Looking to launch your own at home Pilates or mindful movement studio? For this new blog series, we spoke to three Merrithew™ Instructor Trainers to find out how they built successful studio businesses from the ground up— in the comfort of their own homes.
First up, Merrithew Instructor Trainer Rouxchelle Denton-Cooke on marketing your business, scaling it up or down, and things you need to consider, like the kids and dogs on the other side of the door.
From commercial studio to at home studio
With floor-to-ceiling bay windows overlooking the nearby canal, gleaming wood floors and Merrithew’s full line of professional equipment, Rouxchelle’s at home studio, DC Movement Lab, on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, offers a stunning setting for mindful movement classes. With a large photograph of a sun-soaked forest dominating one wall, and a row of black-framed mirrors lining the other, the bright and spacious studio has a warm and inviting vibe that rivals any boutique studio.
Rouxchelle’s no stranger to running her own business. After becoming a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor in 2005, she opened a boutique studio in Southbroom, the town where she grew up in South Africa. She used Merrithew’s Interactive Studio Planner tool to optimize the equipment in her space and Merrithew marketing images to promote her studio. As one of the first Pilates instructors on the south coast of Kwa Zulu Natal, her studio took off.
When she and her husband immigrated to Australia in 2011, replicating that business success seemed much more daunting.
“We knew nobody and relied on internet research and physically going to different studios to see what and how they did it. Once we opened our at home studio, we started Facebook marketing and letterbox drops. We also did some workshops at Lululemon and built a relationship with a physiotherapist and osteopath.”
Operating the studio out of their home gave them more financial security as they slowly scaled the business and built their clientele.
“Through word of mouth we outgrew our house and ended up renting a commercial space in 2013. After four years of this, I was exhausted,” Rouxchelle says.
When the commercial studio’s lease was up in 2017, she and her husband decided to move the business back home.
“The deciding factors were that I didn’t have to worry about staff, rent and being at the studio full time. The benefits of being home were evident: More time for family, scheduling classes that suited my lifestyle and keeping my Pilates passion alive,” she says.
Not only was the flexibility appealing, but once she and her husband calculated the savings on rent, utilities and staff, they realized they could make the same amount of money with just a 10th of the clientele.
“Moving the business back home was the best decision we’ve ever made,” she says.
“I found working for myself allowed me to have the flexibility and freedom to grow with my clients and mold my business into what I wanted and loved, without having to appease bosses or having a franchise system telling me what to do to earn money. Yes, having a profitable business is important, but it’s not what drives me. This is my passion rather than a job; the money is a bonus.”
Today, DC Movement Lab is a fully equipped at home studio and Merrithew Host Training Center with four V2 Max™ Reformers, one Cadillac, four Stability Chairs™, two Ladder Barrels, two Stability Barres, among other pieces of equipment and small props. The studio offers STOTT PILATES, Total Barre®, ZEN•GA®, Halo® Training, rehab, dance and athletic conditioning-based programming in private, semi-private and group class formats. It also offers instructor training and continuing education workshops in those modalities and more.
“Having owned and operated an at home studio, a boutique studio and a commercial studio, I can definitely say that I enjoy my at home studio the most because it’s stress-free,” Rouxchelle says.
5 tips for building a successful at home Pilates studio
1. Keep your neighbors happy: Consider parking constraints, the times of your classes and the influx of students coming into the house and area, and noise levels during barre classes. “We spoke with all of our surrounding neighbors before we started and then invited them into the studio once we were set up so they understood what we were doing,” Rouxchelle says.
2. Consider the impact on children: Depending on their ages, there will be different challenges. But you’ll need to consider when you see your clients and how this will impact their care. Will you offer early morning or evening classes and how will this work with your children’s and partner’s schedules?
3. Pets at the studio: Give your clients a heads up if you have any pets at the house. “My pets are part of studio life; every new client is told about them just in case they don’t like or are allergic to dogs. My dogs are the welcome committee and give lots cuddles and kisses to clients and they get treats in return every once and awhile.”
4. Separate entrances: While your house and studio likely share a wall, it’s best if they have separate entrances. It will make you and your clients feel more comfortable and means no one has to intrude on anyone else’s personal space. Rouxchelle’s studio also has a separate bathroom.
5. Personal time vs. work time: Be firm about separating your personal time and work time. “This is always a challenge, so my husband and I have scheduled in two games of golf and a breakfast together every week to ensure we get quality time together. We try to keep this locked in as an appointment on our schedules and only if we absolutely have to will we cancel it for work or other emergencies.”
9 benefits to having an at home studio, according to Rouxchelle
- Don’t need staff
- No travel time to and from work
- No traffic
- No lease or deposits
- Less stress
- More time for family