Los Gatos Ballet & Pilates Business Story

by admin
Marcie Ryken has been the Executive/Artistic director of Los Gatos Ballet & Pilates, a Northern California business for over 18 years. The studio offers ballet and Pilates education through their fitness and dance programs.

Marcie came to SmartBiz Loans to get low-cost financing to help her expand. We spoke with Marcie to find out more about her plans and passion.


SmartBiz What dance background do you have?

Marcieryken: I began dancing ballet at the age of 9. When I was 15 years old, I moved into my ballet teacher’s home to prepare myself for my future ballet career. At 16, I moved to San Francisco to work with San Francisco Ballet. After a few years in New York, I worked for American Ballet Theater II. My dance career ended in Houston Ballet.

I decided to use my other side of the brain and ended up in Scotland, where I attended college and received a degree in business management.


After a brief stint at IBM, I realized that I was not quite finished dancing. I continued my artistic career up until my “retirement”.

SB What was your business model?

MR The next thing that happened was almost magical. Los Gatos was my first love. I fell in love while walking through the city. I found a Pilates center in a yoga centre and landed a job as a teacher there. The owner then asked me if I was interested in opening a Pilates studio. After a year, I expanded my business into a ballet school and Pilates studio. It was the perfect opportunity at the right moment.

SB: What was the evolution of this business into what you have today?

MR. My dancing taught me discipline and focus. It also helped to develop my drive, resilience, and motivation. I was able find success by applying my skills to the business. The key was to trust, do the work and hire fantastic instructors. I didn’t fear the growth opportunities, and continued to march forward.

SB: How do you market Los Gatos Ballet & Pilates?

Mr: Your reputation is your greatest asset in Pilates and dance training. We have a lot of word-of mouth recommendations. We are dedicated to bringing dance into our communities through Outreach Programs and Performances in schools, local and surrounding areas.

Our marketing strategy includes digital and print ads, community involvement and a strong social media presence. We strive to reach our target audience in the most effective way.

SB: What is the structure of your team?

I employ 9 people and strive to pay them a living salary. In the dance world, it’s common for instructors to teach at 3 or more businesses in order to make ends meet. I wanted to honor the artist that has spent their entire life learning by expanding their skill set. It creates continuity, consistency and connection. They also manage the marketing, outreach and operations of my business. I want everyone to enjoy life and find balance.

SB: Which type of financing have you used to fund your business?

MR. I had a lot of luck in this area. My godfather lent me the capital for my equipment and costs. My landlord gave me a free lease for a couple of months because he believed in my work. I was able build reserves and attract other teachers by making smart decisions. Marcy is the best at stretching a dollar. My Godfather told me.

SB: Why did you apply for a SBA loan?

Mr: My new studio is 2,000 square feet and I need a dance floor. If you want to do it right, the cost will be around $30,000. This is the majority of my buildout. I will also use the funds to increase our marketing efforts and expand our services.

SB: What was your experience with SmartBiz like?

It’s hard to gather all the information required for a loan when you are trying to organize for expansion while running your business. Juan (SmartBiz Relationship manager) made the process really simple. He kept reminding of where we were, and what I had to do now. He kept the momentum moving with “respectful perseverance”.

It was a fascinating process.

It makes you take a deep dive into your business and gives you an in-depth look at the past and where you currently stand. Understanding the numbers is important to stay successful as you grow.

SB Which part of owning a business is the most rewarding?

MR. The most rewarding thing for me is to see the lives of children and adults changed. I enjoy being of service. We see adults who have an unhealthy relationship with their bodies. We remind them of their youth and joy, and this helps them awaken. It’s all about empowerment with the children. Nowadays, kids are constantly under stress. We give them tools to navigate life with clarity, and we teach them how to shape their own destiny.

SB: What difficulties do you face?

The hardest part is to be clear about your identity, what you do and values. You will attract people who share your values if you are clear about what you do. Listen to your customers, employees and yourself when making decisions to fit your values system.

SB: What’s next for Los Gatos Ballet & Pilates?

MR We aim to be a household brand and a mainstay of the community. We will help people to understand the importance of art in a digital age. This will be done by collaborating with other local groups.

Learn more about the quality of their education, training, performances and collaborations with other arts organizations by visiting the Los Gatos Ballet & Pilates web site.

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