Running before you can walk

Profiling a Prince’s Trust supported entrepreneur

Ruth Simmonds has a high energy ‘go for it’ style which would seem to be at odds with her chosen business pursuits – as a Pilates instructor and, more recently, coaching other Pilates instructors.

From the little I know about Pilates, it seems to be about controlled physical exercise accompanied by mindful relaxation. This contrasts sharply with the animated exchange that is a conversation with Ruth Simmonds, founder of Therapy Through Pilates.

The apparent contradiction is explained by a serious back injury that put Ruth – a former dance teacher – in bed for sixth months and led to her discovering Pilates as part of her rehabilitation. “A full workout that aligns the body to overcome pain” is how Ruth describes the discipline.

Being bed-bound meant she had time to hatch her business idea, plan it – “a business plan is good for getting you thinking about things you wouldn’t have done otherwise” says Ruth –  researching the market, and networking. “You’ll never build a business on your own” she adds.

In a canny move that involved charging others for instruction while she herself was learning how to be a Pilates instructor, Ruth built up a small but growing core of paying customers by running two classes in a local venue. As well as generating income, she says this test trading “built my confidence and got me used to charging for my services. I find people can be funny about charging – that’s no way to run a business!”

She credits the Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme with “giving me a push to turn the idea into a business.” With that gentle push – in recognition of the bad back – the business was up and running within a couple of months of Ruth’s recovery from the injury. Ruth describes herself as a “bit of a driver” and success means she now has others to do admin and instructors working for her.

This success has freed up time for her to pursue a new, but related, business venture – supporting Pilates instructors to develop themselves and their businesses through 1-2-1 coaching and group retreats at home and abroad.

Despite her personal effort, energy and determination, Ruth acknowledges the contribution of her Prince’s Trust business mentor. ”The mentoring is probably one of the best things about the programme. You’re sometimes too close to the business yourself to see the opportunities – you need someone outside to say ‘have you thought of doing it like this?’”

For marketing support and advice, Ruth went elsewhere through a family connection and has focussed on Facebook as her communication channel of choice for reaching new clients online. “I started with boosted posts, then went into Facebook groups and other social networks to explain the benefits of Pilates in everyday life. I offered free taster sessions – it worked well to go one further and get people to experience the benefits for themselves.”

But Ruth advises against trying all social media channels at once “You’ll be spreading yourself too thinly and it makes it difficult to track what’s working.”

The move from being a Pilates instructor to helping other instructors develop their businesses reflects Ruth’s interest in how mindset can help (or hinder) business development and, ultimately, success. Her own mindset has everything to do with being positive. “I’m someone who jumps in the deep end and, while I wouldn’t necessarily encourage others to do this, I give it my all and learn when things go wrong. There were times when my mentor advised me not to do something and I went ahead and did it anyway… and it worked!”

That said, Ruth admits she’s not too proud to ask for help. “If I hit a brick wall, I’ll reach out to others – for advice, information or inspiration. When you put yourself out there, there’s always an underlying fear of rejection – it can be scary.”   

Further information:      

Therapy through Pilates https://www.facebook.com/therapythroughpilates

Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme  https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/help-for-young-people/support-starting-business  

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