Entrepreneur, Pilates powerhouse, building communities.
It takes a hell of a lot of courage to start your own business. To fill a gap in the market and create a desirable and sustainable idea that no one else has latched on to. Cat Webb has courage in spades, but also a clear vision and savvy business instincts that has seen her business flourish and look to expand only two years in.
Cat’s reformer Pilates studio Good Times Pilates was never going to be your average studio. That’s just not the way Cat rolls. She knew she needed to create a space that unique and fun, as well as free from the pretence and ‘fitspo’ culture she had felt and hated in so many Melbourne studios. Throw on top of that her love for curating spaces and creating things that are just a little bit kitsch and corny, and you have an all-inclusive community for people who want to move, connect and have a good time (pun absolutely intended).
Cat and I met some 15 years ago on the sweaty d-floor of the infamous One Love, when we both thought fluoro tank tops and wraparound headbands were cool. I’ve met some of my best friends and formed the longest-lasting friendships on dance floors, and while Cat and I didn’t see each other as much post-rave cave, we’ve always kept tabs on each other’s lives and mutually celebrated our successes.
It’s been such a pleasure to both watch and participate in the success of Good Times (I even made it to the 100 class board!); Cat is one of the hardest workers I know and has a cracking sense of humour to boot! So it was a great to catch-up and reminisce all things discos and dumpling clubs, her slow but solid journey to opening her own studio and the importance of creating an all-inclusive community through the death of toxic fitness culture.
Cat Webb is…
Interested in aspects of community and connection, and is someone who is conscious about how people experience the world and tries to make that experience as good as it can be.
What do you do and when did you decide this is what you wanted to do with your life?
I own a Pilates studio, called Good Times. I wanted to really create a space that felt inclusive. A welcoming space for anybody to come and move in, where there was no shame, no fitspo. And a space that is almost more about community than it is about movement. It’s about bringing people together through movement and a place that people can just feel free to be themselves.
Can you tell me about setting up your own studio? What made you decide to take the leap from being an instructor to taking on your own business and staff and everything that goes with that?
I think it was something that for a really long time I didn’t feel that I personally was capable of doing. I had a great deal of imposter syndrome. I knew I was a good teacher and I felt confident in that; I just didn’t think I could run a business.
I’m still learning so much about running a business, but the life lesson from all this is to just give it a go. It was actually my dad actually who said to me, what are you doing if you don’t want to start your own business? My parents were really supportive in helping me find the right space. They own their own business and have done for 30 years. So it just was like the natural progression in their mind to do it.
It took about a year to find the right space and to nut out my business plan, which was good because I became quite picky about what I wanted. Once I got into the swing of things, I realised there were so many cool things I could do that no other studios are doing that would keep me interested and really passionate about the business, such as the interior design, the curating and the creative aspect. Curating the experience, along with the teaching, is an amalgamation of the things that I love. So I got really into it.
We’ve been open for two years now. It feels like it’s been much longer, but I feel like we’ve really evolved.
What would you say so far has been your greatest success and what has been some of the hardest things for you to overcome?
Surviving shutting down gives you the biggest confidence boost ever. It doesn’t really get much worse than having the government mandate your business to shut down. It has given me a renewed sense of like, oh yeah, I can do that.
And then the challenges would be around managing staff. It’s hard when they are your friends as well. Anytime a staff member does something that I don’t feel is on brand or where I want them to be, I first question myself and say, how can I support them? How could I have explained what I wanted in a way that they could have understood better? That’s been a real learning curve, coming at it from their point of view as often as I can and trying to give people feedback in a way that is all about supporting them.
Obviously your business is now a raging success, with I think the intimate nature of the classes being a huge factor. Has it been a conscious decision to not find a bigger space at inception? Do you have plans to expand?
It was a conscious decision. I wanted it to have a point of difference but it also felt like a safe to start a business. And the venue I found just happened to be the size that could fit ten beds, which a really nice number, because you can still talk and get around to everybody to assist in class. It was a deliberate safe option, but also a deliberate community-focused option.
I would love to expand. I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last year. It really depends on how the market plays out, but I would still really love to keep that intimate focus. We’ve offered mat classes since going online, which people have enjoyed, so it’s a good segue into also having a mat space and keeping the reformer space at this size.
