Now that you have been through your training, you want to maximize this major investment by choosing a location for your first Pilates studio. You’ve chosen a name for your business, hired an attorney to do the legal papers to incorporate your business, interviewed a couple of accountants, created a website (but it’s not published yet), been approved for a business line of credit, designed marketing flyers, and started looking for the perfect for equipment with the help of a Casa Pilates Equipment Commercial Sales Consultant. Now it’s time to decide where you want to plant your first studio location and there are many points to consider.
You’ve decided to NOT have a Pilates studio in your home. You want to keep business and family separate, especially if you have a spouse and maybe a kid or two! IF you are single then maybe. But for now, let’s assume you are ready to invest in a nice space for your business. Besides, you do not have the space it will take to have various apparatus in a room in your house or apartment.
How do you decide where you want to locate your Pilates studio? It really depends on whether you are in a small town or maybe a big city. A location in a smaller town has its advantages, because maybe there isn’t another Pilates studio. Or maybe there’s a gym that offers mat classes along with the other group fitness classes. You could be the first in town to offer classes and privates on the Pilates equipment. In a bigger city, you’ll have a larger target market. Obviously, there will be other Pilates studios. Look for space not too close to another successful studio.
A Pilates studio is a destination location business. People will drive from far away just to do your classes or privates. They’ve read all about Pilates and the benefits to the body and mind, want to try it, and so they will drive to you even if you are “off the beaten path”! At one time I owned Pilates studios in a large city and clients would drive 90 – 120 minutes one way to do an hour on the reformer! Crazy, but true.
If you are in a small town, then Main Street is where you want to be with high visibility or maybe just off Main Street. People need to see your signage when they are out and about. When they drive by, they will be intrigued. You can still be successful if you are in a small shopping plaza on one side of town versus in the middle of town. Foot traffic is important; an area where there are other stores like a grocery, a pharmacy, boutique apparel, restaurants, or department stores is ideal. People will see that you are open or check out the door signage for your hours and telephone number and they will probably write down the website address. They may even go to your website with their smartphone at that moment! And they may (or will) call and want to speak with someone to have their questions answered and check prices and availability. Therefore, high foot traffic is a must.
The other option is a large city. Now the challenge is still having high foot traffic, while not being too expensive for approximately 1,000square feet of space. Is the city suburban with smaller cities around the central main city, like Indianapolis, Columbus, or Philadelphia for example? Usually, inner city spaces are not very desirable, until you’ve built a brand presence. A suburban location will do you much better. Take the Phoenix, AZ, metro area (4.5 million population) that has several suburbs. Mesa has over 500,000 people, Scottsdale is over 300,000 now and inner-city Phoenix is not where you want to be, because people live now mostly in the suburbs. Once you’ve succeeded in a suburb, you can look at additional inner- city spaces with upscale housing. That’s if you want to have the challenge of owning multiple locations! But in the middle of a big city could be a great place to be after establishing your brand.
You need to have a budget, based on your income projections, for how much you can afford on a monthly basis for a space. That will determine what you will look for: a newer strip plaza or maybe an older property that could be less expensive. And you will need to have ample parking where your clients do not have to walk too far to get into the studio. The parking area needs to have good lighting too for your evening clients. Shopping plazas are great, because there are other stores that get the foot traffic you are looking for. Optics is huge in this case. Are there any other Pilates studio already open in that area? Of course, you do not want to open in a plaza that already has a Pilates studio and chances are high that the existing Pilates studio has an exclusive contract and no other Pilates business can come into that plaza.
A very important consideration is demographics. Pilates on the equipment is not cheap! Practically anyone can afford Mat classes, but maybe not so much Reformer and/or Cadillac classes and private sessions. Depending on how you structure prices, people will pay a lot more as compared to a gym membership. Doing a private session in the gym with a personal trainer will be about the same as you charge for a private Pilates session. Still, you should look in an area that has a socioeconomic demographic where median income is substantially higher than average. Your clients are in these areas; self-employed, wives of doctors, lawyers, accountants, C-Suite managers. (If I had a dollar for every time a female client said, “I wish my husband would come in and do this.”, I’d be rich!)
To conclude, if you are serious about starting your own Pilates business and opening up a studio, then take these suggestions to heart. It’s a BIG decision where you start out with your first location. Working out a decent lease contract will play into your final decision but that’s another conversation and maybe another blog post in the future! Remember these:
- Get Certified!
- Research demographics for different neighborhoods or suburbs.
- Look for high people traffic areas (retail, upscale preferred).
- Good street visibility for signage.
- Stay within your budget with a good lease. (that’s another blog post!)
- 1000 sq ft – 1500 sq ft space preferred.
- Ample parking that is well lit.
Best of luck to you!
2+ Decades experience in owning (4 locations) and teaching in Pilates studios.
Bruce Guercio Bio:
Bruce Guercio was introduced to Pilates in early 1998 by a mutual friend who owns studios in Cleveland, Ohio. By the end of the year, he was a Stott Pilates (now Merrithew) Certified Instructor and opened his first Pilates studio in Dublin, Ohio, in January 1999. He added two other locations in the Columbus Metro area, and in January 2004, he opened a location in Tucson AZ. The Dublin location was a Stott Pilates Licensed Training Center, beginning in 2005, until the sale of the business. He sold the businesses in 2014 but remains closely tied to the Pilates community, teaching on a part-time basis, based out of Tucson, and selling Pilates equipment as a Casa Pilates Equipment Commercial Sales Consultant.