Q&A with Fitness Entrepreneur, Elaine Starr
Elaine Starr is the owner and head Pilates instructor at Starr Pilates. She is certified through Long Beach Dance Conditioning under Marie-Jose Blom. Elaine uses her professional dance background and extensive movement training to create effective and challenging Pilates workouts in a fun and supportive environment.
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I started taking Pilates when I was in my teens while training to be a professional dancer. Years later I was dancing full-time with a professional company and went to a Pilates class with a fellow dancer. I realized many of the exercises were so challenging for me which blew me away. I was dancing 6-8 hours a day but certain muscle groups weren’t developed enough to support me. I became determined to figure this Pilates thing out.
What inspired you to start your business?
After teaching for almost ten years I was craving a change. Starting Starr Pilates was that extra element that tied in my interests in design and photography and includes a unique take on the fitness lifestyle. I’ve been lucky to work at some of the most beautiful studios in LA and under some really great businesswomen. Becoming my own boss was the way I could take things to the next level and really express myself.
Where is your business based?
My business is based in Los Angeles on Melrose Ave. I see clients that live and work in many areas: Downtown LA, Hollywood, Silverlake, Hancock Park, Koreatown, Los Feliz, Miracle Mile. It’s a great little stretch that has cool historic buildings and there is a wonderful community of small businesses springing up. And I can walk to work.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
There were quite a few stops and starts along the way. At first, I thought I would call my business Body Downtown and rent a loft in Downtown LA and teach out of there. But then I met my now husband Mark Starr and moved to Hollywood with him. When we became engaged Starr Pilates was born. I was lucky enough to have a bit of a following from teaching all over LA so when I finally set down roots it all flowed.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Referrals. I cannot thank all my clients enough for their glowing recommendations!
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge to this day is asking for help. I want to be able to do it all. Starting a business was the best thing that happened to me because I learned how to take risks and make mistakes and be able to say, “That flopped but I’m still here.”
How do you stay focused?
I stay inspired by taking Pilates classes from other teachers. I still dance and go see dance performances, the physicality of dancers is the ultimate inspiration. Having a curated playlist helps keep me energized. This week it’s a mix of Tess Parks, the Standells, Mott the Hoople and Young MC. I make a calendar at the beginning of the week and schedule my workouts, block out my office hours and personal errands. I also make at the start of the week at least one easy breakfast option I can have at the studio with me and one big batch of soup or spiralized noodle pad thai that I can have for a quick dinner. And I teach better when I feel put together. Some of my favorites these days are from Carbon 38 and Electric and Rose.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
We offer smaller size classes so it really gives clients the chance to learn the why and how of exercises. I find it ultimately helps people save resources because I’ve seen clients who are working out in group classes 4-7 or more times a week switch to 2 times a week and start getting results instead of just training the same patterns. It’s also a great way to be introduced to Pilates. Clients get to understand the unique nature of Pilates instead of trying to learn on the fly in a large class where they may compare themselves to people who have been working out a long time. A lot of Pilates exercises can seem awkward or inaccessible at first but that’s what makes it great because it breaks you out of your comfort zone. Having someone there to help guide you through the process helps immensely.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
My marketing strategy is a few different layers of in-person networking, social media, email marketing, blogging and the periodic Google or Facebook ad. I realized no one specific thing was going to make the business so I just started consistently applying what I was hearing in podcasts. I got really clear on who I was and what I offered and the rest took care of itself. I eventually ended up hiring a business consultant who really pinpoints where I should focus my energies.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
If you love something and can communicate it to other people then you are golden. When I started working out properly and seeing more results I couldn’t wait to share it. I wanted people to know that they didn’t have to go to the gym for hours at a time to feel and look the way they wanted.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is Instagram. It’s the modern day visual version of the mix-tape. My favorite blog is The Minimalist Baker. Everything is 10 ingredients, one bowl or 30 minutes or less and most recipes are vegan and gluten-free. My favorite book is Ballerina by Edward Stewart. It just captures the dance culture in New York in the 70s so well.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
MindBody Online changed my life. In 2017, I danced in two major ballets, moved my business and got married. When I finally automated my scheduling I was so much more efficient.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Ryan Heffington of the Sweat Spot. His creativity reaches so many levels he has made expression through dance accessible to everyone. Lauren Kleban of LEKfit really cares about her clients and sets a really great example of self-care and kindness. I’d like to offer streaming workouts in the future. I love New York Pilates branding and music. And those TEASER t-shirts are genius.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
I’ve got some great things planned for the next six months. I’m working on ways to grow and connect the Starr Pilates community and support other female-owned brands.
How can our readers connect with you?