We had the good fortune of connecting with Jaime k Ullman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jaime k, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
The thought process behind starting my own business came to fruition in 2005. It was a huge transition time for my career. I owned a business for 25 years, servicing the entertainment industry with graphics & merchandise for various television shows, film & post production studios. I did love the work, and mostly courting clients & producing the various projects. The dancer in me would peek out on a daily basis wanting to move… with a degree in Modern Dance & Theatre and a minor in Anthropology & Environmental Studies I knew I had to incorporate more dance in my life. My body and mind were meant to be in motion. Working in the corporate world & one as creative as the entertainment industry was exciting, challenging, and quite stressful, so, I designed a crazy routine to merge the two. I would go to work early in the morning, after work I’d drive to one of the dance studios & dance for hours, drive home, sleep, repeat…5 Days a week! Pretty exhausting, but, I was determined. In 2004 my partner in crime & I decided it was time to sell our women owned & operated business. My partner happened to be my amazing mom, though we were on a first name basis in our dealings. We were equal partners in an industry that was dominated by men. We had to prove ourselves. Our partnership and mastery in our business was exceptional, a true gift. We learned how to negotiate, be competitive, stay true to our work and love each other through it all. That’s another story for another time. In 1991 I married a young handsome man that used to come in to my office to borrow my phone to call his home machine to get his messages. I was uninterested in dating at the time, and, well after a fashion I married that sweet guy & we started a family. In 2001, a wife & now mother of 2 little boys, I decided to certify in Pilates at Long Beach Dance and Conditioning. It was a more contemporary Pilates course that included an advanced level of anatomy and required more time than I had imagined. I became a great juggler. Wife, mother, business owner with several employees to manage and now studying in an intensive Pilates certification course. It was a lot, but if you want to reach higher in life you have to work for it. It wasn’t modern dance, I wasn’t traveling, choreographing & producing, but it was a variation of dance, which was exhilarating and honestly I was so excited. I say at some point & hopefully sooner than later, you have to follow your heart and listen to that voice inside, it speaks truth. That course took more than a year to complete, while simultaneously keeping our business moving forward, putting in a few hours at chiropractors & physical therapy offices; getting paid next to nothing (more like volunteering). The second Pilates certification was at a studio called Absolution in Hollywood, Ca. It was taught by Jill Cassady, a protégé that studied under Romana Kryzowska, who is a legend and was a protégé of Joseph H. Pilates. This was the Classic NY Style of Pilates, from level 1 to level 5, it was an even more intensive course than the first. With so much to learn, I continued to study and educate myself in the Pilates world. I had worked for other studios along the way, and with my entrepreneurial spirit I knew it was time to open my own studio. These were big thoughts, exciting, nerve-wracking, scary all mixed together, with concerns of who will come and am I qualified to pull this off? My studio opened in April 2005, with 1gentleman (older man) client who came once a week like clock work. The studio grew, my equipment evolved, from indoor carpet to wood floors and at my 10 year mark I finally got mirrors on one wall!16 years later Pilatesblue is my beautiful studio that I am forever grateful and so proud of.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Life has a way of keeping us on our toes. You may think your path is going in one direction and there you are veering to the right then to the left, trying to find center. That is me; the true sign of a libra finding balance. I shared some of the back story above. 2004. Big career transition, life changing… our business, called East West, was highly creative & customer service driven; we did everything from the inception of an idea to final delivery of a product/design, on time and on budget. We custom designed gifts and promotions for cast, crew, CEO’s, network execs. This all before budgets changed within the Television Networks. This was a family business that we had taken over under critical circumstances, and with little knowledge of how to run it; we grabbed hold of the ropes and continued its success. Wasn’t easy, but what is? We worked with talent such as David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Simpsons & Gracie Films to name a few. It was the late 90’s, still a man’s world as far as business was concerned, we had to work incredibly hard to maintain our stance in the business. And for the purpose of this shoutout & not to delve much deeper, I will say we proved ourselves strong, savvy, smart and quite successful! I had graduated from UCSC with a degree in Modern Dance & Theatre and a minor in Anthropology & Environmental Studies. I choreographed a solo of my dance thesis and performed my butt off in the Redwood Forest, how about that for fun! My degree had zero to do with running a business. I learned how to own and operate a company pretty quickly and actually loved the challenge. My mind was meant to figure things out and make sh*t happen. Though in my deepest heart of hearts I NEEDED to dance. As mentioned, it was a year long intensive course, while simultaneously teaching Pilates for chiropractors & physical therapists; getting paid NOT a lot. I remember saying to my husband it didn’t feel right to get paid hardly anything for all the work & effort. He would say, “Stick with it for a while and see where it goes.” I listened to him, but, knew