Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in health and wellness but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Mary-Jane Amrein, Owner of The Pilates Center for Fitness & Therapeutic Conditioning, located in Williamsburg, VA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

The Pilates Center is an equipment-based exercise program for all ages and fitness levels. We specialize in focusing on muscular issues such as pain in the hips, knees, back, and shoulder. We try to help clients avoid surgery but otherwise, we prepare clients for surgery and for a quick recovery if surgery is needed. We also help high school and college athletes with performance by testing neuromuscular inhibition when they have pain. . We have helped runners, swimmers, soccer players, baseball players, and LaCross players to improve performance and speed. Golfers have improved their game by strengthening shoulder, hips, and trunk muscles.

We have clients with Parkinson's and Multiple Sclerosis that find the core and balance focus very beneficial. The majority of our business is done one-on-one, so we can best serve the needs of the individual. We also offer small group pilates classes.

Tell us about yourself

I started teaching aerobics classes to help me with a weight problem. That evolved into opening a small gym that I had for 20 years. For the last three years, I have introduced pilates into the offerings. I was shocked at how quickly people felt the benefits of reducing back pain, losing inches, to helping cure Crohn's Disease. Many of the aerobics participants were wearing knee braces due to the stress on their knees. I realized that pilates did not have that joint stress, and focusing on muscle strength and spine/core strength was much more beneficial to the body. I decided to sell the business and open up a pilates studio to offer more pilates equipment options.

Pilates is a gentle but deep workout focusing on not just larger muscles but also smaller, deeper muscles without stressing the joints. The focus is on proper spine alignment while exercising all muscles, including arms, legs, and core. The results our clients receive are amazing, from the youngest athletes to people in their 70's and 80's!!!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Being in the fitness business for over 40 years and having evolved from aerobic dance to helping people with muscle pain and dysfunction. I went for advanced muscle training in a new method of muscle testing started 20 years ago called Muscle Activation Techniques. My training with the creator Greg Roskopf started 18 years ago, and it has transformed my pilates business. People who were having pain or found the pilates exercises too difficult could now successfully perform them because their muscles were working properly due to activating the muscle spindle and "turning the muscle on"! Ten pilates exercises are the next step in strengthening those muscles.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Making pricing decisions are fair and reasonable. Hiring and training good people that have a caring, genuine personality and want to help people.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. You must be passionate about what you are doing. You may not make much money at first, so you need to have a nest egg or a supportive partner to get you through the first few years.
  2. You must be patient and flexible and have the ability to change as situations arise.
  3. You need to continually update your training so you are always on the cutting edge of your field and people will respect your knowledge.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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