fitness expert

Q&A with Fitness Entrepreneur, Elaine Starr

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?

Email: info@starrpilatesla.com

Website: www.starrpilatesla.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/starrpilatesla

Instagram: www.instagram.com.starrpilates

 

Q&A with the Founder of My Kanthaka, Sylvia Kampshoff

Sylvia Kampshoff

Sylvia Kampshoff is a former Debt Finance and Mergers & Acquisitions attorney having worked in Munich, London, Houston, Chicago and Sydney. After the birth of her son Tristan, she decided to follow her passion and start Kanthaka, a personal trainer on-demand App (basically Uber for personal trainers). Her vision is to revolutionize the fitness industry and make the US a happier and healthier place by giving everybody the possibility to stay fit.

Can you tell our readers about your background?

I am from Munich, Germany, where I went to law school and started working as an M&A attorney at Kirkland & Ellis. As my husband and I were always passionate about traveling we moved to London after three years and thereafter to the US. As we lived in Austin before and Kirkland & Ellis had just opened a new office in Houston we knew that is where we want to be. We love Texas, the hot weather and very outdoor and friendly lifestyle.

What inspired you to start your business?

I love working out and living a healthy fit life but have difficulties to motivate myself. That is why during our time in London I started working out with a personal trainer what was way more fun for me and really kept me engaged. When we moved to Houston I wanted to find a personal trainer again but just couldn’t find an easy tool to book a trainer on short notice. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of contacting a trainer through one of the various personal trainer websites and having to wait for days for a response.

Additionally, I didn’t want to sign up with a trainer at the big box gym chains, where you have to commit for at least a year and get a trainer assigned you have to stick with having very limited availabilities. I was looking for a tool with which I could easily book vetted trainers on short notice to any location of my choice. When my son Tristan was born I decided to change my life, follow my passion and start Kanthaka to enable everybody to workout on their own schedule, anytime and anywhere they want.

Where is your business based?

Our App is life in Houston and we are launching Austin January of 2018.

How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?

I talked a lot with trainers as well as potential clients to figure out if there is really a need for our App. We figured out fast that the personal training market in its current situation is broken and people are searching for something different. Pretty quickly afterwards, we started looking for a development team and found an amazing team in India over Upwork (with who we still work together).

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?

We have built both a presence on social media, as well as tried to become a part of the local fitness community, working together with brands like Lululemon or Athleta and supporting the fitness community with free events/classes.

What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

We saw a lot of traction by people downloading the App since the day we have launched. Our challenge at the beginning was to convert them into actual clients. We had to build up trust in the community as we were the first on-demand personal trainer App in Houston. The more active clients we got on the App who all loved the experience and shared it, the easier it got to attract new ones.

How do you stay focused?

I tend to work with a to-do list and prioritize according to the items which bring traction and clients the fastest. Also, I set myself milestones I want to achieve in a certain period of time. Talking with my husband and brainstorming with him also always helps me immensely to focus on the right workstreams. Additionally, I have some great advisors who help me stay focused.

How do you differentiate your business from the competition?

We focus on operational excellence. All our trainers are interviewed in person, trained with by one of our team members, certified and insured. We are in a regular contact with our trainers to ensure the best service for our clients. We are a point of contact for clients 24/7, always trying to make them happy in any way possible. We want our clients to feel like they have their personal Kanthaka concierge always there for them during their fitness journey.

What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?

We found that the App store search advertisements work very well as well as digital marketing in general. Besides that, we believe it is important to provide the best service possible to our clients and an awesome fitness experience as thereby our clients become the best brand ambassadors themselves.

What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?

Never give up. Don't let anybody who never started their own company tell you what you are doing is wrong. You will receive a lot of advice. Try to find a couple of mentors you really trust and listen to and don't get distracted by every advise you get. Be self-confident when pitching for investment. You should spend 30% of your time (in case you are a sole founder) on raising money and building up relationships with investors. Keep them updated on major milestones on a regular basis (even during times you are not in fundraising mode).

What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?

My favorite App is Kanthaka. I book different trainers at different locations depending on where my schedule brings me. It is super easy and convenient and allows me to stay fit despite working long, unpredictable hours.

My favorite book business wise is Traction by Gabriel Weinberg. It walks you through any potential traction channel and gives you some great ideas to get started marketing your company.

I am not very active on blogs (besides the Kanthaka one:) and don’t have a favorite one.

What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?

Upwork (https://www.upwork.com), awesome tool to find great freelancers if you are working on a tight budget. Evernote (https://evernote.com) to take notes and hello sign (https://www.hellosign.com) to organize your signatures under legal agreements.

Who is your business role model? Why?

I don’t really have a role model. I follow ClassPass's success story. It is amazing what the founder, Payal Kadakia has built all based on a passion about fitness.

What do you have planned for the next six months?

We are looking forward to launching Austin in January of 2018 and Dallas within the first half of 2018. We want to continually strengthen our client and trainer base focused on providing the best fitness service you can find.

How can our readers connect with you?

sylvia.kampshoff@mykanthaka.com

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kanthaka/id1217953157?ls=1&mt=8

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KanthakaApp/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kanthaka_app/?hl=en

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kanthaka_app?lang=en

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sylvia-kampshoff-ph-d-19a4b5117/