Introducing Gretta Free, owner/manager of Embody Wellness Studio. Gretta is the 2016 Armidale Business Chamber’s New England Enterprising Woman of the Year.
Tell us about your background.
I started in fitness 17 years ago and still love it. Over time, my focus has changed to holistic wellness, rehabilitation and treatment. I’ve stayed in the fitness and wellbeing industry, because I can see the value of the transformation that occurs in our clients. They’re so grateful to achieve such huge changes in their life.
I’ve lived in Armidale for 12 years, raising my little boy, and now another little one is due very soon.
What brought you to Armidale?
I have a Physical Education degree and came to Armidale as an intern at PLC, and never left!
While my passion for fitness has never waned, I found that adults were more receptive to what I could offer and coincidentally, there was a wellbeing niche here that nobody was looking after.
What led you to start Embody Wellness Studio?
I started out with small classes at the PCYC and TAS. I also ran some Pilates-based classes with some of the private schools and was personal training at various locations around town. I was running around like crazy – getting pregnant made me consider the advantages of being based in one place. Five years ago, I built a custom-designed studio, Embody Wellness Studio.
What does Embody Wellness Studio do?
We offer a range of services, including group classes in Pilates, yoga, foundation training, TRX (suspension training method), anti-gravity yoga, personal training and rehabilitation programs on our fully equipped studio Pilates machines. Our services are studio-based and use specialised programs and equipment.
We offer tailored classes to suit the differing needs of our clients. Our staff are trained in assessing your body, your strengths and weaknesses and designing individual programs.
We can help with things you may not know you can improve, such as chronic back pain, reducing stress, high blood pressure, symptoms of arthritis or inflammation in the joints, incontinence, hernias, prolapses, post-natal difficulties, and those recovering from surgery or fracture and need rehabilitation.
At Embody Wellness Studio we’re focused on the connection between mind, body and soul. We take a holistic view, not just what muscles we can build, but how can we help this person function better in life, for life. So, we also look at their inner health, including dietary requirements and nutrition. In fact, the three elements of our logo represent this holistic connection.
What makes Embody Wellness Studio services different from other yoga and Pilates practitioners?
Our clientele mostly has very specific needs: rehabilitative or corrective functional movement. We care about their individual journey and support them through that. Our vision is to provide our clients with safe and effective exercise and life-long tools to help them achieve health and wellness.
All our teachers undertake a gold standard level of training through Polstar International Pilates. We also offer Yoga Therapy. All Pilates and yoga teachers have undergone at least two years of comprehensive training. Individual clients come to us with a specific health concern, and we tailor the techniques to meet their needs. We really meet our clients where they are, with their journey in mind.
Our investment in Pilates machinery is significant. Sydney trainers are amazed at the level of investment we have made, offering a larger range than most metropolitan centres. Using machines such as power plates, whole body vibration machines, we can provide true clinical rehabilitative Pilates. Recently a Sydney-based trainer conducted three-days in-house training for our 10 staff.
Your employment model is also unique.
Our employment model provides our practitioners a financial stake in the success of the studio. I developed the Embody Wellness Studio model based on medical professionals like GPs and physios. The treatment practitioner gets 70% of the proceeds in acknowledgement of their training and contribution to the business. This gives our staff an independent sense of ownership and encourages a commitment to our clients.
Who is your typical client?
Some clients suffered from such chronic pain that they could hardly function, and then we have high-level athletes using the facility. Other clients have been preparing for vacation – one couple was preparing for a six-week trek through Switzerland. We have worked with people with Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Parkinson’s Disease, and Diabetes.
Our clients are often referred by their treating practitioner, such as physios, GPs, chiropractors, and arthritis specialists.
Tell us about your growth.
Since launching, we have achieved a steady yearly 50% growth. In the last five years, we have gone from one to 10 staff.
To what do you attribute your growth?
Embody Wellness Studio itself does not achieve huge profit margins: we are driven more by our purpose. We offer amazing service, which leads to happy customers and word of mouth, so we don’t really advertise.
What would you advise a business just starting out?
Look at your market and the niche. You need a unique and marketable product. Network as much as you can with other aligned businesses and live, breathe, represent and be passionate and courageous about your business.
What are the biggest challenges that lie ahead?
Maintaining our quality of service while experiencing significant growth, particularly in the area of staff.