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Build a Better Business: How to build a stronger student culture at your studio or Merrithew™ Training Center

Orange Room - Merrithew Host Training Center

After discovering how their STOTT PILATES® training, specifically its emphasis on biomechanical principles and sound exercise execution could elevate their yoga classes, The Orange Room co-founders, Anita Tang and Patricia Liao, knew they had to bring Merrithew education to Shanghai, China.

This was back in 2012 when Pilates was still relatively unknown in China— and their studio was primarily a yoga space. “The market wasn’t ideal, but we still went ahead with it, so strong was our belief in the quality of Merrithew education and the success it would bring our yoga students and clients,” Patricia says.

They started hosting just two courses a year, in the spring and fall. The first few years were rocky, but by understanding and responding to the needs of their students, they steadily built up The Orange Room’s education offering.

Now after eight years as a Merrithew Host Training Center, they have an average student referral rate of 80%.

It’s our goal to have students spread the word for us. I often say, ‘I won’t call the training successful if the students don’t refer us to their friends,’ Patricia says.

Patricia working with student on Reformer

How to build a successful student culture

1. Education — for you and your students

“I feel the owners of every Host Training Center should take the lead to get certified or continue learning themselves, so they’ll have a better understanding of how to mentor their students.

“I know that when you’re running a business, there are a lot of demands on your time, but you need to engage in the education and understand it in order to better serve your students,” she says.

She and Anita became Merrithew Instructor Trainers in 2015, and regularly travel to the Merrithew Corporate Training Center in Toronto to further their education.

2. Create a welcoming atmosphere

“Wherever your students come from, you need to make sure they feel comfortable and relaxed in the training environment. Our students come from all over China, so they’re used to different weather and food. We consider every detail, and a big part of that is how we can keep them healthy while they’re here,” she says.

Patricia applies her training in nutrition and Chinese medicine to select and provide free, nutritious snacks to the students, taking the weather, seasons and where they’re from into consideration. She and Anita teach the students more than mindful movement— they teach them how to take care of themselves and be healthy.

“The competition in the Chinese market in every domain is so intense because of the size of our population. Everyone wants to be first because that’s part of survival here, so we try to counter that anxiety by creating a welcoming atmosphere where they don’t feel like they’re competing with the other 11 people in the course.”

When the students first arrive, they’re greeted by friendly administrators who show them around the space. The studio has carpeting in places to create a homey feel, and lockers without locks to instill trust— and it’s worked, nothing’s ever been stolen.

Patricia posing in Orange Room studio

3. Build a community — online and in person

Each new group of students is invited to a WeChat group where they can ask questions and receive support directly from Anita and Patricia, for as long as they want.

“At the beginning of the course, we try to get to know one another on a personal level to set the energy. We take the group out for dinner and explain our philosophy to them. It’s much easier for the Instructor Trainer to start teaching if we’ve calmed their nerves and they feel like they’re in a good mental space for learning.”

“The level of communication and mentoring at our studio is very strong. I’m a mom and that’s how I act towards the students,” she says.

At the end of their time at The Orange Room, students walk away with a cute canvas tote bag showing a person doing a Teaser on a Reformer designed by Patricia’s daughter.

It’s thoughtful touches like this that make The Orange Room experience stand out to students.

Support your students, grow your business

Patricia and Anita put in this effort because they find it personally fulfilling to see their students develop and grow as instructors.

By providing high-caliber education, a welcoming atmosphere and a supportive community for their students, they’ve built a loyal customer base and generated repeat business, helping their business flourish.

Launch your career in mindful movement!

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