Laura Mason took part in her first ever Pilates class back in 2010, which left her feeling free from the pains of sitting all day, full of energy and focused for the day ahead. Since then, she has not stopped, and now helps other women to get stronger and feel more energised with Pilates. Mum to two energetic boys, her own motherhood journey has made her realise just how amazing women are and how with a little bit of time to themselves each day, they can improve how they feel in their own skin. The Unwind Pilates Studio on-demand programme means you can fit Pilates in around motherhood, targeting your core, pelvic floor, glutes and shoulders to help you to build your strength back up after having a baby. Her courses are ideal for anyone who is expecting or has had a baby, or hasn’t moved the way they want to since having one. Here, Laura talks to The Natural Parent Magazine about the inspiration behind Unwind Pilates Studio and the challenges she has overcome along the way.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
I fell into business upon completing my Pilates qualification. Most studios in Sydney where I had trained would pay you as a contractor, so I set up my ABN and away I went. Working at several studios, I honed my skills and taught many different types of clients.
A move to Newcastle at 25 weeks pregnant threw a bit of a spanner in the works. We suddenly had no familial support for our little boy. Trying to work traditional studio hours didn’t work without care, so I decided to enrol our son into family daycare one day a week and teach a mums and bubs Pilates mat class. Buoyed by the success of these, we converted our front rooms into a fully equipped Pilates studio and adjoining toy room where bigger kids could attend with their mothers. It was decided that I would work from home in hours that would suit our family, and I would focus my attention on mothers who were often free during the day too.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
As I mentioned, I started out teaching a mum and bub mat class every Wednesday. I taught these for three years whilst building the studio. I also fell pregnant and gave birth to my second son during this time.
When I was 7 months pregnant with him, I got an offer to move the studio into a coffee shop. Around the same time, I rebranded to Unwind Pilates Studio and began teaching there when he was 3 months old. My husband, Chris, was fortunate enough to have 12 weeks paid parental leave offered to him, so we reversed the roles somewhat and I worked while he cared for our littlest and daycare cared for our oldest.
When it was time for Chris to go back to work, the baby was enrolled into daycare 3 days per week. Dropping him off was really tough and the business didn’t hit it off like I’d envisaged simply from the increased exposure of being inside the cafe. I made the decision to bring the studio back home and take him out of daycare all but one day.
I felt like I had failed, and I worried that dropping back to just one day per week would ruin my fledgling business. Although it has not been a meteoric rise, the studio has gone from strength to strength since then. I teach three days per week and care for the boys on the other two. It was the best decision in hindsight, and really made me define what was important from a business, motherhood and life point of view.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
When 2020 rolled around, like everyone, I was suddenly plunged into a new world. A world of Zoom meetings and digital offerings. I had been working three days a week and loving the balance of business ownership and motherhood. Overnight, the studio was closed and I was a full-time mother to two very busy little boys. It was harder than I expected and I wondered how my mum had done it when my brother and I were children. After a few weeks, I found my groove. I missed Pilates though and the women that had become my friends.
As a release for myself, I began teaching free mat classes twice a week in the evenings after the boys went to bed. It was a way for me to connect to some of those familiar faces. Towards the end of 2020, I decided that I could make something of the online classes I had been teaching – a way that I could share my passion for Pilates with a bigger audience. I created an online program for new mothers (my Post Natal Program) and began developing my Unwind Pilates Online Membership. It has added another revenue stream to the business and I am able to help more women through this new option. It’s not been easy and the amount of work to get things to where they are has been huge, but it’s been great to see what can be achieved with a goal and tiny steps each week.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
It’s still very much a work in progress. Most of my work is done in the three days that my boys are in care. When I need to do more, I make sure to prioritise only the most important tasks. It’s really interesting assessing what is actually important to move the needle forward from a business sense. I have also fully accepted that while my boys are small (they are 3 and 5), the business will not progress at the speed I would like because I am a parent first and that takes up the lion’s share of my time and energy. When I finally accepted this, the pressure lessened and everything got easier.