You have a fantastic little retail store as part of your offering, can you tell me about that?
It came about because I wanted sick merch – I love that which teeters on the slightly corny, slightly kitsch vibe. I kind of want to make stubby holders and lighters and stuff that has nothing to do with Pilates.
That’s probably the furthest thing from fitness culture as well!
Stupid, I know haha. I worked in retail for a really long time so it was a bit of a no-brainer for me. I know that not many studios in Melbourne do it, so it was another creative outlet. I love finding brands that I align with, products that I use (the deodorant is great, the face oil is really good), and it’s also about finding sustainable products, like the cork rollers and blocks.
We also have t-shirts and keyrings – my idea is to do a new collaboration with a local artist every six months. I’m in the process of putting together that next collab, it’s just about finding the time now to get it done.
You have been speaking a lot lately on your social media about ‘toxic fitness culture’, can you explain that to me and why it’s an important topic for you to talk about?
Toxic fitness culture for me comes in two ways. It comes in as fearful way of teaching movement, and then also shaming people for moving wrong or being fat and looking different. And that is everything that I hate. I’m all about making people feel better than when they arrived. That’s the whole premise behind Good Times, to have a good time!
It’s a journey that I’ve personally gone through. I had a transformative experience with fitness and it changed my whole life. I mean, we know each other from so long ago, in a different life. Exercise helped me escape that old life. So while that was a positive the transformation, but the by-product was having a smaller body and I didn’t feel any happier within myself having a smaller body. When I finally let all of that shit go is when I found inner peace. It’s not body positivity, it’s body acceptance, because it’s a continuous journey. Especially being a woman, you go through a lot of fluctuations.
A culture has developed around telling people that what they are doing is wrong. Human movement can never be wrong. Your body is robust and capable of moving in all these different directions. It’s not wrong to move a certain way. There are ways that you can do it that might activate muscles, but that doesn’t apply for everybody. If you consider all of the different possibilities in the human body, all of the ligaments and joints and bones and the way in which they all go together, there is no one size fits all. Knowing what will bring you a sense of knowing your body and feeling strong within your body varies so much. It’s not black and white, it’s so grey. So I’m against all of the Instagram people that are spreading that negativity.
Have you found that your social account has been an important platform to not only generate business but connect with the Pilates and fitness community and build brand recognition?
Yeah, totally. When I first decided that I wanted to open a studio, I decided to focus on building my personal brand and then leverage the business off that.
Social media, especially Instagram, is such a great way to connect and meet people because you get to see what other people are doing. I have friends that I’ve made from all over the world, teachers and students, and some of them I have met in real life, but some of them I haven’t, and they’re still friends. We can all connect together over social. Plus it’s another creative outlet for me where I can share cool things that I’ve found!
What tips would you have for someone who is wanting to start their own business?
I think the biggest tip is keep coming back to what problem you’re solving. There are so many businesses out there that have started because they had this great opportunity, and opportunity is only like 20% of it. You need to solve a problem to create business longevity, and to have to have a leg to stand or to have something to come back to.
Also always be willing to be wrong. If you have that mentality that you’re always right, then you’re never going to evolve. Businesses need to evolve, human beings need to evolve. If you keep staying the same, thinking that you’re solving a problem that no longer exists because you got too comfortable or just didn’t take the time to ask the question, it gets to a point where you just become irrelevant. Solve a problem and remain agile.
What is next for Good Times and Cat Webb?
We’re launching how online studio, which is going to be really sick. We’ve had it all filmed produced by some cool local guys. It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to be on-demand and will have sections where you can choose the type of workout you want to do or the length of the class. And then a section of mini workouts and so many workshops. It will be a business that is separate from the studio, but it works alongside what we do.
Was that something that came out of isolation or did you already have that in the, in the pipeline?
I already had that in the pipeline before isolation, but then put it all on the back burner when we started the live online classes. I like to focus on one thing at a time and do that really well.
When the focus was on live online classes, we had to make them the best live online classes they could be. Now for the last month I’ve been focusing more on their online studio.
Then hopefully one day move to a studio that can have both reformer and mat Pilates studios, plus space for showers, communal table for students to socialise, drink tea, eat breakfast; to keep building that community.
To join the Good Times family, visit https://www.goodtimespilates.com.au/