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How Pilates Helped This Personal Trainer Grow His Studio Business and Improve His Clients’ Qualify of Life

How Pilates helped this personal trainer grow his studio business

Shengbin Ye, the founder of Liansu Pilates Studio, a Merrithew® Host Training Center in Hangzhou, China, has long been involved in athletics. As a child athlete, a graduate of a sports university, and then an ACE-certified personal trainer at a private gym, it seemed like a natural next step to become a STOTT PILATES® Certified Instructor and open his own studio.

We spoke to Shengbin about how he discovered STOTT PILATES, built his dream studio and transformed it into a hub for Merrithew instructor training in Hangzhou.

A beautiful Pilates studio in China outfitted in Merrithew Reformers

1. How did you discover Pilates?

I was first introduced to Pilates in 2014 at a fitness club where I worked as a personal trainer. As part of our weekly internal training sessions, our manager taught us some Pilates exercises and I found these greatly improved posture and form among my clients. I could see the benefits of Pilates for alleviating the various physical ailments experienced by my stressed out desk-worker clients.

I learned about STOTT PILATES through the recommendation of several ACE-certified instructors and began my Pilates learning journey. I was immediately impressed by the comprehensiveness of the Merrithew training system and wanted to introduce it to more people for their benefit, hence the establishment of my Merrithew Host Training Center in Hangzhou.

2. You transitioned from being a personal trainer to a studio owner – what was that like?

Transitioning from a personal trainer to a studio owner has changed my way of thinking. For example, as a personal trainer, I only concerned myself with my professionalism and training my clients, but after becoming a studio owner, I have to consider the survival and development of the studio as a business.

At the beginning, I had to play many different roles, such as personal trainer and Pilates instructor, studio operator, manager and accountant, and do various errands. My life became almost all about work with no spare time, not to mention any holiday. It was a really stressful time.

But I do think my previous experience as a personal trainer has provided me with a better understanding of clients’ fitness needs, which is a great advantage in class and is a specialized skill that enables the development of programming that better meets clients’ needs. The experience also offers significant advantages in trainer management and in developing long-term career plans for instructors.

A male Pilates instructor and studio owner assists his client with an exercise on the Merrithew Cadillac

3. How did you launch, build and grow your studio and Host Training Center?

I founded Liansu Pilates Studio in 2018, which was about 100 square metres. At the time, I did it because I wanted to share my passion for Pilates and help my clients experience the benefits of this safe and effective contemporary exercise method.

As my number of private clients increased, I learned from them and others that an increasing number of people were learning and practising Pilates, but local students were having trouble completing their training because there was no Host Training Center in Hangzhou.

That gave me the idea to open a Merrithew Host Training Center in Hangzhou, and I expressed this idea to the team at Merrithew headquarters.

After a comprehensive assessment, Merrithew supported me in opening my Training Center in Hangzhou.

With the establishment of my Training Center, I expanded my venue to more than 200 square metres and outfitted it in Merrithew equipment.

In October 2019, we successfully launched our first Matwork and Reformer classes, which were almost full!

A group of students in China celebrate their completion of the STOTT PILATES instructor training program at Liansu Pilates

The success greatly boosted my confidence. As more private clients joined, the venue was further expanded to more than 400 square metres in April 2020, with a big training classroom established to provide a better learning environment for students and to protect the privacy of private training clients. Now we are opening new classes almost every month.

4. You offer both Pilates and personal fitness training sessions at your studio. Which one generates more business?

The percentage of revenue generated from Pilates compared to personal training is about 4:1, a significant increase from 1:1 in the first year, reflecting the increasing popularity of our Pilates classes among clients.

Pilates studio Liansu Pilates offers both Pilates and personal training. Here, a Merrithew Reformer sits waiting for a private client

5. Why did you decide to partner with Merrithew on providing instructor trainer and how has Merrithew helped you achieve success?

After taking Merrithew’s STOTT PILATES course, I felt that the Merrithew system was rigorous and professional and very suitable for different groups of people in modern society, and I was determined to introduce it to more people and have more people learn and benefit from it.

In the big Merrithew family, I have got to know many excellent instructor trainers and students, including studio owners, and the experience of learning with excellent people has allowed me to improve myself in many aspects.

The reputation of the Merrithew brand has made us known to more people and has attracted many excellent instructors to join us. With convenience of access and professional training, we have gained substantial recognition from students and clients alike.

6. What have been the biggest challenges and success of starting your own Hosting Center?

The biggest challenge was recruitment. Unlike in the past when we only recruited workout clients, now we also provide instructor training and need to recruit students.

To win their recognition, we’ve needed to be more persuasive in introducing the specific benefits of STOTT PILATES training. I experienced a lot of difficulties when recruiting for our first instructor training class due to my lack of sales experience and skills. However, through continuous exploration and learning from other studio owners, I have gradually got the new business on track.

I derive the greatest satisfaction from seeing a full class, from discovering that I can manage the Training Center well, and from learning together with my students and receiving great feedback and positive energy from them every day. And above all, from receiving acknowledgement that what I am doing is having a positive impact on others.

A male Pilates instructor corrects a student’s posture, form and alignment at Liansu Pilates in China

7. Why do you think more personal trainers should diversify into Pilates to better serve their clients?

Personal trainers skilled in Pilates can develop more functional, safe and effective training plans for clients. Rather than just sweating and fat burning, what matters most is to provide clients with a solid grounding in fitness. I think the most important thing for a personal trainer is to prevent workout injuries by providing safe and effective training.

Pilates allows you to be mindful of your breathing and the exertion of your muscles, making you more aware of your physical ability, and providing you with a better understanding of your own body and knowledge of what exercises are suitable for you and how to do the exercises.

Instead of blindly striving for what is apparent, you are guided towards inner mindfulness. The more integrated approach of Pilates is more helpful for improving clients’ quality of life.

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