Starting a Business on a Firm Foundation

Photo: Lauren Chun
Pilates instructor and businesswoman Lauren Chun at her Kāhala studio. – Photo: Courtesy

Lauren Chun grew up in East Honolulu and graduated from Richardson School of Law. After passing the California bar, she practiced law in Los Angeles for about seven years. Chun initially started taking pilates to decompress and refresh while working long days at the law firm.

“Pilates was a workout that I never got bored with,” Chun said. “I was getting burned out practicing law, so I enrolled in the teacher certification program with Body Arts and Science International (BASI) Pilates to become an instructor.”

She worked Monday through Friday at the law firm, and went to pilates training on the weekends. When the economic bubble burst in 2009, and Chun was laid off from her law firm, she took it as a sign to follow her dreams.

“It’s true that when one door closes, another one opens. And in my case, everything kept pointing to pilates and moving back home.”

Chun completed another year of training and passed the final exam to become certified. Then, she took the leap of faith and moved back home to start her own pilates practice.

She initially worked out of a chiropractor’s office in Honolulu, and from there, Chun opened The Firm Pilates in Hawaiʻi Kai.

“The OHA Mālama Loan was key. I didn’t want to ask my family or friends for financial help that would put anyone’s savings at risk. I wanted the financial burden to be solely on me,” Chun explained. “If I failed, I didn’t want anyone else to suffer.”

Her studio is now in its ninth year in business.

In 2016, Lauren moved The Firm Pilates from Hawaiʻi Kai to Kāhala. The Firm Pilates is currently offering private and semi-private sessions, and a few classes to its pre-COVID-19 client base.

Clients new to the studio must reserve a private session or a semi-private session with members from the same household. The studio is on a completely cashless system where all reservations and payments are made online. The studio also has a stringent cleaning protocol, which will continue to be revised and updated as needed.

Although COVID-19 has impacted gyms and businesses across the state, practicing pilates has helped Chun to navigate the challenges and cyclical nature of owning a small business.

Pilates exercises involve breathing, controlled movements, flexibility, patience, flow, balance, alignment, and rhythm. Applying those same principles to life can be very helpful and reassuring.

“Owning a small business can be scary and isolating; you are putting your own money, time, and reputation on the line. But when you remember to breathe, have patience, and believe that everything will work out as it should, things fall into place,” she explained.

Over the past nine years, business has been cyclical for Chun, but she is “grateful for the highs and hopeful during the lows.”

With the support from OHA and her team, Chun continues to pursue her passion. She teaches people to move their bodies safely, effectively, and efficiently so that they can enjoy their lives without pain and injury.

Her clients range in age from people in their 20s to their 80s. She has a client who could not stand after being hospitalized with a major health issue. After regularly practicing pilates, in several months her client was able to stand up on her own and regain her independence.

“It motivates me to teach people like her.” said Chun. “I see how pilates heals people from the inside out, both physically and cognitively.”

Pilates is so much more than stretching and exercise; it is impactful movement for the mind and body. The principles of pilates keep Chun healthy and help her in challenging times. Chun describes her pilates classes as “encouraging, inspiring, and healing.”

We need that now more than ever.

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