By Heather Dorak, Founder of Pilates Platinum LA
Heather Dorak opened Pilates Platinum in West Hollywood in 2006, long before boutique fitness was ever popular. Here she shares how she has managed to be one of the most successful Pilates reformer studios in LA, now with 4 locations — even through the boutique fitness boom, and with the competing elements of the active outdoor life in LA.
Wow, the challenge of keeping my voice and my studio strong — with all the noise in the industry in LA, especially with the competition that has grown to what it is today, AND the beautiful outdoors we have almost year-round — is not an easy task. In fact, sometimes it can feel downright crazy, but it never truly feels that way, just small blips along the way. And I am proud of what we’ve been able to achieve at Pilates Platinum.
I’ve always had a strong opinion on staying true to my heart and what I truly believe, not allowing the haters to detour me, or following something that deep down just didn’t feel right. This is something that has been solid from day one and continues today. Having a strong foundation and staying true to it, is something that truly stands out in LA. This city can be a place that is always changing and people are trying to change to be the next biggest thing, and it can take away any organic sense of one’s true self.
"I’ve always had a strong opinion on staying true to my heart and what I truly believe, not allowing the haters to detour me, or following something that deep down just didn’t feel right."
A way to keep on the same path is to always imagine myself as a client attending the studio. Everything from the way it looks, to the prices, to the policy — are they fair and justifiable? If I can answer yes, all the time, then I am still on the original path. Now, that isn’t to say that I’ve never raised my prices, but the times I have it has been very little, and this is possible because I take pride in keeping my overhead very low. At the end of every month, I assess my costs and see where I can improve and cut back. Constantly keeping an eye on this allows for unexpected surprises to arise, and is the way to keep greed out of the equation.
It’s no easy walk, and is always a constant challenge every month to stay competitive in the market. Having more than one location (four to be exact, around Los Angeles) has helped me tremendously. Each studio is its own beast, so at the very least I can say they keep me on my toes. Having all four studios is a blessing, allowing members to use their membership at all the studios, since a lot of people have to travel to get from home to work. They can catch a class near work during the week, and then one near home on the weekend, without having to buy a separate membership somewhere else. Each member can walk into all of our studios and expect the same results — from Venice, to Santa Monica, to Brentwood, to West Hollywood. This is definitely something I can say we have at Pilates Platinum that not a lot of other places can say.
"This city can be a place that is always changing and people are trying to change to be the next biggest thing, and it can take away any organic sense of one’s true self."
My business model did change as more boutique studios came into the market, but more in the sense of what I was speaking about earlier, getting rid of the ‘extra’. At one time, my studios offered Pilates classes, spin classes, and barre classes. This was a great idea to open my studios with, and people loved the concept. At the time it was enough of a variety that people could leave the big gyms and just come to my studios. But about three years into my business, more boutique studios popped up. With some of them only offering barre classes, or only offering Bikram yoga classes, and others only offering spin classes, people were going to those places meant just for that. I had to be very honest with myself. I want people to come to Pilates Platinum for Pilates. That is what we’re the experts at.
There is a lot to be said in going to the expert for what you want. It would be foolish to walk into an organic juice bar and ask for a cheeseburger. It just doesn’t make sense. With the other boutique studios, it was a blessing for me to acknowledge what we were known for and stick to it — which meant eliminating the other services. At first it was a bit uneasy to wrap my head around, but I am the Pilates lady, so Pilates is what we do — and the transition served Pilates Platinum very well.
"I had to be very honest with myself. I want people to come to Pilates Platinum for Pilates. That is what we’re the experts at."
Something I must add is that the most important aspect to Pilates Platinum is my team. I pride myself on my team; they are amazing! Pilates Platinum isn’t what it is today without their hard work and dedication to giving the clients a hard and different workout each and every time they walk through the doors. They truly pour their hearts and souls into the workouts, and believe in the benefits and ability to literally transform the body and work it like no other workout out there.
It is funny that we live in the land of beautiful weather ALL the time, and that people think we are outside ALL the time. As much as we do probably spend a lot of time outside, it is the beautiful weather that keeps me inspired to keep the studio on its toes. I feel so inspired every day I am outside and enjoying the beauty around me, that it makes me want to do positive things for myself. It keeps me up on my fitness, and I will be the first one to tell you that I love a good run outside, a hike with my friends, AND Pilates.
It is the balance in life, and that balance comes with the beautiful weather AND Pilates Platinum. I believe a lot of people feel the same way: we seek out different feelings from different parts in our life. The outside does different things for our souls than my Pilates studios, but both serve a great purpose in keeping life fab!
Heather Dorak is a Texas native, spending her youth growing up in San Antonio. At a young age, she quickly fell in love with dancing, but dance also led her to an eating disorder and a dance injury, and she feared for her professional dance future.
In parallel, Heather left Texas to go to school at UCLA. She was living the California dream and loving every moment of it. It wasn’t until she literally stumbled into an SPX Pilates class that she truly discovered love at first sight. The moment couldn’t have been any more perfect. Her sorrows of not being able to dance professionally were soon filled with happiness from Pilates. Her struggles with her eating disorder started to shift towards a healthy mind. She wanted to open up her very own SPX Pilates studio, and share with her community the love and gratitude she felt when she took her first class.
With the continued love and support from her family and community, Heather has taken her first Pilates Platinum studio, in Hollywood, and expanded her brand to three additional studios. She loves being involved in her community through leading a teenage girls running group & regularly contributing articles to: The Tig, ActivewearUSA, MindBodyGreen, Women’s Health, Self, Popsugar, etc. Most importantly, it is Heather’s clients and community who continually inspire her and challenge her to keep growing.
Find Heather at Instagram @heatherdorak.