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Studio Spotlight: Pilates Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada)

Monique Lavoie

Monique Lavoie
Founder, Pilates Winnipeg

Merrithew STOTT PILATES® Lead Instructor Trainer, ZEN∙GA® Instructor Trainer, Total Barre Instructor Trainer, Certified in STOTT PILATES® Matwork, STOTT PILATES® Reformer, STOTT PILATES® Cadillac, Chair & Barrels. Qualified in CORE Athletic Conditioning & Performance Training. STOTT PILATES® Specialist in the following Specialty Tracks: Active For Life Specialist, Athletic Conditioning Specialist, Group Equipment Specialist, Group Matwork Specialist, Rehabilitation Specialist

In 1989, Monique Lavoie took her first Pilates class in Toronto. She fell in love with the method, and after two decades in business, she is still passionate about sharing her knowledge with others. This passion led to the founding of Pilates Winnipeg, a successful client studio and Merrithew Licensed Training Centre. Monique is an enthusiastic Instructor Trainer, and is a mentor to many students and Instructors.

Here is how she did it.

Monique was at her first-ever Pilates class in Toronto when knew she’d found something special. Her training in classical ballet and Gyrotonic had honed her sense of physical movement and alignment, and she was able to instantly recognize that Pilates was an extraordinarily effective way to strengthen the body. She began taking regular Mat classes.

It wasn’t long before Monique decided to Certify in STOTT PILATES®. “The curriculum is clear,” she says, “much like my ballet training. It’s all very logical and updated with new information all the time.” Monique took what she had learned back to Winnipeg, Manitoba, a city where Pilates had yet to take hold. In 1997, she opened Pilates Winnipeg.

Monique Lavoie on Pilates Reformer with Jumpboard

Monique trusted her gut and dove in with just $10K in savings. In lieu of a lack of business-building know-how, Monique made her own rules as she went along. She was unsure of market rates for classes, so she decided on a rate of $15 per client per class. She knew potential clients valued accessibility, so she chose a location that was easy to get to. She knew her clients wanted the opportunity to work with a great Instructor and develop a fantastic practice, so she worked hard to provide her client base with precisely these opportunities. She strategically planned her classes in order to guarantee maximum numbers and worked with recognized physiotherapists and sports medicine physicians to gain referrals. Instead of relying on traditional advertisements, Monique concentrated on building her studio’s reputation by word of mouth.

Business was booming, and Monique realized that she wouldn’t be able to handle the increasing demand on her own. She connected with Merrithew about training additional Instructors, and Pilates Winnipeg soon became an LTC in 1997. “With the right training and the right facility, people will come,” Monique says.

And she was right. As the number of Pilates enthusiasts continued to grow, Monique found she had enough demand to open a second location in 2000, and a third in 2002. But when the global financial crisis swept through Winnipeg in the latter half of 2008, she chose to close two locations and hit the road, travelling the world teaching at host sites throughout the world, including in Canada, the US, Geneva, Hamburg, Helsinki, Paris and Seoul. “My main passion and drive to become an IT and to make Pilates Winnipeg an LTC is because I love sharing knowledge,” Monique says. “I had so many opportunities to meet people around the world through clients, students, the IT community and the Merrithew community. People who embraced Pilates and the education as much as I did. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

As the global economy began to correct itself, the demand for Pilates once again began to rise. Monique responded by opening a second location, and it wasn’t long before she once again expanded to a third. Her work is incredibly rewarding, she says. “When I leave at the end of the day, what I did that day matters.” Starting down the Pilates path has also given Monique and her family the ability to “live the way we want to live,” she says.

Monique Lavoie of Pilates Winnipeg

Today, Monique runs three successful studios, but she is not resting on her laurels. “I need to start thinking of my legacy, the future and how I am going to hand off this incredible business and reputation I built over the past 25 years,” she says. “I have trained some great Instructors and I am in the process of setting the stage for succession for my clients- some of who have been with me for over 20 years.”

Monique doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon, she says, but she is planning to ensure that STOTT PILATES and all of Merrithew’s branded programming continues to be represented in Manitoba when she does. “Merrithew has the most comprehensive, logical and inspiring programs out there. After 20 years, Merrithew has never let me down in providing me with the most cutting-edge tools I need to do my work well and stay ahead.”

“It has been a fabulous 20 years and I would do it the exact same way if I did it again.”

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