The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is Choose to Challenge — the premise being that “a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change”.
One of the key values at Annah Stretton is supporting and encouraging women in business. Annah and Sami's bond and passion for building their business piqued our interest in celebrating other women-owned local family businesses.
Mother and daughter team Sonia and Braidy Lidington are the dynamic duo behind Hamilton's Progressive Pilates. Founded in 2001 by professional fitness expert Sonia, daughter Braidy joined her mum in 2018 as an instructor and the two haven't looked back! Here, Sonia and Braidy open their world and share their story on how their relationship has helped them in business and how they've challenged the rules and forged their own path to success.
What's your secret to building an enduring brand and business longevity?
Sonia: My focus in the studio has been directed towards bringing our clients together. They may come in as strangers, but I want to bring them together into groups where they become friends and therefore not only look forward to their weekly Pilates fix, but also look forward to catching up with their Pilates friends. We become integrated into each other’s lives and take the time to learn about each other, support when needed, and celebrate with them.
Setting up boundaries to ensure you can maintain your mother-daughter relationship as well as run the business.
We have been fortunate that Braidy has merged into the business and we have been able to grow our relationship as mother/daughter and colleagues. The challenge is on the occasion when I need to wear the employer hat more than the mother hat. I am known for sharing stories about my family — I may cross the line here at times.
Where have you challenged the boundaries/conventional wisdom/the industry rules and cut your own path to success?
Sonia: The Pilates Industry, like all fitness industries, has changed over the last 10 to 15 years. We have seen Pilates become more mainstream and ‘gymified.’ Mat classes with 30 to 40 people, rooms filled with reformers and one trainer. New clients mixed with those who have years of experience. A fleeting glance over the ‘principles’ and straight into it.
Pilates is a progressive programme; we all start as beginners. Most clients will be middle level, some advanced. I want to remain focused on what Pilates is and make sure our clients are taught the programme correctly so they get the full benefits of Pilates. We also provide each client with feedback in their session, so they continue to develop and grow in their practice. Plus, we provide sessions at the level suitable for each client, so that they are safe and as appropriate yet challenged.
What do you think women bring to a business that is special and unique and desperately needed in today's world?
Sonia: I’m the owner of a small business that I have built up from scratch. I am proud of what I have achieved. I did not bring business management to my studio — I bought a passion for people, exercise, health and teaching. I have learnt to run a business.
Braidy, what are two standout things that you have learned from your mum?
It's hard to choose just two standout things as it's safe to say I have pretty much learnt everything I know about Pilates from her! Apart from the Pilates information she has taught me over the years, Mum has shown me the importance of building relationships with our clients. It's safe to say Progressive Pilates is built off the relationships that both we have with our clients and that our clients have with one another.
Sonia, what are two standout things that you have learned from your daughter?
Braidy is taking us forward into this century. Social media is now an essential part of the studio, and one that I could never have embraced. Photo shoots, apps and online bookings are all new in my vocabulary. Adding reformer classes to the services available at the studio has been driven by Braidy. She brings a new direction, youth and exuberance, and lovely Freddie to the studio.
If only I knew then, what I know now.
Sonia: Hindsight is a great thing; we all grow and develop through our careers. Growing as a Pilates teacher and growing as a business owner have both been big journeys. Realising that your core does not mean you have to do hundreds of ab crunches but should be more about being strong through functional movements patterns. That glutes are such an undervalued muscle. I have learnt that what my body could do at 30, it can’t do at 50, and as such what and how I teach my clients has changed as we have aged together.
Braidy: I feel like I can't quite answer this question yet, as I know I still have so much to learn. But there's a couple of simple things, like wishing I knew that I shouldn't be doing roll-ups with clients as a warm-up, and that I would eventually come to take classes without getting nervous and shaky beforehand!