When COVID hit and the world went on lockdown, Jacqui Kingswell and Natasha “Tash” Oakley teamed up to create The Pilates Class: an online platform hosting Kingswell’s regular in-studio Pilates classes. The subscription-based digital platform officially launched on May 27, 2020 and allowed loyal Kingswell students (Oakley included!) To continue practicing at home.
Between Oakley’s skills in marketing and development strategy (she is also the co-founder and CEO of the hugely popular Monday Swimwear brand) and Kingswell’s unique expertise in teaching Pilates, the two have managed to evolve the business in just seven months.
Prior to the pandemic, Kingswell had cultivated a large following on her own, at in-person Pilates studios in Sydney, Australia.
“I started my online classes, called Jacqui Kingswell Classes,” Kingswell explains. “It was a private Instagram page where I uploaded courses for members, including Tash! This is really where we saw the demand for a bigger platform – which became the Pilates class. “
TPC’s rapid growth and success is due in large part to organic influencer marketing and Oakley’s connectivity as a global swimwear founder – TPC has worked with key influencers like Olivia Culpo and Shanina Shaik and Devin Brugman (co-founder of Oakley’s Monday Swimwear) to spread the word.
The statistics speak for themselves:
- Pilates class has had over 53,000 members in 14 months / since launch
- Kingswell and Oakley grew the business to multi-million dollar sales in the first 12 months
“Like many other brands, social media has been a huge marketing tactic for TPC,” says Oakley (who, in addition to being CEO and co-founder of The Pilates Class, is also responsible for marketing, business and financial strategy) . “From the early stages of the brand, we started reaching out to a diverse group of positive and inspiring influencers who we thought were amazing role models in their community. Content marketing has also contributed to our growth. I think for people looking to build a brand it’s really important to have a solid product or offering and to create great content around it.
Speaking of content, The Pilates Class recently released a nutritional ebook written by Kingswell, highlighting the holistic nature of the platform.
“Our recipe guide, Feed me, is an exciting new venture for TPC as we begin to bring nutrition into the brand, ”Kingswell shares. “Many of our members requested it because they wanted to incorporate nutrition into their workouts. Nourish Me is a 30-day nutritional plan, created in partnership with a trained nutritionist, with 50 nutrient-dense recipes that will fuel your body with healthy and balanced meals Nutrition is such an essential part of my routine that I am so happy to be able to share this with our members. “
Karine Eldor: Congratulations on the phenomenal success of The Pilates Class! Can you share some details about the actual story behind the launch of the Pilates class?
Jacqui Kingswell: Our launch story is definitely an emotional story and something that I think about a lot. When the pandemic hit, I remember sitting in my car crying to my husband because I was essentially unemployed. The Pilates studios had closed and I, like so many others, had no more work. I had built business plans and was about to open my own studio in the past, but obviously there was something different in store for me – the Pilates class. I took my classes online and asked my most loyal students to register and attend the online classes while in lockdown. Tash, being a close friend and student at the time, approached me to launch a global online brand that would showcase my specific teaching method through an online subscription platform. We had such a beautiful synergy, and because so many of her beliefs about health and wellness match mine, I knew she would be the perfect match. The launch was definitely a whirlwind. We conceptualized and created an entire brand in a month, which meant a lot of late nights and early mornings.
Natasha “Tash” Oakley: Our launch was driven by a pure passion for health, wellness and mindfulness. We saw a gap in the market and knew Jacqui’s methods were different and would resonate with a lot of people. We were really surprised at the exact number of people and how quickly they took the classes, but the truth is, the platform is transformative and literally changes your habits, lifestyle and mindset into health and well-being.
Eldor: How Tash’s marketing and development strategy skills (as co-founder and CEO of Monday Swimwear) and Jacqui’s expertise in teaching Pilates have helped you thrive and grow the business in si not much time ? Looks like a dream team with your mixed skills!
Kingswell: It really is a dream! I think part of what has helped us evolve so quickly is how our skills are so perfectly balanced. I knew Tash had been successful in growing Monday Swimwear with his partner Devin (Brugman), and it’s not something people can easily do. This is a testament to Tash’s mastery of marketing and business development. My goal and skills are to create a workout that resonates with our community and leaves a lasting impression to keep them engaged.
Oakley: After working for ten years in Marketing and Development, I have developed a solid understanding of modern marketing, consumerism and business development. Things are done very differently today than they were just a decade ago, especially with the growth of social media marketing. I saw early on that Jacqui had all the right tools to build something special with her practice, and I knew my experience could help her achieve this and develop it on a larger scale.
Eldor: How has the power of organic influencer marketing contributed to the growth of The Pilates Class?
Oakley: It has been an important element in establishing brand recognition. The number one question people ask for me as an influencer is what is my fitness regimen, so I realized this is a perfect way to organically promote CPT. Over the years, I also made many friends in the industry who I knew would love Jacqui’s classes, and introduced them to TPC as well.
Our strategy has been to offer influencers in the hope that they will give the courses a try, see for themselves how great they are, and promote them organically. We don’t always ask for a promotion in return, so we don’t always see a return, but it’s part of the process. Being an influencer myself, I also understand both sides of the industry and apply my own positive and negative experiences to our approach to communicating and collaborating with influencers. We recognize that influencers are not just businesses but also people, and we want to gain their trust and know that they really love the brand!
Eldor: The fitness / wellness industry has changed dramatically in the wake of the pandemic. What are the changes in the industry that you see, in terms of what people are looking for?
Kingswell: He has certainly changed a lot. I was an in-person instructor before the pandemic, and now I run an online digital platform. This is something I would never have seen myself doing without the circumstances of last year. Now, I couldn’t really imagine not having the freedom that digital fitness offers.
Oakley: At first, people might have felt limited in their fitness options when the lockdowns started, but I think it actually created space for businesses like TPC to flourish. Now, a year later, people have options. Some may have been eager to get back to the studio, but others still see the value of being able to roll out a mat, take a home class, and get back to their routine in under 40 minutes and at a fraction of the cost. Personally, I have found it so much easier to stay in shape when classes are more practical. I often take part in our popular “15 Minute Morning Energy Gain” classes before a Zoom call.
Eldor: Likewise, many fitness experts had to change their offerings last year. What is the main difference from TPC? It should also be noted that TPC was born out of the pandemic, rather than being a backbone.
Oakley: Because we were born in a very trying time for the world, all of this was taken into consideration when creating our brand. We have developed strategies to make CPT more than just training. We wanted it to be an escape from the reality of what was going on at the time. We also wanted our members to feel supported, as if they had a community within us and between them, so this was the cornerstone of our foundation. Our holistic and balanced approach to health and wellness also shines through in everything we do – and it is felt by our members.
Kingswell: It was also very important for me to check with my members in each class. I made sure to start class with breathing exercises and decompression methods because I knew everyone listening probably had a lot more to do around the house. I think this is why many of our members have shared with us the profound impact PTC has had on them, and how it has gone beyond their fitness journey and helped improve their overall wellbeing. . In many ways, having started our business at such a monumental time in world history has set us apart greatly and will continue to do so even beyond the pandemic.