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How I Got Here: The founder of Good Times Pilates on cultivating community and connection

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

“Empathy and vulnerability have given me so much back in terms of community, relationships and connection.”

Have you ever stalked someone on LinkedIn and wondered how on earth they managed to land that wildly impressive job? While it might look like smooth sailing, there’s no doubt been a heck of a lot of hard work involved in getting there.

So what lessons have been learnt and what skills have proved invaluable in getting them from daydreaming about success to actually being at the top of their industry?


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Welcome to How I Got Here, where we talk to people who are killing it in their respective fields about how they landed their awe-inspiring jobs, exploring the peaks and pits, the failures and the wins, and most importantly the knowledge, advice and practical tips they’ve gleaned along the way.

This week we’re delving into the career journey of Cat Webb, the founder of Good Times Pilates. The Melbourne-based group reformer Pilates studios (there are locations in Fitzroy and Northcote) are loved for their distinctive aesthetic and inclusive approach to fitness and movement. Cat’s journey started when she became a Pilates instructor in 2015.

She threw herself into her new career by teaching at a range of studios around Melbourne – something she credits with helping her develop her unique teaching philosophy and, in her words, the “point of difference I was offering my clients”. These experiences helped shape Good Times Pilates into the successful business it is today, and allowed it to cultivate a passionate, dedicated following. Here’s what she’s learnt along the way.

What do you do and what’s your official job title?

I own and run Good Times Pilates, a group reformer Pilates studios in Fitzroy and Northcote. As a small business owner, I do everything from working on broader business strategies, assisting the team with teaching and community support, teaching classes, developing our merchandise and retail offering, and managing social media.

Take us back to when you were first starting out. Did you study to get into your chosen field, or did you start out with an internship/entry-level role and climb the ladder? Tell us the story.

To become a Pilates teacher I undertook a Certificate IV in Pilates and Fitness with Breathe Education in 2014 and then went on to study a Diploma of Clinical Pilates with them in 2015. I knew exactly where I wanted to teach once I was qualified and lined up a position with a well-known franchise studio immediately after finishing my studies.

I threw myself into my new career and worked hard to develop my teaching skills. I also took this time to learn as much as I could about the business of Pilates; I managed two studios, I became a master trainer with the organisation and one of their training managers. After a year or so, I needed to diversify my teaching experience, so I began teaching at other studios around Melbourne which really helped me develop my teaching philosophy and understand the point of difference I was offering my clients.

I also learned how to augment my own teaching to fit the styles of the studios I taught at, and was able to see how other Pilates and fitness businesses were run and communities were built. All of this gave me the confidence and experience I needed to launch Good Times Pilates because I knew where my strengths lay and the difference I was bringing to the market.

What challenges/hurdles have you faced getting to where you are now? Can you tell us about one in particular?

Well… aside from the challenges involved with having to close the physical studio for all six of the Melbourne lockdowns in the past two years (!), I think the most meaningful challenge that I’ve faced – and am still facing – is learning to give up control and to trust in my team to bring our values to the experience of every community member. 

As I write this, I’m 38 weeks pregnant, so I’ve stepped away from teaching and have been working on setting up the team so I can step away completely very soon. Good Times is my brainchild, my baby, my livelihood and my life’s work. Not being there to get to know all the awesome humans who move with us has been really hard for me to come to terms with. I want them all to know how grateful I am and how much they mean to me, but I can’t be there to do that right now. 

 

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A post shared by CAT WEBB (@catwebb__)

Having opened our second location only a couple of months ago, we have lots of new team members (as well as new community members) so I’ve been working really hard to build an internal network of support and connection, so they all not only understand our core values, but feel confident they can facilitate them for all community members.

What do you want people to know about your industry/your role?

The Pilates (and fitness) industry can sometimes give off an intimidating vibe – it can be seen as some magical form of movement by some in the industry and the regular punter can be put off by the performative and serious ways some teachers and studios do things. It doesn’t have to be that way. 

You CAN do Pilates and also eat Maccas. You CAN go to a Pilates class without all the rules. You CAN do Pilates where the teacher can’t do the moves they’re teaching you. You CAN have a Pilates experience that makes you feel like a fucking badass. You CAN choose to move however you want to on the day with the support of an authentic and skilled teacher. 

What’s the best part about your role?

The best part about what I do – hands down – is the people. The community of people who allow us to facilitate a meaningful, joyful and inclusive Pilates experience for them every day. As much as I do love the business side of running Pilates studios, nothing compares to the high I feel during a class when everyone is having fun, exploring the moves, collaborating and genuinely connecting.

What would surprise people about your role?

Maybe just how hands-on I am!? Not just with teaching, but with the design of both the studios, our merch and the overall vibe of the brand. I’ve been super lucky to work with some incredibly talented collaborators, but I’m very passionate about every element of the business so I’m often the one at the end of the day pouring over every last detail. The new studio is a good example of this: my partner Dave and I spent countless hours sanding, building and perfecting every little nook.

 

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A post shared by CAT WEBB (@catwebb__)

What skills have served you well in your industry?

Empathy and vulnerability have given me so much back in terms of community, relationships and connection. Critical thinking and cognitive agility have allowed me to problem solve as a business owner, adapt to external influences small and large (hello, COVID-19), and keep the momentum of the business building. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be in a role like yours one day?

Work on developing your unique teaching philosophy. What are your values and how do you want to be led by them? Visit all the studios, businesses and experiences similar to what you want to create and gather your ideas! Ask yourself what you love or don’t love about them. Find your point of difference and keep asking yourself ‘What problem am I solving’?.

What about a practical tip?

If you’re thinking of starting a business, always write a business plan so you know exactly what you’re getting into, how you plan to grow, your goals, your target market etc. It doesn’t need to be 500 pages long, but without the basic nuts and bolts of how you plan to run and grow your business, you’re flying blind. 

@catwebb__

Read the rest of the How I Got Here series here.

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