Napier is a seaside city on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Sometimes referred to as the “Nice of the Pacific” or ‘The Art Deco Capital of the world, Napier is also home to the fabulous Jessica Newcomb, founder of Active Core studio.
Join us as we chat to Jessica about how she came to start her own Pilates studio, what has made it so successful, and what are some of the challenges she has faced and overcome.
Romi: Hi Jessica! Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to share your story with us. Can you start by telling us a little bit of your background and how it led you to Pilates?
Jessica: I grew up around Physiotherapists and self-employed people. I found a love in sports and fitness and wanted to learn more about exercise rehab. So, I did a mix of studies ranging from sports exercise, cupping therapy/massage and business courses. I enjoyed going to the gym, but I knew I didn’t want to be a personal trainer. So, I tried teaching group Pilates classes.
For me, it was the perfect mix between the gym and yoga. It is low impact and has so many benefits for everyone of all ages. Pilates has so much versatility in a lot of ways. I had previously trained in; learn to swim instructing, aqua aerobics instructing and loved sharing my gym knowledge with friends. Pilates instructing was just another form of sharing my knowledge and getting to help people on their fitness journey.
Romi: Why did you decide to open your own studio?
Jessica: I chose to run my own business because I need flexibility in my hours to be able to work around my family needs. Plus, I already had the space at home to create a studio without having big start-up expenses or needing to hire a space.
I wanted to create a place where you could come in, do some exercise and have a laugh. I also wanted to create an environment that was something people looked forward. I believe I have managed to create that here.
Romi: Can you share some of the hurdles you experienced when opening your studio and how you managed to overcome them?
Jessica: I opened Active Core in January 2020, and everything started off pretty well. My classes were booked, and I was getting to know my clients, but then COVID 19 happened. We had to close down along with all other studios in New Zealand, so the first year to two years were a bit of a rollercoaster with lock downs.
We’d re-open, the studio would get busy again and then something would happen, and we would either need to close or cut classes down. Over the years I have found that communication with clients, and consistency in what we offer, is how I have been able to overcome the more difficult times of running my own studio.
I try my best to create a welcoming and happy environment for clients to walk into. They can always look forward to their classes and enjoy moving their body while having a laugh along the way.
Romi: Do you have any tips for people who might be thinking of starting their own studio?
Jessica: Create a plan and just start.
I think that the hardest thing is just starting. Once you have started you have taken the scariest step. I gave myself six months to get all the information I needed before starting my studio. If I hadn’t given myself that time, I would still be working for someone else.
Another thing that I found really helpful was ‘The Pilates Business Podcast’ by Seran Glanfield. She has a lot of helpful information in her podcast to help you grow as a small boutique studio.
And lastly, reach out to your community. The best way to advertise is word of mouth but you can also try joining local Facebook groups and post on there with what you have to offer.
Romi: Your studio, Active Core is more than just Pilates, what do you feel makes it stand out from the rest?
Jessica: I have been able to create a community here at Active Core. I work really hard to learn things about my clients. Whether it is about their job, family or even their dogs’ names. I always try to learn something to build that relationship. It is very important that everyone feels valued.
This is easier to do because I am the only instructor so I see everyone, but I would like to think my clients come to my studio because of the way it feels, and because they truly enjoy the chit chat throughout the sessions and the laughs. They get to make new friends and build relationships with like-minded people.
We are a social studio and I try to make that a clear and consistent message so that when someone new comes to the studio they have a clear idea of what we have to offer compared to others.
Romi: One thing I love about your website is the challenge feature! It’s such a fun way to motivate and challenge your students. Was this something you always knew you wanted to do?
Jessica: The Challenge page was created to give my clients that extra boost of motivation to be consistent with their exercise. With the challenges there are a mix of different types and durations.
I have a Core based one, a Relaxing one and so forth. This is my way of being able to tailor programs for people that don’t necessarily want to come into the studio or have to think too much about it. It’s all there for them and they just pick which they’re in the mood for.
Romi: Can you share a bit about your future plans and dreams for Active Core?
Jessica: In the future, I would love to create more of a wellness space. There would be massage, Physiotherapy, Osteopath, a cafe and maybe even an activewear shop. I want a space that is everything may need in one place.
Like a “wellness hub”. That would be the dream.
Romi: You’ve been using Bookamat since 2021. What is your favourite thing or feature about Bookamat?
Jessica: The convenience. Previously I used an Excel spreadsheet to track my client’s bookings, payments etc. It took up a lot of time and I had notes all over the place. Moving to Bookamat was so easy.
My clients are now able to manage their bookings, pay through the app and all without contacting me. Some clients I still help but when you have over 90 people in and out of the studio each week, Bookamat makes it so much easier to keep on top of things.
Romi: Is there one feature you would like to see included in Bookamat?
Some clients like to tell me why they have cancelled. So, if Bookamat had a ‘reason for cancelling/comment box’ that would be a nice addition, plus having a few pre-filled options such as ‘I’m sick, sick kids, away’ etc.
Romi: Jessica, thank you so much for taking time out from your busy schedule to share your journey with us. It has been an inspiring pleasure getting to know more about you and your busy studio, Active Core.
We are thrilled to know that Bookamat provides you with the convenience to be able to easily manage your busy studio and will see what we can do about adding a ‘reason for cancelling’ section for clients in a future update.
If you would love to meet some of the other incredible studio owners we’ve interviewed, then check out our Studio Spotlight blog posts!