The YMCA of the East Valley includes three facilities located in the Southern California cities of Redlands, San Bernadino and Highland. The association serves over 14,000 members – with an amazing 10,000 members belonging to the Redlands facility alone.
The three clubs offer many group exercise programs that are included with their memberships. However, seeing a trend that was sweeping the commercial and nonprofit fitness world, Program Director Robin Stein decided to try something new – fee-based Pilates group exercise classes. Stein has been a Pilates advocate since 1975. As a dancer she did the exercises to increase her flexibility and found that she loved the method. She became a certified instructor in 1999, and decided to bring in the benefits of Pilates to the members of the Redlands Family YMCA by offering mat classes. They quickly became very popular, so she embarked on an expansion of the program by offering Reformer classes.
With over 10,000 members at the Redlands YMCA, finding potential clients wasn’t an issue. However, getting them to pay for a Pilates group class was. “All of our group exercises for members were free. Now we were asking them to pay for one. It was definitely a hurdle,” said Stein. She convinced the facility’s General Director to an initial investment of equipment by promising she’d do whatever was in her power to make the program work.
To overcome the pricing obstacle, she initially offered the first week sessions to interested members for free. They quickly became hooked, and she transitioned the cost up to $10.00 per group class. The current price for a group class is now $15 per person.“ It was a slow but sure process. I knew people wanted Pilates and that with time this would work,” says Stein.
In 2005 Stein started with 8 classes per week and was the only teacher. By the end of the fiscal year the program had grossed over $16,000 and paid off the YMCA’s equipment investment. In fiscal year 2007, Stein now has 17 fee-based equipment classes each week along with two additional instructors on staff. The program is set to gross nearly $50,000 in revenue with net profits of $26,000 for the year.
Stein’s program has also brought many new members to the facility: “I offer a drop-in charge for non-members that’s higher than an annual member would get. It’s led to many people joining the YMCA. Since September an average of three people have joined each week just to participate in the Reformer class.”
Although the program has become profitable Stein says it’s just the tip of the iceberg. “We’re profitable but yet there’s so much room to grow. We have people on the waiting list and there’s so much demand for the Pilates classes that we’ve limited those in the program to a certain number of session per week just so we can fit everyone in. Really, the sky’s the limit.”
The Balanced Body Advantage
When launching her program Stein immediately turned to Balanced Body, purchasing seven Allegro® Reformers. “I’ve always been a Balanced Body customer. I love the products and their service – they are a very accessible company.”
Balanced Body had created several new pieces of equipment specifically for non-profit organizations. These include the Pilates Sport – a lighter version of the Allegro Reformer – and the EXO Chair, which provides a challenging strength workout in a very small footprint. Balanced Body also has packages that allow YMCAs to get the equipment and the instructor training they need to become profitable quickly.
“Balanced Body truly understands what it takes for a YMCA to be successful with a Pilates program,” says Stein.