Former Olympic swimmer Jade Winter knows a thing or two about success, which is why it’s no surprise Studio Pilates, the fitness franchise he founded in 2002, is going from strength to strength.
“I think that being an athlete taught me some very fundamental and grounding lessons that I always carry with me in business.”
After being selected as a member of the 1996 Australian Olympic Swim Team, Jade Winter found himself thrust on to the world sporting stage, and it was an experience that shaped the Queenslander for life.
“I’ll forever be grateful to have been part of such an incredible sporting event,” Jade says. “The atmosphere is truly electric, with athletes from such a diverse array of sports and cultures all combining to do their best on the sporting field. It’s truly awe-inspiring.”
More than 20 years on and Jade’s passion for physical fitness remains unwavering, albeit in a far less intrusive fashion.
Along with wife Tanya, whom he met at the local swimming pool when they were just teenagers, Jade anchors one of the strongest performing health and wellness franchises in Australia.
“It was a natural progression for me really,” Jade says. “I retired from being an athlete and I was looking for the next challenge and my wife, Tanya, who is a physio, was looking to do something new at the time as well, something that aligned with her existing skillset.”
Together the pair launched Studio Pilates in 2002, when the functional fitness craze had yet to hit its straps.
“Pilates was still quite new to the Australian market then and it was quite hard to access Pilates reformer classes.
“When we started out there was no option to open a Pilates franchise, there wasn’t anybody doing it anywhere. We had to create everything from the ground up. We had to create the entire system, the operating system, the training systems, the support systems, absolutely everything.”
Fast-forward 17 years and Studio Pilates is now a powerhouse in the domestic market, with over 25 studios up and running across Australia and New Zealand.
Jade says the key to the business’s continued success is a constant evaluation of the needs of its clients, with a fierce emphasis on providing an unparalleled Pilates experience.
“You won’t find any mirrors in our workout spaces, you won’t find any clocks in any of our studios either. Every element of the workout experience has been carefully curated for a specific reason,” Jade says.
While the husband and wife team were able to build a successful business from the ground up, it wasn’t until a chance overseas holiday that Jade and Tanya identified a key gap in the fitness market.
“While on a vacation to London and NYC, my wife and I wanted to keep up with our workouts, so we tried classes everywhere, and to our disappointment, we couldn’t find anything that ticked all the boxes for us,” Jade says.
“We were looking for a class that was intense, one that had high energy and it had the atmosphere we wanted. We both left feeling very disappointed and yet I was incredibly motivated at the same time. I felt like there was a massive gap in the market.”
“I went home and looked at how we were operating our business and came to the conclusion that how we were doing things simply wasn’t scalable.”
The experience inspired Jade to reassess the Studio Pilates model, identifying new goals of growth, change and social equity, giving way to the brand’s now signature Million People Plan.
“We’ve re-geared everything that we did from the ground up with one goal in mind: seeing 1 million people do our workouts each week.”
“Giving people access to Pilates reformer workouts of the highest quality, at scale and at an affordable price was a huge motivator and something that simply had to be done in my mind.”
As an extension of this, Jade turned to franchising as a key growth facilitator, increasing brand exposure on the journey to achieve his magic million mark.
“With a vision as large as servicing 1 million people a week, I knew that I would need people just as passionate about Pilates reformer classes as me, and franchising seemed the obvious way to expand and achieve the goal,” he says. Since launching the business in its current form, Jade has grown the franchise network steadily and he admits the joy he gets from watching new franchisees succeed is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
“I get a huge buzz from seeing people purchase their business and grow them into outstanding investments. Equally, I get a buzz from seeing people build their franchises up rapidly and sometimes sell them for twice what they initially invested in just a couple of short years.
“For me, as a franchisor, this is a big part of what it’s all about, helping people to create success for themselves and for their families for years to come.”
With his Million People Plan firmly in focus, Jade is once again returning to the global stage, this time taking the message from Australia to New Zealand and as far away as China’s Tianhe District.
“Our mission is to change the way the world works out, so each time we have the opportunity to introduce our workout to a new city or country it’s incredibly fulfilling and I get a real buzz,” Jade says. The franchisor revealed that the latest international growth is coming in September when Studio Pilates is set to launch its inaugural US studio in Brooklyn.
While the international interest is a nice boost, Jade says finding the right franchise partners is critical to maintaining brand image and ensuring the business keeps its clients happy.
“I believe consistent excellence is the hallmark for franchise success and makes for a franchise system that grows and grows indefinitely for decades to come,” he says.
“In order to achieve a high level of success, you will need to put in a monumental amount of work over an exceptionally long period of time, regardless of how much talent you have. In business, there are no guarantees, but if you apply yourself in the right way for long enough, you’ve got a pretty good shot at success.”
This article appeared in the May/July issue of Franchise Business, written by Nick Hall.