One of the most frequent topics I am emailed about is business related. So many of you are interested in a career in fitness and this makes me so happy! I recently spoke at the Cosmopolitan ‘Self-Made Summit’ about starting a fitness business whilst working full time so for those who couldn’t make it I wanted to offer my top tips on making that gigantic, and very scary leap.
For those who don’t know my story I used to be a pastry chef/chocolatier. It was the career I had wanted for as long as I could remember. I think it was probably the ‘I’ll get to eat chocolate all day’ concept that drew me to it. Alas it was not all it was cracked up to be, so after 12 of the toughest months culminated in a very underweight, depressed Hollie I left without even being able to contemplate working my notice. My career in Pastry was over and to say I was lost was an understatement.
An amazing friend of mine, to whom I will be eternally grateful, told me that she was working within a Pilates studio and that they needed a receptionist and I should take it whilst I got my head together. I took it. I fell in love with Pilates. It was all about how your body felt, not how it looked, and I was sold. After a few months I was made manager of the studio.
I loved both the business development side of things but also loved Pilates and so I decided to leave (stay with me) and do my Pilates training. The owner offered me a job immediately and eventually I became Head Trainer there, and at another studio in London too. I got to practice being a ‘business owner’ on someone else’s business. I learnt invaluable skills such as book keeping, HR, business development, marketing, branding and with both studios business owners living abroad I was given a lot of freedom. Inevitably, with the creation of The Pilates PT Method, the time came for me to go it on my own and I have never looked back.
So, what did I learn, and what can I advise to you?
Try Before You Buy
Where possible do work experience or part time employment in the industry your business is in. I cannot recommend this enough. This way you get to learn the ropes and make mistakes on someone else’s time. I know that sounds brutal but the company benefits from your passion too. Its invaluable experience and you can see the benchmark set by others.
Be a Mole
I attended almost all the Pilates studios in London initially to see what worked, and more importantly what didn’t. If you know what everyone else is doing, you can spot the USP more easily. Aim for a solid USP and if you don’t have one you need to know why will you be better than the others out there? You will HAVE to be better or different, otherwise you won’t last in such a competitive industry.
Get the product or service out there whether it’s trialling your product at a local market or practicing your service on strangers you need to know it works before making the jump. I tested out The Pilates PT Method on the 8pm class at the Pilates studio I worked in. When it became the most popular class on the schedule I knew I needed my own studio.
Speak to Impartial Advisors
This does not mean your mum! Run your idea by people who have no emotional connection to you and don’t want you as a friend. They will say what others won’t. My mum would support me even if I said I was going to set up a business selling rat poo (because she’s lovely) but you may need someone to bring you back to reality.
[Are you enjoying this blog on how to start a fitness business? If so, make sure you read my blog post on 5 Top Tips on Becoming a Pilates Instructor HERE]
Self-fund Where Possible
Whilst you are still in paid employment save as much money as you can. The less debt you are in when opening a new business the less pressure on your shoulders! This may not always be possible (product-based businesses need huge amounts of capital) but crowd-funding options can help with this issue, plus they’ll provide a potential, and loyal, client base.
Trust your gut
There is no crystal ball so sometimes you just have to trust your gut and hope it all pays off. Jump and the net will appear some say. There’s nothing like needing to pay your mortgage for motivation, is what I say.
Wear Lots of Hats
You can learn a lot about taxes, marketing and website building online and this may be enough to get your business off the ground. When you then have the funds you can outsource the tasks you either hate or are simply not good at. For me it’s having an accountant!
Get a Business Coach
When your business is fully-fledged, and you are expanding, get yourself some help. It’s one thing starting a business, it’s another thing growing one. Lauren Armes was mine and she was worth every penny!
All in all running a business (and indeed fitness business) is one of the most satisfying things you can do. But, you will have to be prepared for endless hard work and sacrifice. Try to surround yourself with other business women – that way you can share contacts, give honest opinions and advice to others and you will have a strong support network who won’t be afraid to admit that they have messed up a million times before too. You can do it!