We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Riki Shore a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Riki, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. We’d love to hear about how you went about setting up your own practice and if you have any advice for professionals who might be considering starting their own?
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, I went from teaching Pilates in person to being stuck in my home with nothing but a laptop and Zoom. Without knowing how to do it, I started teaching Pilates online. I got lucky: I had a room in my house that was only being used for storage, so I pushed the boxes to one side, propped my laptop on a stack of them, and began teaching.
In the back of my mind, a small voice said, “Is this a business?”
As the weeks went by, I learned how to make my classes better. I learned that audio is actually more important than video for a live exercise class, so I bought a decent external microphone. I learned that people needed to feel a sense of belonging, and that this could be achieved by adjusting my teaching schedule to leave some time to chat before and after class.
But still, “Is this a business?”
Over time, I emptied the boxes, sorted their contents and took the boxes away. I learned that I had a pretty nice room, actually. It was spacious and bright, and no one in my family ever used it. I started to imagine it as a real Pilates studio, with equipment and clients. So I took a leap and placed an order for a reformer and a spine corrector, and when they arrived, ten months later, it really started to look like a studio.
All of the sudden, the voice said, “Maybe it is a business.”
Ten months had gone by since I placed the equipment order, and fifteen months had gone by since the first Zoom classes. Building a practice takes time. You have an idea, you try it, learn from it, and keep going. If you’re continually taking small steps forward, you’re growing your business. You can’t help but grow. So no matter how messy or small it seems at first, it’s a “real” business, and you should get started!
Riki, 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?
Chronic low back pain got me into the Pilates studio, and it helped me so much that I was hooked. Eventually I became a certified Pilates instructor and, several years later, I opened my own studio. In private training sessions and group classes, I help active adults get stronger, have more stamina, confidence and energy. I enjoy getting to know my clients and I’m a good listener. I think it’s important that clients set their own goals, and it’s my job to help them get there.
My proudest moments are when a client tells me, “I can tell Pilates is working because I was out all day Saturday at the pumpkin patch. I lifted five pumpkins, pulled them in a cart, brought them home and never felt any pain.”
Or when I ask a client to make a small adjustment to how they’re sitting and their eyes get big, their face lights up and they say, “Oh, those are my abs!”
My approach to Pilates is to use it in a way that helps people move better, so they can do more in their everyday lives.
Any advice for growing your clientele? What’s been most effective for you?
Despite the dominance of social media in our lives, word of mouth has been the most effective strategy for growing my client base. I tap into this in two ways.
I try to make each and every client feel as if they are the only client – the king or queen of my client base. I focus all my attention on them, I listen, and I let them know I care. During their workout, I make sure to challenge them, and tell them how well they’re doing and how what they’re doing will positively impact the rest of their lives. I want my clients to leave my studio and tell their friends, neighbors and relatives how great they feel and how I helped them get there.
Google is essentially free word of mouth. Having a website takes time and costs a little bit of money, but once you have one, you can use it to impact how you show up in Google search results. I try to write blog posts every month (or as often as I can), I update my website to opitmize SEO, I ask clients to submit positive reviews, and I post pictures on my Google business listing. It all helps. At least half of my clients found me by searching “Pilates near me”.
Have any books or other resources had a big impact on you?
When I first started my business, I worked with a business coach, Lesley Logan. She wrote the book Profitable Pilates, and she helped me understand all the costs that go into running a successful Pilates studio, and how to generate enough income to cover those costs and pay myself a salary. My teacher training program didn’t cover the business details, and there is no industry standard for how much to charge for your services. Without this knowledge, I was just guessing about what to charge, and what to spend on things like equipment, marketing, client acquisition and retention, etc. Lesley helped me see my own worth as an instructor and business owner – and have the confidence to charge my worth.