'Dashing in with'... Hollie Grant, Founder of PilatesPT

I met Hollie 4 years whilst filming a video for Sweaty Betty and I have followed her amazing journey ever since. When you start a new business venture, you sometimes wonder if you're doing the right thing and occasionally have moments of doubt (that's completely normal), but being friends with Hollie and watching her journey always makes me dig that little bit deeper, work that little bit harder because I can see what hard work and dedication can achieve. I also chose to interview Hollie because whilst I totally respect her work ethic, I love how she stresses the importance of down time and promotes that all important work life balance. Enjoy the read!

What made you start PilatesPT?

After 4 years as a Pilates Instructor and thousands of Reformer Pilates classes taught I was noticing a gap in the market. I’d heard of every diet, every aesthetic goal and every fitness fad out there and I was growing saddened by the fitness offerings available, and the way they marketed themselves based on women’s insecurities. I knew that Pilates was amazing, it is powerful at strengthening the body and improving posture, but on its own it doesn’t target the cardiovascular system, which is an important part of our health. I started to do some research into time efficient ways to improve cardiovascular fitness, I went back and got further qualifications and I decided to add HIIT (high intensity interval training) into my client’s workouts. The results were amazing. My clients felt stronger, fitter and healthier but also empowered to test their bodies and apply for marathons, triathlons and try new things. I named the training style ‘The Model Method’ because it was the perfect fitness model, branded it and continuously adapted it until I was completely happy with the structure. This saw the start of a rapid growth phase for the business, receiving exposure in press such as The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Evening Standard and Tatler. With an influx of new client requests I had to find my own studio, quickly, and I found the perfect space in Fulham. This PilatesPT studio is now 4 years old and we opened our second studio in Knightsbridge in February. Requests from women around the world came in for Model Method videos for them to do at home and after 12 months of research and planning I launched The Model Method Online in 2016 - a personalised fitness plan that incorporates Model Method workouts with exclusive expert content, a Headspace subscription, a luxury starter pack and my book ‘The Model Method’

What was your mission at the outset?

My mission was, and always has been, to inspire women to learn to love and respect their bodies. This mission is at the core of everything we do. We want to encourage women to enjoy exercise, not dread it, and to see it as a positive addition to their lives, not a punishment given for overeating at Christmas. I grew up with a father in the Parachute Regiment so exercise was always a normal part of my life but to see so many women fear it was a real shock for me. This mission, and the vision of wanting to enjoy my career forever, is always kept in mind when we are offered new opportunities. If it doesn’t sit well with our brand mission we say no.

What is your biggest achievement in business?

For me business achievements sit in two categories. There are the physical ones, which for me would be opening our second studio within the iconic Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge in February. The hotel loved that PilatesPT was owned by a woman, ran by women, and had a performance-based aspect rather than aesthetic. I feel so proud to have our beautiful studio in such an established hotel and I really look forward to seeing how the collaboration grows. I also feel a great sense of personal achievement in the knowledge that we’ve always been very responsible in how we market our company. We try to show the positive sides to exercise rather than berate the negative effects of not exercising and we never discuss weight-loss. We turn down a lot of press that is diet-culture themed and we strongly believe that others should follow suit. 

You clearly use social media a lot, what are your views on social media for both personal and business use?

Hmm. If I’m honest I’m not a huge fan of social media. Or at least I wasn’t for a long time. Social media is a tricky mistress. It can be used to compare and judge, which I have found has made women unhappier with their bodies. It can suck the life out of you for a good hours train journey, which could have been better spent reading a book or listening to a podcast, and it can cause you to measure yourself based on likes and followers rather than your message. A year or so ago I cleaned up my social media. I deleted any accounts that made me feel anything less than perfect (which ended up being a lot of fitness influencers) and I started mixing up the people I followed a bit more. I added women to my feed who had bodies that were all shapes and sizes, colours and religions, and sexual orientations. I also looked for women who were trying to boost womens happiness, not insecurities. The fitness industry can be very white/middle class/thin and that is not a true reflection of women. From a business perspective it is a great tool for communicating our message, showing potential clients our studios and demonstrating what Pilates is, but I try to get in and get out when it comes to social media. I would really recommend following these incredible women for positive inspiration:

@Bodyposipanda

@Mynameisjessamyn

@Laurathomasphd

@annasofiakessel

@bryonygordon

What would your advice be to people like myself and other aspiring business woman about getting the right work life/family balance?

Oooh good question. Does anyone really have the answer I would say that you need to set rules and boundaries. For years I worked evenings, weekends and bank holidays and I remember them being some of the darkest and loneliest days as I watched my friends and family having fun. You down want to resent your business especially when being your own boss is about flexibility, and the hours and pressure are bad enough. So, I never work weekends, evenings, or bank holidays unless something extraordinary comes up. I am lucky enough to have an office in my house (my husband works from home too) and we make sure we shut the office door at the end of the night and have a beer and try not to discuss work. It can be really tricky to switch off so exercise and meditation is key for me, and knowing when to leave decisions until tomorrow is vital. 

Do you feel you have a good worklife/family balance?

When I am in ‘work hours’ I am working like mad. I rush around a lot and don’t sit still so those hours can feel quite draining or frantic BUT when I am off work, such as on weekends, I almost completely switch off. My husband started working for PilatesPT a year ago and that means we have to be really careful to not talk about work on holiday or date nights, but we have got pretty good at that now. I have no idea how I would fit a baby into the mix but I am sure we would evolve and make the necessary changes. Having your own business gives you more flexibility than a 9-5 job and I think flexibility is exactly what you need with a new baby. 

To what do you attribute your success?

I grew up with a mother who taught me that you can do anything a man can do, and to be financially independent, and a dad who taught me that if you are going to do something you should aim to be the best. Together that has given me a very strong work ethic. Before I became a Pilates instructor I was a pastry chef and the high-pressure environment led to me developing depression. I will never let a job affect my happiness again and I am trying to build a business that makes me happy, as well as financially secure. 

If you had one piece of advice for somebody just starting a business, what would it be?

Trust your gut, but only so far – I honestly think it’s true that gut feelings are a real thing and should be listened to BUT sometimes it’s just change we are scared of. Setting up a business is scary. There is no crystal ball to tell you if your plan will work and you can strategize and forecast as much as you like but sometimes you just have to say “Sod it” and give it a go. As long as you can say you did your research, you got experience in your chosen sector, asked for impartial advice and tested your product or service, you have to leave the rest to chance and just work your bum off. 

What does the future hold for PilatesPT?

The business is going through another period of growth at present with a new product in process, further studios in the pipeline and the addition of new staff. It’s an exciting period but there are also many decisions to make and risks to be taken. All I know is that I want as many women as possible to have access to training that is safe, responsible and inclusive of all body shapes and sizes. I want those who prey on women’s insecurities to quieten down, and for women to see that exercise is a joy not a chore. 

Website: www.pilatespt.co.uk

Locations: Fulham, Knightsbridge, Carnaby Street, Online

Email: info@pilates.co.uk

Number: 02030268342

Instagram: @thepilatespt

Twitter: @pilatespt

Facebook: @pilatespt1

Nicole Clewer