Physiotherapist, STOTT PILATES® Instructor Trainer
, Bcube® Pilates & Fitness
Founder of the popular Bcube Pilates & Fitness studio in Osaka, Japan, Wataru Kamiizumi’s list of clients includes everyone from athletes and stage performers to tap dancers and orthopedic outpatients. His studio is also a Merrithew® Licensed Training Center, and is a nexus for Merrithew training and Instruction in Japan, where Pilates is gaining popularity. But when Wataru first began his Pilates journey, no one in Japan had even heard of it. Wataru not only had to grow his own business, he also had to educate a public that had no idea what his growing business was.
Here is Wataru’s story.
In 2003 Wataru Kamiizumi was running his own physiotherapy practice in Tokyo, Japan when he realized he wanted more. Physiotherapists were a dime a dozen in the capital city, and as an “ordinary PT” in the ranks, Wataru knew he would have to find a competitive edge. He was also growing frustrated with the limitations of his knowledge. “I wanted to be able to give [my clients] advice on how to control the body, how to heal themselves,” he says. “I wanted to find an alternative way of taking care of people.”
Wataru hit the Internet. It was online that he was first introduced to STOTT PILATES®. His original plan was to take his certification courses at the Corporate Training Center in Toronto, Canada, then return to Japan for more medical training. But “STOTT PILATES changed my life entirely,” he says. When he returned to Japan, he knew he wanted to work as a STOTT PILATES Instructor.
But that was easier said than done. Once he had returned home, Wataru once again went online searching for a Pilates studio where he could employ his new knowledge. But he came up with nothing. “There were no Pilates studios,” he says. “People didn’t know what it was.”
Wataru decided to open his own space. He chose a small studio in Osaka Norin Kaikan, an iconic building in central Osaka that also housed a range of unique shops and businesses. “People were open to new things there,” he says. Plus the design of the space pleased his sense of aesthetics. “I’m obsessed with exposed brick walls,” he says. “And it had them.”
“Start small, but have a purpose and a mission. You need to know why you do what you do.”
Although he had found the perfect space, finding clients took more time. “For the first couple of months, I was waiting around in an empty studio,” he says. Wataru relied on word-of-mouth recommendations, and also the location itself. The historical status of the building meant that there was occasional articles in local media that highlighted the businesses there. “After a couple of months, we started getting media coverage because of the building,” he says. Slowly, clients started to trickle in. In about four months, he had a handful of regular clients. In a year, he had so many clients, he had to start scouting for a new location.
One of the tough lessons to learn was how to treat his passion like the business that it was. Wataru’s studio and practice was born out of a desire to help people, and initially he had a “physiotherapist’s mindset” about his business, helping people for free, without regard for the value of his time or his need to earn money. “At the end of the day, you have to make a living,” he says. “You have to work to get to the place where you want to be.”
Wataru began attending local events, getting to know the neighborhood and his neighbors. He accepted invitations to speak on Pilates and movement at colleges and physical therapy gatherings. Bcube moved to a new, larger location, and Wataru went through the process to make Bcube a Licensed Training Center, which came with some major benefits. “We had the luxury of handpicking our people. Because we are an LTC, we could watch the people who came in for training and find those who fit us,” he says. “It was a huge plus for me.” Currently Bcube employs 16 Pilates Instructors and three Instructor Trainers.
Wataru’s next goal is to build a community around his studio, and to provide a variety of education programs for his clients and for ITs. “I want to empower them to think for themselves,” he says. “I hate to see people stuck in a dogmatic way of thinking.” In the meantime, he’ll continue to expand his business one step at a time. For those who are considering starting their own business, Wataru has one piece of advice. “Start small, but have a purpose and a mission,” he says. “You need to know why you do what you do.”