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Amy Ell
Gyrotonic Houston

History of the entrepreneur: Experience, Education and Path to Business Ownership
How long have you been practicing Pilates?
Did you always want to be a Pilates teacher or did you have another career path before Pilates?
Amy Ell received her Bachelor's degree in Exercise Science. She began her career as a professional dancer in 1986 and has been practicing Pilates since 1989.  Amy was certified as a Pilates instructor through the Physical Mind Institute and Elizabeth Jones-Boswell. She also studied with master trainers such as Kathy Corey, Ron Fletcher, Colleen Glenn, Alan Herdman, Barbara Huttner, Rael Isacowitz, Michael King and Karen Klippenger.

In addition to her experience in dance and Pilates Amy has a strong background in Gyrotonics. Amy is a certified Gyrotinc and Gyrokinesis Master Trainer, Gyrotonic Leg Extension Master Trainer, and Gyrotonic Archway Master Trainer. Amy has completed training and is a certified teacher on the Gyrotonic Jump Stretch Board, the Gyrotonic Ladder, and the Gyrotoner. Amy is a Level 2 certified instructor of both Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis in addition to completion of specialized courses in cervical spine/shoulder rehabilitation, lumbar spine/pelvic rehabilitation, scoliosis and Gyrotonic for golfers. Amy also has experience in Areals and began practicing the art in 2007.

Origin of the Business: The Business Idea
Where did the business idea come from?
When did you know that you wanted to open your own Pilates studio? What makes your studio unique?
Amy made the decision to open her own Pilates studio when she was asked by her employer to sign an unrealistic non-compete clause. Amy soon discovered that she could make more money teaching just a few personal clients a week than she could by teaching full time for 2 weeks for someone else. Pilates was never Amy's passion or focus but was the start of her versatile business and a great way for her to stay in her field and pay the bills. Pilates kept her moving and engaged!

Resources required: The Start-Up
How did you fund your business?
Amy took out no loans and her business required no start-up money. She started working out of her garage apartment and used equipment given to her by a friend. As her business grew she accommodated the growth and moved to a larger location.  When Amy moved to a larger location one of her clients traded purchasing Amy additional equipment in exchange for a set number of Pilates sessions.

Financial Projections
Did you have financial projections? If so, were your projections accurate?
Amy made no formal business or financial plans/projections. Amy's philosophy is to go through every open door and to take small risks!!!

Hurdles & Stumbles
What do you wish you knew before you opened your business?
What your biggest challenges, and how did you overcome them?
Amy has had many hurdles and stumbles but enjoys surprises and relishes a challenge! Amy discovered that when you hire employees you need to know that they can leave and take clients with them. She thought about having her employers sign a non-compete clause but decided she did not want that sort of environment in her business. Amy says that it is essential you be prepared for your employees to leave because they will!

Delegate! Amy wished that she had learned to delegate sooner. She says that while it is difficult to relinquish control, it is better to do less but do it well. Finally, Amy believes that the way you deal with people is incredibly important as relationships are everything.

The Future:
What are the future objectives for the business?
What are your ideals/goals for the future of your business?
Amy hopes to continue building her Gyrotonic business as well as the theater aspect of her company. She hopes to purchase additional equipment to assist in further developing theatrical performance. She hopes that her performance company, Vault, will continue to grow and do more touring. Finally she hopes to have the opportunity to teach more areal.

The Insights
-Take small risks!
-Find ways to stay close to your art form.
-Get your degree then do what you love
-Location matters
-Go through every open door
-Listen to your employees, often they have better ideas than you do