It’s been a busy year for Anissa Germain. Just six months after opening the Bora Studio for Pilates in Tunbridge Wells, she is now moving to bigger premises to meet demand, and is unveiling her own line of fitness wear with fashion designer Gabrielle Davies. Hannah Patterson meets the woman who is on her way to creating a winning brand…
You’ve been on quite a journey these past few months…
It’s mad to think how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.
Bora came into existence in July 2016. I was working at another studio when I made the leap to self-employment.
With everything I had been taking on, like my degree in osteopathy, running my own business was the ideal way to work towards my goals.
Although I had loved my job and adored the people I worked with, it was time to step out on my own and bring my personal twist to Pilates.
It was a lot of hard work to make the dream a reality, and I was scared most of the time, but it’s paid off and I couldn’t be happier.
When did you first begin practising Pilates?
Sport has always played an important role for me – I’ve been dancing and skiing throughout my life.
When I came to the UK in 2009 (I’m originally from France), I took up Pilates and began working for a studio. That’s where my passion for it really began to grow, and I was in a position to witness the fantastic effects it was having on people’s bodies and minds.
For me, Bora was only a matter of time. I always knew I’d eventually branch out and start my own business, but it was important to do it at a pace that felt right for me.
One-on-one Pilates really appealed to me, especially as I’m studying osteopathy and wanted to apply that knowledge to my classes in order to aide injury recovery and improve general fitness.
Are all your classes one-on-one?
No, we can have up to three. I prefer small classes. There are Barre, matt and reformer sessions available.
The reformer machines are particularly good. We have three in our current studio.
They look a little terrifying but are easy enough to use, especially with the right instructor. The design originated from a type of hospital bed. The machines work with your own body’s weight to increase resistance and strengthen your body. They push you that little bit further.
Has it been busy from the day you started?
Yes. The business is currently enjoying a period of growth. It has been absolutely crazy. It started when I first opened, but during the
last month in particular it has completely taken off. There are now waiting lists for classes and I have employed two additional instructors to help meet the demand.
Anna has been with us for two months now, and Eloise starts in March.
It’s not long now until Bora will be moving to a much bigger, three-floor place in an excellent central location. That’s when we can start offering even more for our clients.
Why should a potential client come to you, instead of a class at the gym?
The instructors are held to exceptionally high standards. Their qualifications have to accommodate the elements of osteopathy that are blended into the classes. I need everyone to meet a certain level or it just isn’t good enough for me or my clients. My instructors are of the highest quality.
The smaller class of three, I find, is a huge appeal. Overall, a class of that size is going to be a more enjoyable experience than being crammed into a room of 20. It also ensures that the proper amount attention is paid to each client, meaning they get what they need out of the class. Essentially, it’s better value and better service.
In my opinion, three to four people is just right, and I don’t want to lose that intimacy, though we may get an extra reformer in the Studio.
When we move to the new premises, the top floor will hopefully be a clinic, too, with two treatment rooms.
Tell us more about the fashion side of Bora…
This is an incredibly exciting time, and the line of sportswear really is a dream come true.
I was amazed at how long the process took, but I love it! Gabrielle Davies is a very talented designer and, originally, a client of mine. We fast became friends and the idea felt like a natural fit.
Creating sportswear for women of all sizes and ages had been a life goal for both of us. We wanted comfortable clothes for real people! Our models aren’t professionals either, they are local people modelling, and demonstrating the comfort and suitability of the range.
The clothes are also entirely made right here in the UK.
Tell us a bit about the line (to be launched online as well as on display at the studio)
The aim is to be a high street range, but less expensive than some of the other brands you can buy in town. The quality will always come first, but we do want to be affordable, which so often gym wear isn’t!
How do you find managing your time with so many aspects of Bora?
In addition to my business partner Maurizio Di Santo, I have really good people helping me – it’s as simple as that.
My marketing team are amazing, and Gabrielle Davies has been an unending source of support.
Everything is at full momentum, so I haven’t yet stopped. It’s exhausting, but worth it!
What does the future hold for you?
Expansion. I’m always looking to expand, in terms of both studio size and the brand.
The fashion line will continue to evolve – involving new colours and shapes. Ideally, we want to work with local shops, which Gabrielle is looking at the moment. The samples are coming to Tunbridge Wells soon, and once happy we will go into production!
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
It’s very difficult to leave somewhere that’s comfortable for you, and take step out of the comfort zone. But, once you do it, you will never look back.
Get past the barrier, just jump, and see what happens.
I was constantly thinking ‘what if no one comes?’, but I was so determined to make it work that it has.
Starting a business is simply a case of believing in yourself.
Bora, 76 Mount Pleasant Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RJ, 074 0266 6847, www.borastudio.co.uk