Today's Behind the Business profiles Becky Reijs, who offers Pilates classes in Amsterdam Centrum.
Tell us a little about your business.
I started my business by accident in October 2011. I was studying for my Pilates masters diploma in New York and had practice sessions with an average of 25 participants at a time. I found that I couldn’t deliver what I wanted to such a big group of people, so I decided to buy a reformer and placed it in the sous terrain of my old house. At first it was just mums from school with back-ache who came and within six months of starting I was teaching 20 sessions a week.
Describe a typical working day.
I work seven days a week - three of these are pretty intense as I start at 10 a.m. and finish at 10 p.m. Usually, I am at work at 9:30 a.m., I check my emails, work schedule and prepare for the first session at 10:00. I then teach through until 2 p.m. From 2 to 4 p.m. I answer emails, discuss my recovery clients with my physio-partners, do my bookkeeping and clean the studio for the evening sessions. After that, I sometimes go for a run (training for Dam tot Dam) or give myself a class. At 6 p.m. the sessions start again and carry on until 10 p.m. From Thursday to Sunday I work part-time. My studio is on the Leidseplein and I live close to Amsterdam Centraal.
How do you manage childcare?
I am divorced and we are co-parenting, which is why I cram everything between Monday and Wednesday. When my daughter is with me I make sure that I only check my emails on my iPhone (whilst on the toilet) and try not to use my laptop. My partner looks after her while I teach.
How do you balance work commitments with family time?
I find it challenging - especially on a Sunday, as I am gone for more than half of the day. My daughter does not like my work hours, thus I am looking to possibly change things in the future so I don’t have to work on Sundays. However, being a single parent I have to make sure my income is solid as I have no financial backup. This is why my schedule seems punishing sometimes. Luckily, I love teaching, so for me work is just admin and cleaning, not the classes themselves.
What do you like best about running your own business?
The freedom to work with my own ethics and to some extent plan my day around my own convenience.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
Moving my studio from Amsterdam Zuid to Centrum. I have no investors, which is a blessing, but the pressure to work like a dog to cover the high overheads is enormous. This is the challenge I am now dealing with.
How do you find time for yourself and what do you like to do with that time?
Hmm - Saturday afternoons are holy for my daughter, my partner and me. We usually take the dog, wander the streets of Amsterdam or drive to the forest on the Utrechtste Heuvel or go to the beach at Bloemendaal and walk. Then we come home, cook together, play Scrabble or read (we have no TV) and collapse in bed for a good night’s sleep. Otherwise I like running in the Vondelpark - training for Dam tot Dam for a children’s cancer research charity.
Where does your support come from? Do you have a business mamas network?
I bug my partner quite a lot with questions; he has a lot of experience in decision-making. I also bug my two lovely physio partners quite frequently and have just discovered Amsterdam Business Mamas, which looks like a promising community.
What is the most important piece of advice you would pass on to a parent planning to start their own business?
If you can, plan your hours around your family - I have to work when most people are free, which was ok before my child started school. Now that she's at school I don’t see her that much, but I am already tied to my evening clients. If I had realised this earlier I would have tried to plan my work hours more around school time. My second piece of advice is, don't sell yourself too cheaply - I did that at the start of my business because of lack of confidence. However, it then becomes almost impossible to re-join at the market price.
Born in Liverpool, England, Becky Reijs started her professional life as a ballet dancer. After retiring at the age of 30 to have a baby, she retrained as a Pilates teacher. She lives in Amsterdam Centrum with her partner, daughter and old Labrador, Mr Ibble. For more information on her Pilates classes, please visit her website.