Your business is called The Pilates Loft – what does this entail?
We teach Mat & equipment Pilates classes, as well as private lessons. The Pilates loft has two locations: one in Allentown and one in North Buffalo. Including myself, there are three teachers on staff.
How did you come up with the idea?
As a dancer, I was exposed to many Mat Pilates exercises without really knowing what they were. Then, a friend of mine, Patty Farkus-Sprague, went through the certification to become a teacher, and I started to really understand the exercise vocabulary and principles of this method. As Patty went through the training, I was lucky enough to be an occasional “practice body” for her. I decided to follow her lead after my daughter was born; I knew I wouldn’t want to still be teaching ballet when my daughter was old enough to attend school because dance teachers mostly work in the after school hours. I did all my mentoring and observation hours at Patty’s studio in Williamsville, and then began teaching in my own space once I was certified.
How did your idea transfer from a previous career to this career?
I was a professional ballet & modern dancer before settling in Buffalo. Like many people who come here temporarily, I just found it way too easy to stay. Sadly, that did mean that my professional dance career gradually slipped away… but I absolutely use my love and knowledge of dance when instructing clients in the Pilates method. Joseph Pilates was not a dancer, himself, but he worked with many dancers; and it was these clients who progressed his method after his death. There’s a similarity between dance & Pilates in their precision, alignment, and mindful way of moving.
What difficulties did you encounter when you started up?
When I started in 2001, marketing was very expensive. I couldn’t afford to advertise in print very regularly. Also, I was tinkering with the class schedule so much, at first, that I didn’t want to pay a lot to have schedules printed. Social media has changed all that.
Additionally, in 2001, most people didn’t know what Pilates was! There was a lot of basic explaining involved in getting the word out. And talking people out of being intimidated by the machines! A lot of “…no, it’s not a form of yoga” and “yes, really, any body can do it!”
What kept you going? What prevented you from giving up?
I love that I can create my own schedule. I love that everyday is different, every client is different; I can do my own research and decide on my own approach to these challenges. Plus, we own our building on Allen Street where my husband (architect, Brad Wales) created a gorgeous, open loft space… so it’s a no-commute, no-rent, beautiful situation!
Do you ever encounter naysayers? If so, what do you say to them?
In 17 years of running my business, I’ve never had anyone outright tell me I’m doing it wrong– or be confrontational in any way. But I’ve certainly had a few clients who don’t want to perform an exercise that I ask of them. That’s usually because they’re afraid, so we either work towards it, or simply work around it.
What made you realize that Intellectual property protection would be important?
If one were to perform every Pilates Mat exercise designed by Joseph Pilates, back to back, it would take over an hour and there would be no linking transitions, no preps to get you ready. If you regurgitated this work-out every week, you’d get bored! So as much as I view Joseph Pilates as a genius, I understand that as a teacher of his method, I have a responsibility to both honor his work and also to create an appropriate, creative, and challenging experience for each person in the class. I alter things constantly– after 20+ years of practicing and teaching Pilates, this ex-dancer just has to choreograph! I joke, on occasion, that we’ve left Pilates and begun “Elkins”… one day, my lovely client, Rebecca Stadler, asked if I’d ever considered registering my method. It took me a while to grasp the importance of it—it initially felt like I was boasting– but she explained that the inflections I’ve made to the voice of Pilates are profound enough to make a distinction. The years I spent as a dancer and my personal way-of-moving, have contributed to the way-I-teach in my studio. Ms. Stadler convinced me that that is worth something and should be protected.
What intellectual property protection did you obtain?
LLC and Servicemark for Elkins Method Pilates
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