Entrepreneurial duo bring innovative movement studio to Highbury

Last December Holloway Road welcomed a peaceful haven that would soon become local Pilates fans favourite new fitness spot. Revamping a tired former dogs grooming parlour, Gabrielle Boyd and Kami Chavdarova opened The Movement Studio.

The studio specialises in Pilates and Ballet Barre classes, a harmonious mix of Gabrielle and Kami’s combined passions. Gabrielle trained at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance and went on to perform as a contemporary dancer. During her career she faced a number of injuries. To regain her strength she began practising Pilates. Kami was an advocate for Pilates before she trained to become an instructor herself. Coming from a family of professional sports players and a nurse, fitness and wellness has always been an important part of her life.

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Pilates training with Alan Herdman

The girls met while training together at the Alan Herdman studio in Canary Wharf and it was there that they became obsessed with learning new ways to strengthen their bodies.

“Alan Herdman was a dancer and he was sent over to New York by the London Contemporary Dance School to go and find out about this new craze called Pilates”, Gabrielle says.

Gabrielle describes Alan Herdman’s style of Pilates as more rehab-based training compared with the classical Pilates invented by Joseph Pilates. At Alan Herdman they worked a lot with physios and ex-dancers.

“It was a mixture of working with athletes and very injured people and learning about conditions of the spine and when you’ve got bad arthritis. It was very thorough. You can get some Pilates where you go to a gym and you do an 8 week course but this was almost like doing a mini degree, with exams and studying,” Gabrielle says.

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The duo has worked in lots of studios together across London but it was at Triyoga where they became obsessed with yoga too. Kami recalls a time she experienced a very intense yoga class that completely opened her eyes to what yoga could be.

“It was a Friday and I remember being really tired of working out and just wanted to go to yoga and relax,” she says. However, it wasn’t quite what she expected.

“It was the opposite of relaxing,” she says. “It was a very technical experience – a lot like Pilates”.

Beginning their business

Every Friday the girls would go to their Iyengar yoga class together and afterwards would sit and chat about the type of studio they would like to create. They understood the importance of Pilates and how it’s helped them with other movement forms (Kami used to play basketball, Gabrielle was a dancer).

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One Friday, they decided to look into actually doing it. They began by searching for studio space in one of their favourite areas in London – Highbury & Islington.

“I love this area. I’ve just moved back to Highbury…I probably pushed us quite hard on this area”, Gabrielle says.

“We have Highbury Fields on one side, Liverpool Road, Upper Street and Highbury & Islington Station. And there’s no Pilates studio here. But all these nice things happening – cool cafes, a little yoga place and a Buddhist centre.”

Opening the studio

Learning new skills and processes is a big part of an entrepreneur’s daily life. But Kami and Gabrielle make it sound like a breeze.

“We didn’t know what we were doing – we were just Googling how to rent a space!” Gabrielle says.

“This was one of the first places we saw – it just felt right. We just found a place without us trying too hard”, Kami adds.

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They took a hands-on approach with opening the studio, which they explain was due to keeping costs low, but you also get the sense that they enjoyed being so involved. They found the studio space in March, signed the lease in August and opened in November.

“It took a bit longer than we thought. It’s like building a house and only knowing the basics”, Kami says.

They might feel like they didn’t know what they were doing but it doesn’t’ look that way. The immaculate studio has been created out of a precise vision.

They recall trips to Homebase looking for the right shade of green and sitting down together to design the logo by doodling on a piece of paper.

“It was a collaboration of very helpful friends and then us being very strong-willed”, Gabrielle says.

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As Kami explains, opening their own place was a big departure from what they had done before.

“We were learning how to delegate to other people and that’s hard. It’s learning basically to talk to people and to get them to do things you want them to do. Talking to lawyers, negotiating with the agents, we’ve never done that before”, she says.

“I thought when we rented this place it’s just like renting a flat. We’re tied in here for six years – you have a proper lease – so it feels a bit like buying somewhere. It’s quite intense!” Gabrielle says.

“I think for us, our next thing is us learning how to be admin business women. Again, I think we’ll just jump in at the deep end!” she adds.

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What’s next?

Taking on new responsibilities doesn’t seem to worry them much. When asked if they plan to expand the business, the answer is unquestionably yes.

“The dream is to expand to the point where we can have a studio which has a dance studio and a yoga studio – so more of a movement centre”, Gabrielle explains.

“Hence the name actually – we wanted an umbrella for different movements not just Pilates”, Kami continues.

With a clear vision and a truly entrepreneurial spirit, Kami and Gabrielle won’t be slowing down anytime soon. A trait that serves them well as business owners as equally as it does Pilates instructors.

Coming soon on the Net.Works. blog – Kami and Gabrielle share their advice on how to stay flexible while at work.

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