Melina Giacomasso Caleffi (left), Fabio Fernandes (right)
Founders, Espaco Manawa (São Paulo, Brazil)
Merrithew™ Instructor Trainers
When word got out that Fabio Fernandes and his business partner Melina Giacomasso Caleffi were planning on opening their own Pilates studio, they received a phone call. A woman who had her own Pilates studio was moving to the US. Did they want to buy her space? They had a week to decide. Two years later, they are the owners of the bustling Espaco Manawa in São Paulo, Brazil.
Here is how they did it.
Two years ago, Fabio Fernandes and Melina Giacomosso Caleffi were searching for the perfect space to open their own Pilates studio when they received a phone call. A woman they knew through industry connections was leaving Brazil for America, and she had a fully-equipped Pilates studio to sell. Were they interested in buying it?
“We had less than a week,” says Fabio. “There was not much planning.”
Fabio is a STOTT PILATES® and CORE™ Instructor Trainer, and Melina is a STOTT PILATES and Total Barre® Instructor Trainer, so they had the Pilates knowledge they needed to run their own studio, and they wanted to make it their own. They began with 20 clients that came with the business, and set about rebranding the space, changing the name to Espaco Manawa, and starting a marketing and promotions campaign from scratch. “The other owner had a different way of doing things,” says Fabio. “We wanted to differentiate ourselves.”
Fabio had a marketing MBA, but no experience in management, which proved challenging. “I’m not fond of social media,” Fabio says. “But I had to do it.” As they have become more successful, he has been able to hand off certain duties, such as managing the social media accounts, to a third party.
Another challenge was the location. The studio was in an office building, and not easily seen from the street. Fabio campaigned on social media to let people know where they were, and worked to build a word-of-mouth reputation to draw in clients without relying on walk-ins from the street. “That was a big challenge,” he says. “To get people in the building.”
Getting them in the building first, and then educating them second. In Brazil, often Pilates classes mean using each piece of equipment in a class, migrating from the Cadillac to the V2 Max Reformer to the Stability Chair to the Ladder Barrel, says Fabio. But Fabio and the team wanted to focus on quality, which meant breaking with expectations and educating the market about STOTT PILATES. “It was hard for clients to do a whole class on just one piece of equipment,” he says.
A lack of funds prevented them from renovating in the first year of Espaco Manawa. But in the second year, they gave the studio a fresh coat of paint, and invited a local artist in to decorate the walls. “It’s a lighter environment that gives way to art,” says Fabio. “Pilates should be light and playful, not so serious.”
Playful, but still high quality, says Fabio. “We promote quality, family, environment,” he says. “We want clients to be comfortable, to hang out here, to chat, drink coffee. Clients hang around and ask questions.”
They knew they wanted to eventually become a Training Center, so they revamped the interior, and replaced the original three Reformers with four V2 Max Reformers, added two more Ladder Barrels to the original one, two more Stability Chairs and two more Cadillacs.
Currently Espaco Manawa is a host center and has four Instructors taking care of 60 clients and 50 group classes. “Now we have clients all over the country that come to work out with us,” says Fabio.
What advice would he give to someone who is thinking of opening a studio? “Focus on quality. Clients will come for quality. Word of mouth is important. It takes longer but the results are better long term.”