“What we’ve learned in our lives is that all of the nos in your life lead to yeses. It’s sort of like a torpedo. That’s how a torpedo hits its target. It gets signals like no, no, no, no, and it hones in on its target that way.”
Toni Reece: Thank you so much, Kimberly and Katherine, for joining the call today. And for those of you that follow the Get Inspired! Project, this is our very first duo interview, so we’re looking forward to this. Thank you very much for being here. Can you please introduce yourselves?
Kimberly Corp: Well, my name is Kimberly Corp, and my sister …
Katherine Corp: I’m Katherine Corp and we own a small business here in Manhattan, and we’ve owned it for almost ten years.
T: Well thank you for being here, and when you think of the word inspiration, who do you inspire and how does that happen?
K: Well we own a Pilates studio, so we’re all about helping people discover their movement potential, whatever that may be. So we hope that we inspire people to embrace the body that they have and not try to be something that they’re not. For example, some people are born with longer legs than others, and no matter how you will your legs to be longer, they will only be the length at which genetics has decided that they will be. So we help people embrace the beautiful body they have and discover its potential. So we hope we succeed in inspiring people in that way.
T: Can you give an example of how that might happen?
K: Well, actually it’s very funny that you asked that. We also have a video website, and we get so many testimonials. You know, a lot of times when you’re in the service business, you only get people writing you or something, or calling and complaining, but we get a number of testimonials. One woman who has fibromyalgia wrote to us and said that she can actually do the videos and that she’s been inspired because it’s movement that doesn’t give her pain.
And that’s something that a lot of us don’t think about because we’re aiming for the next goal, and we have these lofty goals. And here’s just a person who just wants to move through life without pain, and that’s a huge thing, so we know we succeeded in inspiring her. We also received another email recently from a woman who is blind who has been able to do our videos, and she said that she can do them because the cueing is clear enough that she doesn’t need to see the screen, and so we were very happy about that as well.
T: Well, fantastic. So how do you think your business, or just the two of you in your everyday relationships, how do you think you help others to explore their own potential?
K: I think that, you know, we are very honest in the sense that we admit when things are hard or we admit the struggles that we have, and that kind of makes people sit back and say “Oh, it’s okay not to be perfect.” There’s a whole image out there that you need to be perfect at this or do this perfectly, and this whole “perfect” word.
And so we try to say, and even with our videos, when we make a mistake, we don’t edit them out. We’re like “Okay, that wasn’t such a good day today.” It’s that human element. And then it inspires people to realize that they have flaws .. we all have flaws, we’re all flawed, and we just work through them instead of try to hide them.
And we also help people in a business level. We get a lot of people calling and writing in for business advice. And one thing we often say is you do learn from your mistakes, and owning a small business does not mean you’re going to do everything right by any far stretch of the imagination.
So we wish we didn’t make a lot of mistakes, but we now try to help people not make the same mistakes we have already made. And they’ll make their own new mistakes, but to the extent that we can help people avoid certain ones that we know, like if P then Q – we’re like “Don’t do that,” and then they can go off and explore other avenues for making mistakes, and of course making successes.
T: So really, it’s double the value here, because it’s not only the physical element that you’re inspiring people to work on, but it’s also that human element of either running a business or feeling better about themselves. It sounds like there is a lot more going on here than the Pilates, which in itself would be, I would think, enormous.
K: Yeah, thank you for saying that. I think that’s true. What we’ve learned in our lives is that all of the nos in your life lead to yeses. It’s sort of like a torpedo. That’s how a torpedo hits its target. It gets signals like no, no, no, no, and it hones in on its target that way. And so if you try something, let’s say movement-oriented, that you’re not good at, then you’re like “Okay, I’m not good at that” and then you try something else.
And all of the little nos lead to yeses, and that’s the way that people can discover, for instance, an exercise system that is right for their body. We find that some people just don’t like Pilates, but they’ve been told they should do it. And Katherine and I are all about saying “If you don’t like it, you need to find something that you like, because if you’ll like it, you’ll actually do it.”
T: Absolutely. You’re talking … the word that I just wrote down was resilience, that there has to be a lot of resilience even in growing a business the way that you have, but also working with your clients.
K: Absolutely. Resilience is absolutely key because you get so many setbacks, and some things you know are going to be difficult. But some days are just harder than others, and you can’t really prepare for some of the things that fall into your lap, and you do need that ability to bounce back.