it was time to start building my own dream… and it’s been one of the best career decisions of my life, thus far! The funny part of my decision to open my own studio…I would go for an interview, which was mostly teaching a class to the studio owner; most studios were requesting that you were trained in the “Classic NY Style of Pilates” the traditional Method created by Joseph H. Pilates and I had just completed a year of the “West Coast Contemporary Repertoire” (a variation of the traditional). You can’t be serious! (my thoughts). I then continued to certify in several other techniques including the Classic NY Style, Stott Pilates, Power Pilates & Lagree Hi-Intensity to name a few. And once again on interviews, studio owners at that point were not too picky about the method you taught unless they wanted you to re-certify in their studio course & again pay more! It was absurd, costly and frustrating. I have to say the experience of owning my own business and then experiencing how the pilates industry business owners handled their studios, I absolutely knew I had to own my own! My private studio “Pilatesblue” was established in 2005. I love Pilates and I love the color blue, hence the name. With a ton of sweat & nerves, my husband myself and one of our best friends built out our garage with little money and a lotta love. My dance education was incredible and I am forever thankful to have immersed myself studying with legends from NY to Los Angeles and around the world; Merce Cunningham dance company, my favorite-Jose Limon dance company, Martha Graham dance company to certifying in the Classic New York Style of Pilates with the legends taught by Roma Kryzanowska, Rael Isacowitz, Jay Grimes , etc. Teaching for other studios would always be a gain in more knowledge and an essential element in connecting with other teachers, to share information & keep my practice fresh and on point. I designed my studio with Gratz equipment. This was a traditional line of equipment designed from the blueprints of Joseph H. Pilates originals. The machines were solid, rough, gritty & incredibly challenging than other equipment in the market. It was the bomb! I loved the athleticism of the machines, the workout was so dirty. Purchasing the equipment when I had maybe one client was risky and I was still paying off the first certification course. I had a vision, confidence & determination to create a safe, challenging & private environment where you could come to your session; be comfortable, peaceful, motivated & inspired. You have to pay to play. Many of my clients did not enjoy the gym and group classes & I provided a beautiful private space giving them my undivided attention. Ordering my own brand new Gratz (NY style) equipment, the Cadillac of equipment in the market, covered in beautiful sky blue boltex (leather-like) fabric on brushed aluminum frames, was a fantastic feeling, I felt like I had finally arrived! As my private clientele grew, I sensed my machines were quite aggressive for beginner clients. My experience of certifying with other teachers on Gratz equipment was very different from teaching regular, mostly beginner clients on Gratz. My peers thought I was crazy, they’d say “No one sells their Gratz!” But I did, I sold only my reformer (I kept the Cadillac, high barrel and spine corrector) & replaced it with 2 Balanced Body reformers. These reformers felt friendlier to the clients joining my studio & I had to pay attention to that in order to grow. BTW, I have bought and sold many pieces of equipment in the last 16 years, and today I am a proud owner of Stott machines, a Canadian line of Pilates equipment; the reformer is a tough & smooth glide, like I like it. It was quite challenging to build my business rather than working for others. At other studios they would assign clients to you throughout the day, maybe 5 clients in a row and at the time the pay was $18 an hour! The one huge reason I was inspired to open my own! After spending thousands of dollars on courses and equipment I knew I was valuable. It was not an easy road to travel. My strengths are in communicating and teaching clients, my weaker side is selling myself. If we meet you will love to come to my studio & train, but I am not huge on selling — which honestly you have to do to make it. I have learned many lessons along the way about running a studio. It has come easy to me administratively since I had a business prior to my studio and I love the nuts & bolts of running a company. I had to get out there and SELL me. I networked, I joined, I mingled and the best way I found to gain recognition and to grow my business was and still is by referrals. It is a huge compliment to be referred clients and a more steady & sturdy ground to stand on than trying to gain clients via social media and networking. All is important to do, but referrals are the best. In 2009 I became aware of the SPX method now called Lagree Fitness, a more hi-intensity type Pilates. Not at all traditional, a more contemporary reformer and a one stop shop. Meaning you can work on the front of the machine, the back, facing front, facing back, sitting, standing, side lying, kneeling, pulling, pushing, with quick transitions from one movement to the next — it became all the rage and I became obsessed with taking classes. Many of my teacher friends, Pilates truests, were not & still are not fans of this technique, it’s not true Pilates, but for me it is movement, and I honestly love the challenge. I fell hard for it and thought if I could teach it, I would teach it with proper technique, because the teachers teaching it were just counting and calling out the exercises, I wanted to truly TEACH it! Once again, I certified in 2009 and taught at several studios until Covid-19 hit in March 2020. To orchestrate a group of people on a moving machine and their undivided attention, to guide and instruct them to find their strength and power was so inspiring. Those were my favorite sweaty classes to teach. And the clients at all the studios were fantastic.
