to have a Full Push through facility on its wall mounted cadillac with an adjustable Push through Bar - meaning that the choice was available to use the wall cadillacs with a mat and the reformers separately or to butt the reformers directly to the half cadillac and use them in combination.Also all goods sat in stock in the UK warehouse together with a full range of parts and engineers on call in case of issues.

Scenario 2 Studio:

After financial modelling the Sports and Rehab specialists agreed that there was too small a market for Sports specific rehab in their studio, particularly because this market also tends to be short term rehab only and not a loyal week to week customer base. Instead the business model pointed to success with a focus on 'Active Ageing' and a clinically driven 'wellness' orientation with a focus on 1 to 3 clients.

The model called for versatility of kit with generous sizing able to cater for the petite and the very tall or large and a higher Bed height for the Cadillac / Reformer options.

The decision was made to seek 3 Spilt Pedal Chairs, which are fabulous for the 'Active Ageing' market and for rehab and to purchase in addition 2 Rehab height reformers with half Cadillacs attached, Mattress Converter, Platform Extender, Jump Board and Reformer Box.Gondola Poles were also deemed desirable.

A third Space saving reformer would allow for a reformer trio and also for off-site marketing (the small reformer needed to fit into a large estate car / SUV together with a Combo chair). The Reformers needed to double up as mat stations and needed to be used in combination with an arc barrel and a Step barrel.

Four manufacturers were identified as having suitable equipment, Peak Pilates, Align-Pilates, Balanced-Body Pilates and Stott Pilates - it was decided that an Align Pilates C1 Reformer would be added to the Peak Quote as Peak Pilates did not offer a suitable lightweight portable reformer.

The Prices of the kit taken from the websites of the various manufacturers including import taxes and VAT were:

- Peak Pilates:approx. £16,000

- Align-Pilates:approx. £10,000

- Stott Pilates:approx. £18,500

- Balanced Body:approx. £17,500

3. Legal requirements, Planning Permission, Insurance, and Health & Safety law etc.

For most UK Pilates Instructors running a studio from inside their home does not break local council rules unless it can be shown that the house is no longer a residential dwelling i.e. there has been a change of use or unless neighbours complain about disruption caused to their lives related to your business activities.For example if you have loud music or large numbers of customers parking dangerously or inappropriately. However, if challenged, you may need to demonstrate that the studio is for your own and family uses as well as being used as a part of your business

However running a studio in the garden in an outbuilding that does not already have planning permission may be problematic if a neighbour complains and there are instances where Local Authorities have required garden studios to stop operating or even to be removed.

Planning permission for Garden studios will most likely be needed if the building is over 2.5 metres high at its highest point and/or it is not regarded by the council as an 'incidental' building'. A garden studio used for your own family fitness or occasionally used with clients when working at home may well be viewed as "incidental" and often won't be needing planning permission. Whereas a garden studio used for clients five days a week may not be viewed as "incidental" by your local authority and they may want a planning application for it.

The good news is that Planning permission is not expensive, usually under £200.00 and contrary to myth the application forms are easy to fill in. Also contrary to myth the vast majority of planning applications for garden studios are accepted by the Local Authority and where there are serious objections it is usually related to the facilities to deal with customer movements and not the studio itself. You can usually deal with this by staggering start times of sessions etc. in a way which will suit the council.

As soon as you teach and take payment from your first client in your home studio you are deemed to be running a commercial gym and as such you will need to comply with the same insurance and Health and Safety requirements that a commercial operated Gym does. However the degree to which you have to write and display policies and notices will relate to how many employees you have and most home studios do not reach the numbers of employees to require statutory record keeping.Nevertheless you will be required to undertake risk assessments and protect the wellbeing of your employees and clients.

4. Create a Business Plan with a strategy which compliments your skills and resources

If Pilates is just one of your skills and you have an existing customer base who enjoy your other skills maybe Functional training, Personal Fitness training, Barre or small group Matwork - it will probably be poor decision-making to abandon these strings to your bow unnecessarily.In these cases it may be sensible to plan for a multi-function space.For example instead of purchasing the Align-Pilates A2R Reformer with Half Cadillac which whilst versatile is not readily portable; instead consider putting four space saving Align-Pilates Spring walls with adjustable Barre's onto the walls of your studio and combining these with the Align-Pilates C1 Reformer which can stack or store on its end and leave the floor space clear when Pilates is not the first choice of use.

Pilates Instructors will often buy equipment for themselves rather than for their customers which generally does not make business sense. Surveys have repeatedly shown that customers could not care less whether their Kit is branded 'Stott Pilates', 'Align-Pilates', 'Balanced-Body' or 'Peak Pilates' they simply focus on how it 'feels' to use, how easy it is to use and on whether it delivers the promised results.

Brands differ dramatically in initial price, ease of keeping the equipment serviced and in good order, cost of parts and function. Too many instructors therefore waste money by buying the brand that they know rather than shopping around and spending time to compare and contrast machines from brands that they are less familiar with.

With special thanks to Chris Onslow from Mbodies Training Academy. All images used in this article are copyright of Chris Onslow.

This post is tagged with Pilates, Align-Pilates, Pilates Studio Equipment, Pilates Home Studio