Q&A with Elaine Hayes of MNTSTUDIO
I never considered myself a pilates gal - until I checked out MNTSTUDIO. Elaine Hayes owns this SF aesthetic wonderland, and it's every bit as incredible as Elaine herself. If I could sleep there, I would (it's cleaner than my house BY FAR).
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! I’m Elaine Hayes, the Owner and Founder of MNTSTUDIO, a Pilates and Barre studio and brand based in beautiful San Francisco. When I stated MNT, I was on a pretty different track. I went to Cal (Go Bears!), then worked in finance for a brief time, before going to law school. It was after my first year in law school that I started to realize that what I was working towards and doing on a daily basis was not in alignment with my authentic self. This was a scary thing to realize, and quite honestly sent me into a bit of a crisis!
Throughout this time, I had been practicing Pilates for years, and it was seriously the highlight of my week. I always felt so fully present, connected with my body, and overall just HAPPY after a Pilates class. So in 2010, I took a leave of absence from law school and enrolled in a Pilates teacher training program. Lots of people told me I was crazy. That I was on track to be a successful lawyer, work at a prestigious law firm, have an important job, and make lots of money, so why change that? But all those reasons not to take the leap paled in contrast to what my heart was telling me. And that was that I NEEDED to make a change. So I did. :)
I quickly realized I had made the right decision. I finished my Pilates training and started teaching at various studios around SF, and very quickly developed a strong following. Soon thereafter, I took what little money I had (let’s be honest, all I had was a credit card!), and bought myself a Reformer and put it in the spare room of my apartment I shared with my then-boyfriend (now hubby — hi, Mike!). Within six months, I was seeing clients from 7am to 9pm six days a week. I started having to turn away new clients for lack of space in my schedule. That was when I started to dream up MNTSTUDIO.
What was the inspiration behind MNTStudio?
Pilates and mindful movement changed my life in many ways. On the obvious level, it gave me confidence in my body, in my strength, and in my ability to change and grow. On a life level, Pilates also helped me grow as a person. Being able to leave a career path that was making me unhappy and crushing my soul, and instead follow my passion to start a successful business was a transformative and pivotal experience for me.
So, when I started creating the concept for MNT, I knew I wanted to do two things: 1) I wanted to impact as many people as possible and teach Pilates (and later barre) to more people. I hated that I was turning people away. 2) I wanted to empower other women (and men!), to take what they love and turn it into a successful career. That meant that I wanted to create a business that would not only impact the clients, but also enable other people to turn their passion into a thriving and fulfilling career. Further, I wanted to remove the intimidation factor that is so often associated with Pilates. Anyone can do Pilates, and my mission was and still is to create a welcoming, no-attitude, and beautiful space to allow for people to learn about their bodies, gain strength, and feel amazing.
All those goals combined formed what MNT is today. We offer challenging yet accessible classes that anyone can take, in a beautiful environment where the staff and instructors truly care about clients and each other. We have a thriving teacher training program for both Pilates and barre, and have coached and helped countless wonderful people looking to make a career change and turn what they love into a career.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start their own brand/business?
I was 25 and a bit naive when I started my business, but I have to say that I think that actually served me well. If had known how difficult it is to build what I have built, I may have been too scared to even start. So what I would say to someone just starting out is to take things one step at a time, and try not to get overwhelmed with doing too much all at once. I started very small by running my business in my apartment. I had zero funding and totally bootstrapped it for many, many years, and that’s totally ok.
That brings me to my next piece of advice, and that’s to be patient. From the outside, it seems like other people are overnight successes, but that’s very rarely the case. There’s a lot of hustle and hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make a business successful, so understanding that it takes time and grit to get there will help you persevere.
And that brings me to my third piece of advice, which is to not compare yourself to others. It can be really discouraging when you compare where you are with someone else who seems to be where you want to be, but oftentimes, we don’t have any context around how they got there, or if they’re even as successful as they appear. Focus on yourself and your business, and don’t worry too much about what everyone else is doing.
The flip side brings me to my last piece of advice, and that’s that it’s ok to ask for help. When I was starting out, I didn’t know the first thing about business. So I went to the SBA (Small Business Association), and got hooked up with a mentor. My mentor was a 90 year old gentleman who made his fortune selling the first ever color TVs in the 1950s door to door (!!). He had no idea what social media was, but boy did he know how to budget and forecast! His help was part of what gave me the confidence to take the leap, because the numbers don’t lie and excel is your friend. ;)
What do you love most about your job?
I love bringing out the best in people: both our clients and my staff. When I see someone grow and do things they didn’t think were possible, and thus become more confident in themselves, it seriously makes all the hustle 1000% worth it. I live for that.
What do you love most about yourself?
I love that I am empathetic and kind. And also surprisingly goofy once you get to know me. :)
Take us through a day in the life of Elaine. We want all the deets!
I wake up most mornings around 6am and go and grab my son from his crib. We then snuggle, and he has a bottle. After that, I start getting ready for work while my husband makes us scrambled eggs (all three of us eat them, sometimes even our dog!). At 8:30am our amazing nanny arrives and I hit the road to drive to SF (I live in the south bay in the ‘burbs). I’ll usually take a couple of work calls in the car, or listen to a podcast. Then I get to MNT around 9:45am, and from there it depends on the day. I usually have a meeting with either Carlie (our Director of Studio Ops), or another staff member, or I’ll meet with other entrepreneurs and brands that we may be collaborating with.
Depending on the day I’ll have a client or two, teach a couple of classes, and I’ll also make sure to take a class myself. I also spend some time catching up on emails in my office, planning events, supporting my staff, and reaching out to other brands. Most days I leave to go back home at 2pm, and get home by 3pm so I can spend time with my 10-month old son, Leo, which means that from 3-7pm I’m on mom duty. At around 7pm my hubby, Mike, and I have dinner together, and then we both work on our computers for about an hour or so, catching up on emails and working on projects. I like to read every night before going to sleep, so I will read a little bit in bed and then it’s lights out by around 10pm. And then I wake up the next day and do it all over again! My days are long and non-stop but they are full of things and people I love, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.
What's on the horizon for you in 2018?
We have lots of exciting stuff in the works, but what I’m most excited about is expanding our digital presence in our Pilates Teacher Training program, online workouts, and continuing education for MNT instructors. Stay tuned!
And lastly, what makes you feel like a kween?
When my son looks at me with those big brown eyes and gives me a big gummy smile, I feel like the Kween of the world. :)