Kristin Ferrie has been teaching pilates since 1997. From her studio in Ilkley, England she teaches a range of students; all ages, genders and abilities are welcome. She teaches students who are teenagers, who are in their eighties, professional athletes and dancers. For over a decade Ferrie ran a successful and stable business – until the Pandemic hit and everything changed. Ferrie remembers March of 2020, as she watched all the cancellation emails rolling in and feeling completely helpless. But instead of closing up shop permanently Ferrie was able to pull of the successful Pandemic pivot. She set out to open a new studio and to help with income, she started carrying fitness apparel brand Lululemon, creating a space where she teaches and trains but also has a shop component. Today Ferrie is thrilled to be back to teaching in person at her Pure Pilates studio and to have not only survived during the Pandemic – but to have found a way to thrive.
Ferrie’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I have always loved teaching and helping people. I started the studio so I could practice the work that I love, be in one place after years of traveling and teaching but also to be part of people’s journey to feeling stronger and healthier. Being part of someones life and journey is an incredible privilege. As a business, I wanted to offer the best service and make everyone feel welcome and safe. We can feel incredibly vulnerable when we take those first steps to becoming the best we can be, or recovering from injury, it was important to create the atmosphere for this but also somewhere fun. I had dreamt of having my own space for a really long time, I wanted a sanctuary for me but also those I teach. I was so nervous and excited and after moving to a new premises almost 12 years after I started. I’ve felt the weight of that but also have been able to fulfill my original vision.
How do you define success?
Success is loving your work and being paid to do that. Financial goals, just being able to pay for itself each month is always an achievement but working hard to be able to buy my first home was a big deal. Helping someone do something they didn’t think they could or be pain free for the first time in a long time is a big success. I am a mother of two and I really love my work, to be able to do both well is the ultimate success, I am lucky and can design my schedule so I can have both things in my world, balance is always the hardest and I fully acknowledge I won’t get it right all the time but I work hard to try everyday.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
Moving to my new premises and opening Lululemon after surviving the struggle of the pandemic have been massive achievements, I’ve also never been more sure of something and the direction I want the business to go. The ethos of everything that Ive done over the years matches perfectly with Lululemon’s and how they function as a company, the wellness belief they have but also have grown over the years.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Finding teachers that are fully qualified has been my biggest challenge for the last 11 years. There is a huge amount of talent in the North but there just isn’t the opportunity to train to the level I need or want. It’s a lot for someone to do an apprenticeship, add on traveling to London all the time or overseas, it is just not possible or desirable for so many. I have brought Romana’s Pilates teacher training to the North so that more people have the opportunity to train properly, with the best in the global industry. This program will bring guest teachers from all over here and give people the opportunity for a better choice. It also makes the pool of people I can hire bigger, I want to create a welcoming, nurturing Pilates family up here so everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I had my second son in my second year of business. As a small business with just me with no staff it was the first big hurdle I had to over come. Daily balance of motherhood and home life is something any business owner struggles with, some days we win, some we don’t. Financially, my biggest difficulty has been the pandemic, one moment I had a successful business with a busy schedule then the cancellations started to come in. My heart broke with every ‘Please can you cancel my classes for the foreseeable’ email I got. I remember I received twenty in one day about three weeks before we locked down. I cried pretty much for a month – there was absolutely nothing I could do.
For the first time in almost ten years, I wasn’t sure if I could pay my rent and certainly didn’t think I could pay myself. I remember saying to my youngest in the bathroom the week of lockdown was announced, “Don’t worry baby, I did it and started with absolutely nothing before, I can do it again.” Having the studio 10th anniversary by myself in the studio, without my people was really hard. I did about fifty takes of the video I was sending out to them but kept crying, I missed my people! However, I do believe there is a learning moment in all the bad and this one gave me time to step back, take a broad honest view of the business, what I liked, what worked, what didn’t, what I was good at and what I wasn’t.
I then decided to dream: if I could do anything with it what would I do? What do I really want with my career? And that’s when I took the big step to a new premises and opening a retail store. What I have now that I didn’t have twelve years a go is experience, knowledge but also a studio of incredible clients that believe in me and trust me. I feel blessed everyday to have them and to get to be part of their worlds.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
It is really important that you believe in what you’re doing. Be the best you can be, don’t try to mimic someone else or their path. Be true to yourself because any business that’s successful really is down to the people.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I listen to my gut instincts. You’ve got to be honest with yourself, even on the days you don’t want to get up and you’ve had enough. Give yourself a moment to think about where you’ve come from, where you want to go. No one is going to give you it and nothing worth anything is easy. Knowing I’ve done my best regardless of the outcome and when it’s not a good day I always ask myself “What did you learn that you didn’t know before? What did you learn that you couldn’t have with out this experience?”
Who is your most important role model?
My role models are my parents, no matter what I aimed for they always believed in me, always. Even when they maybe thought I was over stretching. Believing in people is genuinely the best gift we can give, lifting others up makes for a world I want my boys to be in.