In this month’s client success story, Kari Neigebauer-Koch, founder and owner of Circle Studio, explains how Pilates and gyrotonics strengthen the core of the body and how SCORE strengthens the core of her business.

How did it all begin?

Kari grew up doing ballet, but after college, she hurt her back. She tried yoga, chiropractic treatments and massages, but they only offered short-term relief. She discovered Pilates and finally found a long-term solution for her back pain. It helped with her posture and balanced her body.

She loved teaching and wanted to become a Pilates instructor. She moved to New York City to learn from a student of Joseph Pilates, the creator of the system, and became certified to teach. At her first job, Kari saw a giant wooden machine with pulleys that “looked almost medieval.” This was a gyrotonic machine. She tried it and found even more pain relief. She needed to learn and teach gyrotonics too.

“Pilates is really the core, and it’s the art of control and mastering your body, alignment and form. It’s more linear. Gyrotonics…is an expansion system. It’s more circular but still very core centered. So it’s the yin and the yang of the Pilates.” Kari knew she needed both in her life.

She moved back home to Portland, Oregon, but the city didn’t have a studio at the time that combined Pilates and gyrotonics. With her mom’s encouragement, Kari created a studio that did.

What did you learn from SCORE?

Kari worked with SCORE for several years on different aspects of growing her business. One mentor helped her develop a mission statement and business plan, the core of her company.     

Another SCORE mentor introduced Kari to the world of Human Resources, one of her biggest concerns. She also learned the financial side of business, the nuts and bolts of Quickbooks and accounting.

Business was booming, and Kari hired 7 employees within the first year. Then, the recession hit.

How did SCORE help you through the recession?

“SCORE gave me someone to talk to. It’s a really lonely place to be in a recession as a solo owner.” Kari talked with her SCORE mentors about every major decision, and she learned how to communicate with her employees to keep them on board.

“I don’t think I would’ve made it through without going to SCORE on a regular basis.”

Adding the yin to her yang

When her son was born, Kari realized she needed a partner to help run the growing business and maintain a better work/life balance. She asked Lynnea Amend, one of her Pilates instructors, who accepted the job.

First, Lynnea had to catch up and learn how to run a business. She worked with SCORE to get on the same page as Kari.

Next, the duo had to learn how to communicate and become a solid team. Just like marriages, opposites attract. So a SCORE mentor helped forge a new partnership of different personalities. Kari and Lynnea formed the yin and yang of Circle Studio.

What advice would you give to new business owners?

“I would tell them to go to SCORE. Get a business plan. Go to their workshops. It’s like private counseling for free.

It’s about building those good healthy habits from the start…the more you prepare, the better.”

About the Author(s)

Bridget Weston Pollack

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the SCORE Association.

Vice President of Marketing & Communications, SCORE
Balance and Strength: Client Success Story – Circle Studios