BC: Give our readers some background on Elaine Hayes, founder of Mint Studios. Did your upbringing and lifestyle relate to fitness?
MS: Although I was born in the Bay Area, I had a pretty international upbringing, having lived in Brazil for four years and then London, England until my mid teens. I moved to the Bay Area when I was fifteen and fell in love with the people, culture, and nature. I attended UC Berkeley for college, where I met my husband, Mike. We’ve been married for almost four years, together for almost ten! I danced growing up, but never pursued it as a career. But it was through dance that I discovered Pilates at the age of 16. I noticed the changes in my body pretty quickly: my core was stronger, I was more elongated, and I had fewer aches and pains from dancing.
Once I started college, I stopped dancing but continued taking Pilates whenever I could. I had started out with Mat Pilates, but my sophomore year discovered the Reformer. It was then that I truly fell in love with Pilates. After graduating from college, I worked in finance for a little while, then attended law school. All the while I continued practicing Pilates and taking classes when I could. It was after my first year of law school that I did some serious soul searching and realized that the law was not my calling.
It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made in this journey, since I had always done what was expected of me: gotten good grades, held a corporate job, went to graduate school, etc.
With the approval of the dean of my school, I took a leave of absence, enrolled in a Pilates teacher training, and began teaching at various studios around SF. Over time, I created my own unique style of Pilates that adheres to classical principles of Pilates like precision, fluid movement, and breath, but incorporates contemporary athletic techniques to gain better, faster results and burn more calories (and have more fun!). I quickly developed a popular following and decided to start my own home studio out of my SoMa loft in 2010. After 2 years, my schedule became so packed that I was having to turn customers away. It was then that I realized it was time to expand into a full service studio where I could impact more people.
BC: When did you get the ball rolling on Mint Studios? Was it a long haul or was it an overnight idea?
MS: I knew I wanted to open a studio for a while, but I had no idea where to start. It’s one thing running a business out of your apartment with only yourself to worry about. It’s an entirely different case once you have a commercial space, employees, and all the other responsibilities that come with running a business. The first thing I did was find a mentor through the SBA. I was matched with a lovely eighty-year-old gentleman who had built an empire selling TVs in the 1940 and 50s. After filling him in on what Pilates was and the difference between a studio and a gym, he was on board. We got to work on a detailed business plan, which included numerous spreadsheets and number crunching. After about 8 months of planning, I felt ready to take the leap of faith and began looking for a space.
To be completely honest, I got very lucky. My client and her business partner had been looking for an office space for their startup and had looked at this one space on Brannan Street, half a block from my apartment. She knew I was looking and as soon as she saw it, she thought of me. It wouldn’t work for their needs, but she thought with a little elbow grease, it could work for me. I went and looked at it the next day, and before I knew it I had signed the lease and we began remodeling. We love being part of the vibrant community in SoMa, and are proud of being one of the first fitness studios to venture into the neighborhood. Now there are several, but I am proud to say we were ahead of the curve! We are two buildings down from Pinterest, down the street from Airbnb and Zynga, with Dropbox and other startups just a few blocks away. Needless to say, we get a lot of very hardworking peeps in at the studio who are in desperate need of a good sweat, stretch, and endorphin boost – and that’s just what they get at Mint.
BC: Where did the name “Mint Studios” come from?
MS: Believe it or not, it came to me in a dream. I had been trying to come up with a name for a while — when one morning I woke up and the word “Mint” popped into my head. The word “Mint” to me symbolizes renewal and freshness. To be in “mint condition” is to be made new again. The idea is that clients feel whole and fresh after taking class at Mint, and that we help them achieve this feeling not just in the studio but in all aspects of their lives.
BC: Who were your biggest supporters in starting the business? Hubby, parents, all the above?
MS: My husband was and still is my number one cheerleader. He has always believed in me and in my vision, even when I had my moments of doubt. My extended family and in-laws have also been extremely supportive and have cheered me on from the very beginning, as have my friends. I’m very lucky to have so many positive loving people in my life.
BC: What are the current plans for Mint Studios?
MS: 2016 is going to be a big year for Mint Studios. We have some exciting projects up our sleeve and plans in the works that will allow us to help even more people live better, healthier happier lives.
// If you feel inclined to get your butt kicked, we recommend taking on one of Elaine’s sweat-inducing classes. It’ll change you for the better.