The Pilatesology story
What inspired Alisa Wyatt to turn her passion for practicing classical Pilates into a formidable and successful business venture?
“I love connecting people and connecting with people, I like solving problems,” she says, adding, “I really like to create and grow things.”
Along with her husband and business partner Jack Coble, Alisa has done just that with Pilatesology, the gold standard for membership-based online Pilates classes and trainings.
Before founding their company, Alisa, then working as a publicist in the publishing industry in New York, found classical Pilates and did her teacher training with Romana Kryzanowska, arguably the most famous of the Pilates “elders” who carried on the Method after Joseph Pilates’ death.
What kept her loyal specifically to classical Pilates versus more modern interpretations (think the megaformer, etc.)?
“With classical Pilates, you’re moved to actually understand the body and what it can do – it’s not just a workout,” Alisa says. “I started doing [classical] Pilates because I wanted to be able to do something with my body, not just look better in my jeans.”
For his part, Jack was originally a travel photographer who in 2008 suggested that the pair shoot some Pilates DVDs together. They borrowed a camera and did just that, building a library of DVDs until 2012, when they took the plunge, and took their business online with a membership site.
Building a successful business partnership is complex under any circumstances, and navigating that relationship with a life partner presents unique opportunities for both challenge and growth.
“It’s not an easy thing to do to own a business together because everything you do, you’re doing together,” Alisa notes, adding ruefully. “We are always talking about work.”
She goes on to say, “But we’re building everything together, which can be really exciting!”
Jack and Alisa take breaks: they have one vacation per year, such as backpacking, where they’re totally removed from the Internet. Aside from that, communication is key to their success both on and offline.
Building an On Demand empire
“Creating a membership site is a job unto itself and it’s all consuming,” Alisa warns, adding with a laugh, “We don’t have kids for this reason.”
With a membership site, you create a community and then you have to keep feeding it all the time.
“Your members expect to see new content and if you don’t provide it, if there’s nothing new, they won’t keep coming back,” she says.
Pilatesology has over 1600 videos on the site: a huge library of workouts (on the mat, and on all of the different pieces of Pilates apparatus that exist), historical content about people that knew Joseph Pilates, interviews, opportunities for CECs and full workshops for teachers, and more. They add 3-5 videos per week.
The cost is $20 a month or $179 a year.
Since Covid hit, they started offering Zoom classes: Pilatesology Interactive allows students to connect with the teachers and improve their practice. Those are pay-per-class ($35) with a selection of playback recordings added for members into the Pilatesology On Demand library. They also offer free workouts on one of their social channels every two weeks.
Pricing is often a conundrum for fitness business owners and Pilatesology has shared that struggle.
“Our memberships bring in a steady stream of income but there is something to be said for just selling individual classes,” Alisa says, like they do on Zoom, which brings in just as much money, if not more, per person.
In other words, a membership model creates stability but doesn’t necessarily translate to making more money.
“You can just break your brain trying to figure out exactly what to do with pricing,” Alisa says.
For a studio creating an online community, she advises looking at what people would have paid for one private class or session in person, and then pricing your offering at that amount per month.
Ultimately, “If going into the video business is something you want to do, do your research, get advice, talk to people already in the business,” Alisa advises. “Hire someone you trust to help you build it. And know that what you’re doing is creating a whole new business – it’s not an aspect of your studio. If you keep that in mind going into it, you’ll be able to put the energy and time needed to make it work!”
Maintaining a strong community with a digital business
“Community is not just for member retention, but it’s what fitness business owners enjoy – having that community around you, to bolster you,” Alisa explains.
She, Jack, and their small team of part-time employees do a lot to engage that community.
“It’s important to put yourself out there in terms of social media,” Alisa says, “and respond when people write to you.”
She also says it’s important to be present in your specific fitness community itself. She and Jack attend Pilates conferences, and says, “Whenever we can, we’re always with people, getting to know them, hearing what they need and hearing what’s working for them. We reach out to people a lot.”
In their onboarding emails and in all of their interactions, Alisa encourages clients to come to her with questions about their body, what they want to see on the Pilatesology website, questions about their practice, anything at all.
“I spend a lot of time answering emails, but I really enjoy that,” she says.
Since Covid started, they began doing a lot of interviews and Q&A’s on their social channels, and Alisa makes a point to keep those events very conversational, making sure to look at what questions are coming in on Instagram Live and actually answering them. Alisa also recommends a client forum on your website or a Facebook members’ group.