And sometimes, you know, we’re very fortunate; we own a business together, we can inspire each other. But when we’re both down in the dumps, then where do we turn? And so that’s where it gets a little bit tricky. But you also have to allow yourself to move through that process, and that’s what we tell people who call us … other business owners, other Pilates studio owners who ask us “How do you do it?” We’re like “You don’t have to be happy all the time.” I mean, obviously, you don’t want to carry bad energy to your clients, but it’s okay to be not at 100% all the time, because you can oftentimes learn something during that process as well.
T: That’s great advice. Absolutely great advice. So, what inspires the two of you?
K: Well, it’s an interesting question now, and as we were answering these when we got the speaking points ahead of time, we were laughing because we’ve had such a delay with this iPhone app that we just launched that we’ve both been pretty despondent. I mean, when I think about my professional career, it’s probably one of the deepest troughs I’ve been in since opening a business. And because we were both experiencing the same dip in biorhythms, it was very hard to find inspiration.
So visiting our clients in the studio more – like we don’t teach as much as we used to – but going out and talking to clients and hearing them say things, you know, positive feedback, “Oh, I love it here.” We were like “Good, someone’s happy.” And getting the emails from people who use our website, like that’s always good. And then we also find that just increasing knowledge base — whether it’s about the body or about a completely different topic — just helps me get my mind off of the reality of today and into “Wow, there’s so much out there in the world to be happy about.”
K: Yeah, and I’ll add one more thing – I think a sense of humor is absolutely vital, because if you don’t have a sense of humor, then you just … everything weighs so heavily. So we got to the stage with this launch of the iPhone app that we would just make jokes about it, and then some people would be like “Aren’t you upset?” And it’s like “Oh yes, we’re so very upset that we can only laugh about it now. We’re like two steps away from the funny farm, so now we’re just keeping … ” But it did help us a lot to keep the humor and the levity about the whole thing, or else it would have really gotten to us.
T: Oh my gosh. And is there anything else, you know, that you can think of that when you have been in that, as you called it, the “deep trough” and you’re going “Oh, I could use a little inspiration here” – what do you guys tend to reach for on a consistent basis?
K: Well, you know, I think the most important thing that we’ve learned is what not to reach for, and you can’t … if you know there’s a source in your life that never provides inspiration, make sure you do not go to that source when you need inspiration.
For example, you wouldn’t go to the hardware store for milk, so don’t go to those people who consistently let you down. I know that that sounds very trite, but it’s a hard thing to learn, especially if you’re in a relationship with friends or spouses or family or whatever. If there’s someone close to you that doesn’t inspire you, you need to be very vigilant to stay away and go only to those friends and family and whatever who do inspire you.
So to answer the question directly, we do have friends and family out there who are the source of inspiration, but we also have people who we know “Oh, better not talk about this because they’ll just send me further down that slope.”
K: Right, and I’ll just add to that, the flip side of that is just, you know, anything that brings you joy, no matter how small it is. Like we both love talking walks, and what’s simpler than, you know, taking a walk? We like taking walks. We like watching movies. Just something that gives you just a little bit of joy, just to lift your spirits a little bit. It doesn’t have to be grandiose. But those little things, even if it takes 10 minutes out of your day, if it serves to just flip your mood around, it’s a good thing.
T: You know, it’s interesting. I’m listening to both of you, and even when I first asked the question of what inspires you, you went back to the basics of why you actually started the business. You went back to visiting your customers, and you went back into the studio and you revisited that, and that’s the simplest thing to do, isn’t it? We get so caught up in the aspects of business that sometimes we forget the heartbeat of the business, and it sounds as though when you needed to be reinspired you went back to the heartbeat of your business.
K: Absolutely. You said that so well, and I don’t think I’d even realized it myself. But exactly, we created a business to help others, and so I guess when the trough gets deep, we run back out and see what people are saying. But yes, I think that’s very true.
T: Yeah, and anything that brings you joy. What’s coming through on the Get Inspired! Project and many of these interviews is that a lot of people truly believe that if you’re not working your purpose and it isn’t bringing you joy, you have to go find what that is. And so when you reach these low points waiting for an iPhone app to be developed or another stumbling block in your business that might have happened with the economy, who knows – do you question that purpose and passion?
K: You know what? There have been times we have questioned it, and usually the doubt sort of lives in our brains for a day, and we just let it run its course. And usually by the next day or so, we’re back to just saying “No, this is what I want to be doing.”
