It’s another glorious week, spring has definitely sprung and I’m raring to go with this weeks goals, as I’m sure you are too. To kick the week off week, I’m chatting to Julia Scodie from Exercise in The City to give us some fabulous Monday motivation!
I don’t know about you, but I have a recurring issue with my fitness/work balance, and the pattern goes a little like this; I’ve decided to start a new fitness regime, but decided to put it off until Monday, because, well, it’s the weekend! And when Monday comes around I’m so busy at work that I put it off my fitness plans until later in the week. The week then disappears and, well, it’s the weekend again, so I put it off until Monday…
Sound familiar? Julia’s business is a simple idea with amazing health and wellness benefits. She cuts through all the excuses and takes exercise classes directly to her customers, in their workplace!
I’m super excited to have you here with us today Julia, how are you today?
Hi Jennifer, thanks so much for having me. I’m great thanks. I’ve had a really good and productive day today. I was teaching a lunchtime Pilates class earlier for staff at a Corporate Finance company – I teach them in a meeting room with all the chairs pushed aside; caught up with some emails and admin this morning – I’m just in the process of putting together a timetable of weekly classes for another company. Later on I’ll be teaching an after work class for staff at Girlguiding head office. It’s a really busy time at the moment, lots of great companies looking to help their staff keep their ‘get fit’ resolutions! So my days are pretty varied, but I love being able to teach as well as run my own business.
I love that you go to where your customers are and use the space that they have available to give them something that they truly need. What inspired the idea and made you start your own business?
I had an idea – and I thought I would give it a try! I used to suffer from back pain and general muscle tightness due to a curvature of the spine (Scoliosis). I’d heard about the benefits of Pilates but had never done much exercise before and was pretty unfit. I decided to try it, and after my first lesson I was hooked. Within a couple of sessions I was starting to feel the benefits, and after just a few months I felt stronger and was more flexible and toned. The benefits I was feeling from Pilates empowered me to become more active and set myself fitness challenges I never thought possible. I’ve now been practicing Pilates for over 10 years and I decided to train to become an instructor as I wanted to learn more about the technique and teach others so they could experience the benefits that I had.
I started my training whilst continuing to work and then in 2011 decided to take the plunge and leave my ‘sensible’ project manager job to focus on completing my Pilates training, and I also had my idea!…..Like most busy London women, progressing in my career meant longer hours, stress, not always taking my full lunch break … I was finding the time and motivation to go to the gym or to exercise after work a challenge. So I wanted to make it easy for busy Londoners to exercise by bringing Pilates and fitness classes directly to them at their offices. And I knew it had worked for me, so I hoped it would for others too… I first started practising Pilates through weekly lunchtime classes held at my office. I was lucky to work for a health charity at the time who offered the classes for staff. The opportunity to get away from my desk for an hour, network with colleagues, and generally re-energise and stretch always made me more productive and focused for the afternoon.
Initially Exercise in the City was just me teaching Pilates, but after reaching full capacity and seeing demand for other classes too, I recruited others and now work with a team of fantastic fitness instructors to bring Pilates, Yoga, Circuits, HIIT, Zumba (.. any class you like!) to workplaces across London.
Its inspiring to hear that you used something that was holding you back in your life, found a solution that worked for you and then decided to make it a business to help others. What’s next for you, any exciting challenges ahead?
The last couple of years I’ve really been focusing on, and worked hard to develop the brand and build awareness. I’ve had some great media successes for workplace health and wellbeing features including; BBC Radio 4, Guardian online, People Management Magazine. I’ve also featured in Health and Fitness Magazine, Prima and the Daily Mail.
I’m passionate about workplace health and wellbeing and I’ve been partnering with some other great organisations to help promote healthy workplaces; I spoke at The Workplace Charter Awards at City Hall last year (Mayor or London initiative) and I’ve also been working with Sport England helping promote their Workplace Challenge initiative.
Excitingly last year I won Jacqueline Gold‘s ‘Women in Business Award’ for Female Entrepreneurs (one of three winners chosen from all her weekly #WOW winners) and I met her for a met her for a mentoring lunch. All the hard work is paying off, and this year has been really busy already, with lots more businesses getting in touch looking for classes for their staff.
So this year I’m focusing on building our team of instructors so we can get even more workplaces active. I hand pick all our instructors – looking for the best, fun, expert teachers who share my passion. So I’ll be trying out lots of classes this month! This is really fun – but it can be a challenge trying to fit it all in alongside teaching my own classes and running the business. So my main challenge is finding the time to fit everything in! I’m really excited though to see the potential of how the business can grow and I’m planning to expand into other regions too.
You really do have a lot going on – and your hard work is showing with the success and recognition you are getting. I am really impressed with your business model too, I can see it growing to a huge brand. With so much to do (it can be hard to switch off right?There is always more to do!) What is your favourite way to get away and relax?
Switching off is something I do find quite difficult. My days are often long and my to do list can sometimes feel endless!!! I love travelling though, so I try and fit in an overseas adventure every year… it’s the best way to relax and come offline for a while. I have just made the most of my Christmas quiet time and returned from a fabulous two week trip to South Africa with my husband, relaxing and recharging.
I share your passion for travel and fully believe in getting away from it all to recharge – I sometimes HAVE TO go into an area with no internet signal to switch off! The internet is absolutely essential to run my own business, what is your most important business tool that you just couldn’t give up?
Google calendar – for scheduling my own classes and classes with other instructors – so I can keep track of who’s teaching where each week. I couldn’t live without the reminder alert functionality either.
Yes, I agree, it really is a fabulous tool – the reminder alerts have saved me on more than one occasion!
To keep your business new and fresh, Where do you go for inspiration?
Reading stories about other inspiring and creative female entrepreneurs such as yourself Jennifer always inspires me. Your blog is great too and there are so many other online forums and groups for women in business where people are really honest about the challenges they face as well as successes – offering advice to others.
Thank you, I didn’t expect that! I’m so happy that the series is inspiring to you – I’m always trying to implement new ways to bring our tribe of inspiring women together to support one another. It’s something that can come so naturally to women and I love anything that positively encourages it. How important is it to you to have a support group?
For me a support group is extremely important. Prior to starting Exercise in the City I had always worked in an office environment working with others and in a team. Setting up on my own and not having colleagues to bounce ideas off as I was used to I found pretty challenging at first. So my husband, friends and family are my invaluable support group and sounding boards. I know I call them whenever I need to. I’m now working with other great instructors too, so I have my fabulous team for additional support as well.
It can be the biggest shock going from a team to having to do everything by yourself can’t it? I’m so happy that you have a growing support network around you, and I’m proud to have you as part of our Inspirational Tribe of Women here too. It’s been wonderful talking to you Julia. I hope you will come back on Thursday to share what you carry in your handbag – all your jetting about the City must mean you need to have very specific things with you. I’m really looking forward to seeing it!
Julia can be found across the internet on via the links below, and I encourage you to get to know this inspiring lady – she’s fabulous! Don’t forget to check back on Thursday to see what she carries around London in her handbag; I want to see if she can get a pilates mat in there!