Merrithew™ Lead Instructor Trainer, Official Merrithew distributor in Italy
Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrels, ISP, Total Barre®, ZEN•GA® Mat & Equipment, CORE™ Athletic Conditioning & Performance Training™, STOTT PILATES® Rehab, Halo® Training
Fitness instructor, Iyengar yoga instructor, Cancer Rehabilitation specialist, Pilates for Multiple Sclerosis, Body Strateg-ex and Breast Cancer® Post-Rehab Instructor Trainer
Founder, Pilates Italia
Claudia had always been athletic. Competing in sports from a young age, she developed drive, ambition and focus, qualities that served her well when she decided to open up her own Pilates studio in Italy, in a saturated market filled with established competitors.
But Claudia not only opened her studio, she began a revolution in Pilates in Italy.
This is her story.
When Claudia Fink discovered Pilates in 1995, it was still the fitness industry’s best-kept secret. “It’s not like today, when everyone knows what Pilates is,” she says.
A competitive athlete who was as comfortable playing water polo as she was doing aerobics or horseback riding, Claudia suffered from back, shoulder and hip injuries, and was referred to a physiotherapist in the Middle East while she was there for a water polo competition. This particular physiotherapist had a large clientele of dancers who specialized in a local, traditional form of dance, and while Claudia was visiting his practice, she saw a room full of Reformers where he trained them. Her interest was piqued.
“I tried it and loved it,” she says. “I was impressed by the variety of the exercises. The precision, and control.”
Later on, when Claudia moved to Canada and became a Canadian citizen she began training in STOTT PILATES® at the Corporate Training Center in Toronto. She had previously tried other Pilates training, but hadn’t been impressed. “I wanted my Pilates training to be the best,” she says.
Even while she was earning her STOTT PILATES Certification, Claudia already had an idea of what she wanted to do with her future. “I wanted to open an LTC in Italy,” she says.
At the time in Italy, Pilates was synonymous with a local studio franchise with locations throughout the country, and a few other international methods were also present. Claudia got a list of all the Pilates studios in the country, and mailed them each a flyer advertising her first course. Then, she went on tour.
Email wasn’t the preferred method of communication in Italy at that time, she says. Knowing this, Claudia chose to mail her flyers through the local post. She soon began to receive inquiries in her email inbox.
It wasn’t long before she was travelling to teach workshops at gyms, clubs, studios and other fitness facilities around the country. In 2007 she opened her company, Pilates Italia and she became the LTC and official distributor in Italy for Merrithew. She opened her first studio in Milan, in a space which had previously been a franchise that she furnished with Merrithew equipment.
Claudia used the studio as a base for her travelling workshops and courses in the rest of the country. It was a new model for the Pilates business in Italy, and Claudia’s initial success caused others to take notice. Soon, Claudia observed other training schools were following her lead.
In 2009, Claudia opened a second studio in Milan, The STUDIO, and in 2008, she opened a satellite LTC in Brussels, Belgium, Brussels Pilates with Marina Buntovskikh. Claudia’s client base is an international one, and she makes sure to hire Pilates Instructors who cater to different language demographics. Claudia herself is fluent in five languages, Italian, English, French, Spanish and Hebrew. She holds a degree in Tourism Business, and recently obtained a degree in Osteopathy.
One of Claudia’s goals is to teach all Merrithew programming in order to maximize her business potential. “Offering the full range of Merrithew branded programming in my studios has given them a competitive edge,” she says. She is a Lead Instructor Trainer for STOTT PILATES and an Instructor Trainer for every Merrithew branded program, including Total Barre, ZEN•GA, CORE Athletic Conditioning & Performance Training and Halo Training and is looking forward to teaching the new Fascial Movement Foundation Course. She has presented internationally for Merrithew for years. “I just love to teach,” she says.
Her advice to those contemplating their own studio? Make sure to start with a fully-equipped studio, and choose a location that is central and visible. ‘’I feel lucky that I was able to find the locations of my dreams both in Milan and Rome,” she says. “Central, very well served by public transportation, and close to shopping areas, restaurants and entertainment,’’ she says. Claudia’s LTC is located next door to a hotel, is a five-minute drive from the train station, a 15-minute drive from the city airport, and a 35-minute train ride to a shuttle to second airport. “It’s very easy to reach and convenient for all students that come from outside of Milan, or even from other countries,” she says.
Claudia also recommends getting help when you need it. When opening a studio, work with another Certified Instructor to share the teaching load and other responsibilities. “If you try to do it yourself, you’ll burn out fast.”