The classes have 10-12 Megaformers or Xformers depending which studio you teach at. The group classes became a great alternative when the US economic disaster hit around 2009, stock market plummeted, unemployment climbed. The luxury of private sessions changed dramatically and I personally had to supplement my business. Timing was everything and I was grateful I was able to teach the group classes and continue to nurture my private studio. Again finding balance. I am a serious Pilates educator. Serious in that I adore technique, detail, precision and flow of movement. I love to teach clients that are inspired, determined and not lazy. I have had many opportunities to open larger studios over the years, but have chosen to stay private. I have a presence on Instagram, Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook. I am known to challenge my clients, encourage, support, listen & assist in strengthening their bodies their minds & I always make them laugh. Laughter helps us all breathe. I am a certified life coach and incorporate my practice in to my Pilates teaching. In the hour clients share what’s going on in their lives, whether joyful or stressful and through listening, movement and breath they feel much more centered upon leaving the studio. My Coaching practice is mostly women based, but not exclusive; I assist them in finding their inner power, confidence & to live their best life while dealing with their challenges. I am a birth doula and teach pre and post natal Pilates . I have developed a signature 30/60 session: 30 minutes of Pilates and 60 minutes of life coaching; a wonderful combination offering full support, body, mind and soul. I have built Pilatesblue to be an exclusive business as a resource and consultant for new Pilates studio owners re: setting up, hiring, purchasing equipment & maintaining equipment. I buy and sell equipment for individuals depending on their needs. I guide prospective students to do their research in the type of Pilates career they are interested in & help guide them in directions to increase their knowledge of the big Pilates world that’s out there & all the possibilities. I teach students privately that are in certification courses if they require more personal attention. In today’s world I see the larger studios at risk and interestingly enough so many people are seeking private sessions once again. Life is circular. I am grateful for Pilatesblue and the people’s lives I have touched and that have touched me. When I travel I have a relationship with many studios around the world and am invited to teach private & group classes in South Africa, Bologna, Rome, New York & Florida to name a few. During Covid-19, I began featuring women and what they have been up to during the pandemic. From artists, to jewelers, bakers, painters, potters, chocolatier, er nurse, recovering alcoholic, feng shui designer, graphic artist, attorney, musical theatre singer, dancer and others that were kind enough and inspired to share their story. I continue to feature anyone interested on my FB page https://www.facebook.com/
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would love for my best friend to visit, cannot wait until Covid-19 is behind us! When she does visit, I will take her to Boy and the Bear in Culver City for coffee in the morning, Alla dog park in Marina del Rey to play with our pup, head down to the Marina for a kayak and/or a paddle board excursion, grab take out at Mendocino Farms in Marina del Rey and walk up to Burton Chace Park for a perfect sunset. If she were in the mood, we’d grab Ginger’s ice cream in Culver City before heading home. That would be day 1! During her stay, we’d hit Baldwin Hills Steps for an amazing workout and view from the tippy top, grab lunch and take it to Kenneth Hahn Park to visit the duck pond and hike around. We would hike many of the great trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu and head up to Santa Barbara if there was time to drive out of town. We would def have a bite outside at Grill at Padaro on the beach, one of our fave places my husband and boys love. If museums & galleries were open we would visit LACMA, MOCA, Science Museum and if there were any sports going on we’d hit a Laker game and/or LA Rams game. I especially would love her to taste India Kitchen in Venice, Jasmine Cafe…my family loves ethnic food and the little hidden gems & enclaves around LA. We’d go hear music, walk the Getty gardens & do everything and anything we could. It’s been a Covid world so going shopping and eating out has not been in our circle. But LA is full of wonderful delicacies & shops so we would have quite the adventurous week if all was open.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate my shoutout to: the 2 women I overheard many years ago while on a run; they were talking about Pilates (which I studied lightly in college) and which motivated me to change my career path. To my brilliant husband for always being by my side, loving me & challenging me to reach higher. To my 2 beautiful boys that are my heart & soul. To my brothers, whom I adore, and to my amazing mom, my best friend & confidante. I would also like to thank Gus Solomon a visiting college dance professor I had @UCSC that said I moved like champagne. To my sweet friends that have listened & hugged me along the way, especially Captain Mark Gilmour. And a shoutout to the many studio owners around the world & teachers that I have met that have inspired me & continue to invigorate my Pilates journey for life, notably Natural Pilates and Bodyline. Thank you!
Linkedin: jaime k ullman