Chief Possibilities Officer and Owner at Seven Studios, Julie Wilkes is four and a half years into a dream come true.
Before opening her Downtown fitness studio at 275 S. Third St., Wilkes had been in the industry for nearly two decades, gravitating to the online realm with fitness videos and trainings. She’d always dreamed of having her own space, but once she started looking at what it would take to open a brick-and-mortar, “The financial commitment was far greater than I expected,” she says. “So I literally made the comment, unless money falls from heaven, I will have to wait.”
As it turns out, money would practically fall from heaven.
Just two months later, Wilkes received a fateful email from a friend alerting her to a business plan writing competition for Kickstart Columbus, a collaboration between ECDI, Columbus City Council and the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District to provide a small business with free rent at a Downtown storefront for one year, as well as other business-building services. Wilkes powered through an 18-page business plan – and won.
Then came the tears. Part joy, part fear.
“It’s one of those things, don’t ask for what you wish for unless you truly wish for it,” Wilkes say, “Because once it becomes a reality, then you have to build around it.”
She went from the low-risk online world, to a physical location where employees and contractors relied on the studio’s success. Wilkes says she was ready for it, though, and calls the last several years building a positive community space through her fitness studio a privilege.
On the the heels of the Kickstart win, Seven Studios opened its Downtown location in June of 2013. By fall of 2014, the trajectory of growth was apparent and Wilkes knocked a hole in the wall to double in size with a second studio next door.
The space wasn’t the only thing that grew. From five instructors and 21 classes, Seven Studios has blossomed to 32 instructors and over 100 classes, offering yoga, pilates, barre, bootcamp, dance and more. She’s also partnered with Kaufman Development on their fitness classes, developed a yoga teacher training program, and forayed into the world of aromatherapy.
“To get that initial grant from ECDI and Kickstart Columbus, Columbus City Council, it really was what we needed to open our doors,” Wilkes says.
Growing and developing her team, and always being on the lookout for doors that opened for her business, kept Seven Studios not only operating, but thriving when other businesses involved in the Kickstart program vacated the block.
Considering the rapid development of Downtown Columbus, one that has seen an influx of residents over the last few years, Wilkes says first come the staples – grocery stores, pharmacies, “And then the next thing on top of that is ways to take care of yourself.”
Seven Studios found a right time, right concept fit for a growing area of Downtown Columbus.
Now Seven Studios will take their success to the next level, opening a second location in Bexley in partnership with Snap Fitness at 2408 E. Main St.
Wilkes connected with Bexley Snap Fitness owner Tony Capuano through ECDI.
“ECDI had said, ‘hey you two have such a kindred spirit about yourselves, you guys should get together,'” Wilkes says.
She connected with Capuano’s drive to do things differently at the five Central Ohio gyms that he and his wife run. The two discussed how they could do more to build community, and, “He had some space in the back of his Snap that he didn’t feel he was using as well as he could and he asked what ideas I had,” Wilkes says.
The duo started brainstorming and came up with the idea of bringing in a lineup of Seven Studio classes. A 15-class schedule that will grow as membership does offers hot yoga and warm yoga, as well as pilates and HIT, sculpt and pound classes.
“I think we both had a need that was being met by it,” Wilkes says.
The pair see the Bexley space as a pilot that they will use to develop best practices as they grow either collaboratively or independently.
Wilkes wants to see her studio grow not just in Columbus, but, “I’d love for Seven to grow into other markets,” she says. Three cities are already on the radar: New York, Charleston and Chicago, and maybe something out west.
Growth will likely see a franchised or licensed concept. Wilkes wants to provide passionate fitness instructors that want their own space but don’t yet have the business acumen or know-how to start with a turnkey operation. Everything from the format to the business plan to the products will be lined up, making it easy to open with support provided along the way.
No matter where a Seven Studios may pop up, Wilkes wants to make sure one thing remains constant.
“That we keep the personal touch,” she says. She describes the personal touch as an always-positive environment that will feel like a combination of home grown studio and top-notch facility.
For more information, visit 7-studios.com.