We actually have been looking at statistics of small businesses and their “rate of failure” or the amount of closings, and Katherine and I have this theory that many did not go bankrupt; many just closed their doors. And I think what a lot of small business owners … sometimes the passion … they just run out of passion, like gasoline. They just run right out of passion, and they cannot do it anymore because it’s very difficult, especially in an economic downturn. However, we will still have … we might be running on fumes someday, but we still have passion left, so we’re able to dig deep, dig our heels in, and do what’s necessary to keep it going.
T: So again, the resilience.
K: Yes. We’re like little rubber bands over here.
T: That’s fantastic. So what do you guys do to explore your own potential so that you can stay resilient, so you can stay passionate about what you’re doing?
K: Well, we both make jokes that we’re nerds at heart. We’re like nerds in disguise is what we usually say, so we do a lot of research, whether it be online and just go to the bookstore and buy books. And a lot of times it’s about movement or anatomy.
We both are fluent in Japanese, so that’s always a very abundant source of inspiration because we can just pick up a book that we haven’t, you know, read and start reading in Japanese or learn more Kanji. So we both get very inspired on a creative level by just learning more. And you know, our graduate degree is in international economic policy, so that’s another source. So we usually turn to that just to stimulate the little gray cells as Hercule Poirot would say.
T: Okay, now, I’m going to have to ask, because I know there’s going to be people who are going to listen to this interview or read the transcript and will go “Okay, wait a minute, there’s a disconnect here” – how did you go from international economic policy to opening up a Pilates studio?
K: You know, that’s a very logical question, and it would be raised, definitely. We attended graduate school at Columbia, and while in graduate school … we had always danced all our lives since we were kids, but recreationally, and suddenly being in New York we were taking dance classes. We sort of looked around the room and we were like “You know, we’re not so bad. Why don’t we start auditioning for things?” And so we did.
Long story short, we did a world tour, so we got two years of touring the world, and then we danced with the Radio City Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, and we did that for two years. And then we weren’t ready to go plop ourselves down at a desk, because we’re like “moving feels really nice,” so there has to be a way to integrate the business side of our lives with the movement side of our lives, and that’s how Pilates came into play.
T: Well thank you very much for the clarification, because we know that there would be some questions to that. What? And the Japanese?
K: Right. We both … we went to Duke undergrad and we graduated a year early — again because we’re nerds in disguise — so we did not have a fourth year plan. So we had this crazy idea – it turned out to be a brilliant idea – we just moved to Japan to find jobs, because we had studied Japanese at Duke. We knew we wanted to be fluent. We didn’t want to continue with school at that time, so we actually moved to Japan and lived there for almost four years working in Japanese companies.
T: Wow. And how do you think, for those people that are listening all over the world here — and you’ve really followed your passion, you’ve been resilient, you’ve stayed with it, you’ve had a very diverse background — how do you think all of that has come into play to be able to do what you do, to keep this moving, to keep the potential alive?
K: Well … and I think that’s an excellent question, because you never know when a tidbit of knowledge will serve you later. For instance, when we joined the Rockettes, we had so many people, our colleagues at Columbia saying “This is a waste of your education.” I always replied at that time, even though I had no plans for opening a small business at that moment, I said “You can never take education out of someone’s head.” Like, it’s not something that leaves you, so you never know when some knowledge will come back to serve you.
So Katherine and I like to say, like the circle is always completed somehow. You might know how it will be completed, but it usually is completed in the scheme of things. So for instance, our focus at graduate school was international relations, and that’s basically people skills on a really grand level. So our clients service business … we’re all about people skills. And of course, it’s not as grandiose as the President of the US, you know, meeting with the President of Russia, but we still have people that have to get along with one another.
T: And it’s interesting, because you go back to those people skills when you needed the inspiration.
K: Absolutely, absolutely indeed. If we weren’t trying to make clients happy, why would we even be here? Our goal is like if someone walks out of our studio and says “Wow, I feel so much better than when I walked in,” that’s a good day for us.
T: Absolutely, but don’t you find sometimes when you are mired down in all the business stuff, sometimes – and I call it the heartbeat – sometimes that heartbeat just gets lost, and so I really think it’s very cool that the connection for you of your background to what you do in your business is the people, and the people that you serve, and you went back to that, and that’s where it comes full circle.
K: Exactly, yeah. Absolutely.
T: That’s fantastic. Well, it’s been a pleasure to meet both of you, and we will put your website at the bottom of the transcript of the interview. And we cannot thank you enough for telling your story today on the Get Inspired! Project.
K: Well thank you.
T: You’re quite welcome. Take care, ladies.
For more information about Kimberly and Katherine Clark: www.pilatesonfifth.com