Kirsty Apicella has been there done that and now she’s wearing the T-shirt, which says Air-Yoga Studio, having achieved her ambition of having her own successful business before she reaches the age of 30.
This is one young lady who embraced the “sensible” ethos early. She bought her first house at 19, saved money and “If I was buying something I made sure it would hold its value or increase in value.”
Having always been involved in acrobatics, Kirsty became a professional trapeze artist and acrobat. She was one of those lovely young things in the Millennium Dome Show unravelling on a ribbon of silk. “It’s called tissu,” she explains “basically you are performing acrobatics on one long piece of lycra.”
But before long Kirsty decided that she needed “something more sustainable, something that you can continue with into your 80s and 90s and that something was yoga and pilates.”
She took a job as a PA with a well know pharmaceutical company to earn a living while gaining her qualifications to teach this form of meditation and exercise and then started to teach at the Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden.
For a couple of years she saved every penny she could, found an ideal location, fought for planning permission and eventually, last February, she threw open the doors of Air-Yoga Studio in South Woodford, East London.
“Yes, people did think I was mad to start up in business during a recession but I believed there was a market for a studio in the area. I found the ideal location near the station and, although I have to a mortgage to pay and I was risking my own £20,000 of savings I just knew it would work.”
Work is the operative word. Kirsty has been taking all the classes six days a week and continuing to teach in Covent Garden one night a week. “I’m absolutely shattered but it has been rewarding and I’m now in a position to start paying other teachers so that I can spend some time in the office doing the admin.”
This isn’t Kirsty’s first business venture, she ran a talent agency when she was younger. “But I was young and naive and found things like chasing invoices difficult.”
With this business, however, she is right on track. “It’s going really well and I have a client base of over 250 already. There is definitely a call for classes where you don’t have to pay a monthly gym membership and I have the city workers who arrive after work and the full time mums during the day.”
Kirsty didn’t borrow a penny to set up but she did have enthusiastic support from family and friends. Her dad was put to work painting the walls and everyone got roped in for the opening, handing out glasses of champagne.
“I had no idea how the opening would go but I had contacted all the local press and they came along and people were walking in off the street, having a glass of champagne and signing up for classes.”
Luke Long from the Pineapple Studios TV programme was there as was Kirsty’s friend Meryl Fernandes, who plays Afia in EastEnders. “People were coming in and saying how glad they were to see this kind of studio opening up so that was very encouraging,” says Kirsty
The derelict former solicitor’s business is now a studio with whitewashed walls and wooden flooring, with changing and showering facilities on the first floor and treatment rooms and a coffee station on the second floor. The treatment rooms are occupied by an osteopath and a cranial sacral therapist.
“They are people I trust, which is important because our businesses are associated. It’s holistic and works both ways.”
And Kirsty believes that yoga has a lot to offer. “It’s an ancient form of meditation whereby you can still your mind and increase your focus and flexibility. For an hour you focus on yourself not on problems at work or at home. That’s all you can do because if you lose your focus you lose your position. You have to empty your mind, which is so important with the busy lifestyles we all lead.
“Pilates increases your core stability, sustains your spine and can be practised by anyone. Even if you have had problems with your spine there’s a form of pilates for you. You can do it in a chair or lying down.”
And what advice would Kirsty give anyone thinking of setting up in business? “Spend your money wisely and be prepared to work, work work. In the end, unless you have a rich backer, it’s all about hard graft. You also have to be prepared to take a risk but make sure that risk is based on solid research.”
And for the future? She can see a chain of Air-Yoga Studios in the area. “But it really is all about keeping up to date, embracing new forms of exercise when they come along and listening to the clients. Whatever your clients want you must make it happen.
“I love working with people and in business it is essential to be a “people-person” because in the end that’s what sells, you and your personality and your willingness to respond to your customers wants and needs.”
Somehow you can see that chain of studios marching into view…