Helen Conway, Owner Director of Bodywork-Pilates
Stronger than ever thanks to holistic fitness and faithful clients
My story is about the power of the human spirit and how vitally important it is to have a loyal customer base – but first, a word of advice to my fellow entrepreneurs: truly nurture the relationships you have with your clients, because one day they might just be the strongest thing in your business.
Seventeen years ago, I opened my own specialist pilates and yoga studio in Wirral. It was my first solo venture – putting everything I had into it. Unfortunately, the landlords were not as nice as they could have been and I made the difficult choice in 2005 to walk away from my massive investment. I wanted to stay in the area and open another studio, which I did, and my clients followed me; I was so humbled by their devotion – and this wouldn’t be the first time I’d experience that sensation.
Around the time I relaunched in Wirral, I opened a second studio in Chester because business was booming. My husband left his corporate job to join me full time in running my joint enterprise, but in 2008 – from out of nowhere – he had a heart attack. He was fit and 51, so we took the shock as a warning that we were burdening ourselves with too much.
After he’d fully recovered, we closed the Wirral studio and concentrated solely on Chester – retaining 90% of our clientele.
Things settled and then, in 2010, devastation… the studio was burnt down in an accidental fire, along with 52 other SMEs. At my lowest ebb, my clients were unbelievable – giving their time to help salvage equipment from the wreckage; offering their homes for us to stay in and regroup; helping us arrange classes at local venues until we found our feet; and lending ongoing support until we eventually established the beautiful studio we have today in Wrexham.
I’ve had 27 surgeries on my right knee throughout my career, with clients continually supporting me during recovery phases – leading demonstrations and rallying round; they’re truly amazing, inspiring people… my bedrock.
The day I decide not to run a business anymore, it won’t be because of rogue landlords, accidental fire or ill health; it’ll be my decision entirely.