Flexibility and balance are core goals of pilates. They’re also core drivers for how Keira Cumberland wound up founding Pilates Collective SLO and helping clients move toward wellbeing.
A dance major who practiced landlord/tenant law for a Santa Maria nonprofit, Cumberland shares her path to small business ownership, what she learned along the way and where you can find her outside the studio.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I remember telling classmates in elementary school I wanted to be the first female President of the United States. I also wanted to be comedian. I still want to be a comedian (and who knows, there’s still time to pursue the presidency route). You certainly find me testing the crowd in the studio.
Song currently on repeat?
I’m usually listening to a podcast instead. Hidden Brain, Up and Vanished and Someone Knows Something are my top three.
If you come to the studio, you already know this … I’ve been watching ER (yes, the medical drama from the ’90s) almost every night for the past several months. Ten seasons makes for the perfect “binge watch.” I like most fictional medical shows. It helps me remember: unless I’m performing surgery, nothing is THAT serious.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Great!” If exclamation points or a thumbs-up emojis count, then definitely those too! 👍
Something that you do every day (other than pilates!)
Besides pilates (and an episode of ER), I’m always trying to get outside for a walk, a hike, a cup of coffee – anything! Even just for a few uninterrupted moments to smell the air or view the sky – it fuels me. If you share the studio with me, I like the door or windows open to bring the outside in. Wanting to be outside more often is one of the biggest factors contributing to my career switch from attorney to pilates studio owner; I have more flexibility to enjoy the outdoors and I don’t have to worry about getting too sweaty for my office attire (which now consists of mostly leggings).
What tops your bucket list?
I’m hoping to travel more often in the next few years. Ideally, I’d like to stay awhile and immerse myself in different cultures outside of the U.S.
What the hardest or most unexpected thing about running a small business?
I’m always learning. I’m sure this is said by all small/business owners: we’re wearing every hat/performing every role (some expected, some not). When you own your business, you’re not only trying to do everything, but you are trying to everything very, very well, if not perfectly. Because it’s yours, because you’re grateful for the opportunity to work for yourself, because you’re just grateful that you envisioned a business/life/community, and it’s blossoming before your eyes.
In light of striving for “perfect,” I’ve learned to not get too high or low but rather expect the unexpected and remember I have an EXCEPTIONAL team of support (family, fellow instructors and clients) who can help troubleshoot any and all issues that come up. We learn together.
What’s the best thing about running a small business?
There is no creative ceiling. Since I’m not at the mercy of deadlines or expectations, I’ve been better able to hone my attention to my gut, allowing the studio to grow and morph at an organic pace. This pace allows so many unexpected, great things to unravel: relationships, ideas, opportunities. I’m enjoying watching the studio create its own identity by giving it space and time.
You’re also a licensed attorney who used to practice law – is there anything you miss about it?
Sure! Practicing law was rewarding, interesting and even fun at times. However, in my pursuit of trying to find a better work/life balance, I took a chance on renting a small studio in the back of a bridal accessory store while working as a non-profit attorney. To my surprise that “chance” turned into an actual, profitable business and here we are today.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve been given so much great advice (it’s hard to choose just one piece), particularly from my parents who have been an incredible support in this crazy journey (of life!). My dad has always said something to the effect of “Just showing up is 90 percent of the work.” I put this idea to action every day. So often, the fear of the unknown or not doing well stops us from trying things. I think to myself: Just show up, just try it, just put it out there – that’s 90 percent of the work. I’ve learned that if I take that first step, or just keep showing up, the rest of it works out pretty well!
*Photos provided by Asia Cronson Photography