It’s hard to imagine a career path that takes you from investment advisor one day to Pilates instructor the next, but it’s a path that is more than familiar to Todd Gibbs.
While searching for a way to alleviate his chronic back pain, Todd discovered Pilates and was immediately hooked. As an investment advisor by day, Todd started to pursue his new passion on the side but came to realize he wanted more. “The thing is, when I first started teaching I was doing it as a hobby. I never knew that I could make a living doing it — I didn’t ever think about making a living doing fitness.”
Getting his business off the ground was not an easy feat, but entrepreneurship proved to be a smart decision in the end. Since opening up his first studio in South Austin in 2012, Todd has opened two more locations — one in North Austin and one in Round Rock. The studios offer pilates and barre (and a little yoga) classes and have gained a very loyal following over the years for their welcoming atmosphere and upbeat workouts.
If there’s one thing to take away from Todd’s career journey, it’s that you can’t predict where you’re going to end up. “It was not the big plan, but I’m sure glad it worked out the way it did.”
How did you get started with Pilates?
Well, I got started by taking a pilates class. I had had chronic back problems since my mid thirties and nothing seemed to fix it — until I tried pilates. I heard pilates was great for people with back issues and not only did it fix my back problems, but I really loved it. It was the first group exercise class I had been to that I loved.
When did the idea for ToddPilates come about?
I took classes for about two years, and I started thinking ‘you know? This wouldn’t be a bad side job.’ The next step was to get certified, so I did that and I started teaching at Gold’s Gym. That’s where I took my first pilates class and where I taught my first pilates class. And I taught there for years. I kinda got good at what I was doing and was attracting big crowds and I thought, maybe I should try renting some space and holding my own classes. So I did, I rented some space and struggled with it for probably a couple years, just trying to get people to come. It was really hard. It’s a lot different when you’re building from scratch, but over time I started gaining momentum and I added more classes. I just started growing little by little and honestly, over about an eight year time frame I started teaching more classes and doing less investment advising.
What has been the most unexpected part of running your own business?
The amount of gross revenues that we generate for the Austin and Round Rock economy. Most of our revenue goes right back to the local economy as we support a large staff and various vendors in Austin. It takes a lot of revenue to cover all of our expenses, but it’s nice to know we are putting it in the hands of people and businesses that contribute to city’s vibrant economy.
“Don’t be afraid to start small and grow slowly.”
Do you feel like you have a good work/life balance?
Yes, for the most part. I’m aware that it’s all too easy for work to become life. My work is so much fun and rewarding, I have to be careful to set aside time and do things totally unrelated to work. So yes I have a fairly good work/life balance, but the scales tend to tip towards working more. I’ve always enjoyed working and couldn’t wait to get my first job. I like to be busy and productive, but I try to leave time to be lazy and relaxed.
Favorite thing to do in Austin to unwind?
Dining out with friends at local restaurants and seeing a play at a local theater.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Learn the trade first. Work with or for someone or a business who has been successful at what you want to do. Don’t be afraid to start small and grow slowly. Don’t get in over your head in expenses, keep expenses low until you have enough cash flow to cover your expenses. We have seen so many of our small business friends get into high priced real estate thinking they will succeed by just having a nice storefront. There’s nothing worse than seeing your business sink deeper into debt because of extremely high fixed expenses (like commercial real estate).