We recently connected with Deborah M. Lavinsky and have shared our conversation below.
Deborah M., thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. We’d love to hear the backstory behind a risk you’ve taken – whether big or small, walk us through what it was like and how it ultimately turned out.
March 16, 2020 was the last day I taught Pilates in my studio before the world shut down. It was just a few months after recovering from spinal fusion surgery and my business was rebounding. What was originally “two weeks to slow the curve” became eight months of closure. Fortunately, being resilient and resourceful after experiencing other challenges throughout my life, I focused my energy into building an online health and wellness coaching business. I had over 24 years as a financial advisor and business owner so I had the confidence to take on this new risk. First, I began teaching virtual Pilates classes. I had rarely used Zoom and was unsure whether my mostly older clients could successfully navigate this technology. Although I’d made instructional videos for my YouTube channel, it’s quite different to teach “live”. I started a simple email marketing campaign that had surprising results. Many clients from my former commercial studio were thrilled to join me from the comfort of their homes. They were open to trying this new technology and willing to give virtual Pilates classes a try. Through word of mouth, I was able to attract clients from as far away as Sweden, Canada, North Carolina, New York City and Los Angeles. It really wasn’t as scary as it initially seemed. Second, I expanded into the area of nutrition and beauty by aligning with a multi-billion dollar, global health and wellbeing company. By offering products that improved immunity, gut health, aided with weight loss and transformed skin, hair and nails with a market-disrupting liquid marine collagen, I built an income stream unrelated to my Pilates business that could withstand the prolonged closure. Heeding the philosophy of Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, I stopped trading my time for dollars. It was an inexpensive way to start a new business compared to what the start up costs were opening a brick and mortar Pilates studio. Working virtually has allowed me the time freedom to travel and work from anywhere with WiFi or cell coverage. In fact, my husband and I just came back from a three week Caribbean cruise and have four other major adventures planned in 2022. Flash forward to today- my Pilates studio has reopened and business is returning. Clients are still reluctant to come in. Let’s face it- purchasing and fitness habits have changed since the pandemic. My online business, Heart of Wellbeing is thriving however, because of a renewed interest in self-care and getting serious with their health. It’s simple and convenient to have their orders delivered to their doorstep. Extra bonus points for me since I get to use my business ownership skills to mentor others looking to start their own online businesses and ditch the 9 to 5. Taking on a small financial and technological risk to work in the virtual space has blossomed into a rewarding and financially beneficial business. With the job market in flux and people seeking a better quality of life, I invite others to explore joining my team. They can enjoy the kind of time freedom and unlimited income potential that’s unavailable in traditional business settings. Whether it’s to work this business in the pockets of their life to bring in extra money to keep pace with rising costs or to ditch the 9 to 5 in order to create a legacy business- it’s my passion project to coach them to success.
Deborah M., before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
In 2013 I was happily working as a financial advisor and taking Pilates lessons twice a week. The opportunity to take a six week Pilates training program turned into a year of intensive study to be comprehensively trained as a Pilates teacher. It was like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole and after a year and a half of changing from my suits to Lululemon leggings, back to suits, I realized my dream of opening a commercial Pilates studio. I retired from a successful 18 year career in financial services to turn my undivided attention to running a busy Pilates studio. What is Pilates? It is an intelligent system of mind body movement. The focus is on the center of the body, working from the inside out. Pilates principles include concentration, control, breath, centering, mindfulness and flow. Pilates equipment uses special springs that creates resistance and there are hundreds of exercises in the repertoire. There is extensive training to learn this system which includes classroom, hands on, self-practice, observation and in my training, a thesis project. Once my comprehensive training was completed, I qualified to sit for a nationally accredited certification exam, passed and now proudly hold the Nationally Certified Pilates Teacher (NCPT) designation. As an NCPT, we are required to uphold high ethical and professional standards as well as fulfill mandatory continuing education. Over the years, I have completed other training to work with special populations- those with osteoporosis, Scoliosis, stroke, MS and Parkinson’s; Rossiter Stretch Techniques for pain management and mobility; knee, shoulder and back injuries/rehabilitation; autoimmune disorders like Rheumatoid Arthritis and AS; post-mastectomy and reconstruction and golf conditioning. My clients have ranged from an 11 year old gymnast who wanted to shave some points off her score to an 85 year old grandma whose grandchildren took her on a bucket list trip to Spain. A commonly held attitude about fitness is “no pain, no gain”. We hear that you have to “feel the burn.” You have to “kill it”. “Squat until you drop”. I’m proud that my clients leave my studio feeling better than when they came in. I’ve had clients come in for Rossiter who are bent over in pain, who can barely walk without wincing then after our session walk out the door standing tall with a spring in their step. My practice has attracted people in pain, who have had barriers to traditional exercise, who are self-conscious going to a gym or who have recently completed physical therapy. I consider my teaching style as more therapeutic than athletic. I love to teach people how to use Pilates in their activities of daily living so they can move with ease and efficiency. To feel comfortable in their own body and age gracefully. My nutrition and wellbeing business is a key part of living with ease. By improving one’s nutrition, moving a minimum of 30 minutes a day and eliminating toxins from one’s food and environment we can have a higher quality of life. My mission is for everyone to enjoy a healthy, joyful and abundant life.
Any advice for growing your clientele? What’s been most effective for you?
Back when I was a financial advisor I worked with a business coach. One of the things I learned was how to market myself and create my brand. Humans take in their information by sight, sound and touch. When marketing a business, one must take a multi-strategy approach. For example, going to networking meetings, print advertising, social media, email blasts, newsletters, voicemail or texts, writing articles in local newspapers or national publications, referrals, Google Ads, mass mailings- there are dozens of methods that can be used. Not everyone will open an email but they might be on FaceBook all day long. Some people respond better to face to face meetings and others will only act when a friend tells them to. Across all of these strategies trust and credibility must be established. Persistency and consistency of message are critical. There will be better results when a prospective customer sees your messages frequently. There is a delicate line however between being spammy and being persistent. One of the questions I always ask a new client is “how did you hear about my studio”? I track these responses in order to improve my marketing results.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
It’s difficult to narrow down one instance of resilience. My first career was as a professional orchestral flutist. Although it could be attributed to beginner’s luck, I won my first audition when I was in 6th grade. Over the years I had many auditions, some successful but most not. It’s difficult to process rejection. It’s hard not to take it personally when one is judged on tone, sound and interpretation that comes from the soul. Most of the time the audition winners were predetermined in advance but due to union rules orchestras had to go through the motions of having official auditions. Oh, I would get encouraging comments from the judges but I knew how the system worked. After a while, it stopped bothering me. I learned to not get emotionally attached to the outcomes which allowed me to keep moving forward without feeling depressed. Eventually when I started to have hand problems it was time to change career paths. Not one to choose the easy way-I changed careers to another one filled with lots of rejection- financial services. My experiences with auditions served me well throughout my 18 year financial services career. I felt comfortable with public speaking due to many years performing in front of large audiences. I had discipline from years of practicing hours each day. I literally knocked on lots of doors to break into the Philadelphia music scene. Even though these two careers seemed very different, my music career prepared me for my financial services career. It gave me the resilience to weather setbacks and rejection.
- Website: www.phoenixpilatesandrossitercenter.com
- Instagram: @phxpilatesrossitercoach
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhoenixPilatesandRossiterCenter
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/DeborahLavinsky