Since Tracy Stafford, owner and lead teacher, opened Integration’s Oliver location in 2000, the studio has been committed to investigating the science of mind-body exercise from a Pilates perspective. Integration offers group classes, private training, home program design, and specializes in enhancing athletic performance and in injury prevention/ post-rehabilitation.
We asked Tracy Stafford some questions about her Edmonton Made business. Here's what she had to say:
When did you start your business and why?
I opened Integration in 2000. Originally from Edmonton, I had moved to Toronto in 1990 to study dance at York University. Pilates quickly became a big part of my dance training regime and in 1997 I began to teach in Toronto. I soon realized that I loved helping people dive deep into their body awareness and build strength from the inside out. It’s a very creative process not unlike what I was doing in the dance studio. I made the decision to open my own business in Edmonton so I could create my own universe to play in. I realized that for me to give what I had the potential to give, it needed to be in a space that felt free for exploration. The studio still feels that way to me almost 17 years later.
Why did you start your business in Edmonton?
Living in Toronto provided so much opportunity, but I became homesick for family and moved back to Edmonton in 1999. Immediately I saw there was very little Pilates in Edmonton and saw my opportunity. I was ready to commit to being a small business person – how much more risky could it be than being a freelance dance artist??
Edmonton has a spaciousness to it that I didn’t feel in bigger centers. I didn’t feel like I needed to follow anyone else’s map, or bible, or rulebook about how to teach Pilates or about how to run a business.
What was your biggest challenge in the early days of your business?
Everything. I learned at all pretty much from scratch: construction, marketing, accounting, hiring and training staff, developing fitness programs and teaching protocols and – and so much more. I had a lot of help, of course, but I really wanted the studio to be to my design, so I was involved in every aspect of the business. I loved the learning but I had many very full days. Thankfully Pilates was becoming more and more popular by the moment so I was able to have a steady client base and income stream almost from day 1.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Right now I am determined to develop more of an online presence. As you might imagine, my fine arts degree in dance has not helped me become very computer savvy, so I am back in a big learning curve. Being in the unfamiliar territory of tech can feel daunting at times, but thankfully the base of my business takes place in an embodied reality, not a virtual one.
Did you/do you have a ‘support network’? What does that look like?
In the early days, my former husband was extremely helpful in all areas of the business, from building the Pilates equipment to repairing the toilets! In that way, all of my family has helped me out at some point – answering phones, posing for photo shoots, and bringing me lunch. Currently I have an amazing staff of fellow teachers and administrative staff who not only do their job exceedingly well, they allow me to relax and continue to do what I like best – investigate how to teach movement well, for as many different kinds of people as possible.
Are there any particular resources (local programs, blogs, webinars, video series, forums, books, etc.) you used to help scale/develop your business that you’d recommend to small businesses?
In the beginning I accessed the Women’s Enterprise Center (womensenterprise.ca) for advice and resources. Being an aboriginal woman, I also accessed Industry Canada’s Aboriginal Programs for grants, loans and advice. Both were extremely helpful. In the fitness industry there are many resources for teachers and for businesses that are very relevant to me, such as Mindbody Online, and Ideafit.com.
Is there a piece of advice you would like to pass on to other Edmonton Made businesses?
Create your dream playground. It’s still possible here to follow your own rule-book and no one else’s.
Is there an Edmonton Made business you’re cheering on?
So many, but some of my clients have their own successful Edmonton businesses: Sabrina Butterfly Designs, Maggie Walt Design, My Filosophy, Focus on You Day Spa, Alta Moda Salon, Poppy Barley, Color De Vino, Dandy Salon, and the soon to be opened patisserie: La Boule, to name but a few.
At your size, do you still feel your business is “Edmonton Made”? In what way?
I really don’t feel like I could be as free and as experimental in my business design anywhere else in Canada but here. It’s a small-big city with a spirit for adventure. I am definitely made in Edmonton.
Anything else you would like to share about your Edmonton Made story?
I have been able to keep dancing! My current passion is for Argentinian Tango and West Coast Swing and the Studio makes a great dance hall on occasional Saturday nights! I feel very, very lucky and grateful that my passion is my job.