Page: A10 LAMORINDA WEEKLY www.lamorindaweekly.com 925-377-0977 The Transformation of Star Pilates Business By Sophie Braccini S tar Pilates and Fitness in Moraga is undergoing a complete transformation under the new leadership of Andrea Ruotsi. The young mother lives in Moraga with her 5-year-old son, Oliver, and has the energy, training and business sense to make the studio a big success. She is adding classes and services that cater to a clientele who are looking for fun and stimulation in a casual atmosphere. Definitely not your average suburbanite, Ruotsi also has an interior design practice. Ruotsi’s business goals for Star Pilates are lofty: adding barre, yoga, TRX and spin classes, while providing morning childcare, making sure that the relaxed atmosphere is preserved, and the existing clients who come for Reformer or Pilates Mat classes don’t feel pushed out of the way. “I bought the studio last November,” she says with a big smile. “I thought that this place had a lot of potential for development.” Ruotsi was raised in Alamo and has lived in many different places in the United States including Reno, where she got her interior design degree, as well as New York and Los Angeles where she worked in the design industry. She came back to the Bay Area when she decided to start a family. Throughout her life, Ruotsi was athletic, participating in soccer, track and a lot of skiing. She started teaching fitness classes in high school as an extension of her summer job as a lifeguard at Livorna pool in Alamo. She’s continued teaching fitness in tandem with her interior design career, steadily building her body of knowledge and experience. “I loved teaching so much that I always knew someday I would have my own place,” Ruotsi says. “I love barre classes but I didn’t want to own a barre franchise, with someone limiting what I can do. I think that the healthiest thing for everyone’s body Andrea Ruotsi teaches a barre class. is to mix different exercises.” She started teaching barre over 10 years ago, first in Marin County, then San Francisco, before coming back to the East Bay two and a half years ago. “If someone comes to my class regularly three times a week, I guarantee that person will transform their body within three months,” she says. The expansion of classes and services started at Star Pilates are all with the goal to better serve the needs of her clientele, such as opening the morning daycare that runs during the week or selling a selection of sports attire. On the business side, she has partnered with her family. Her father is the behind-the-scenes finance officer of the company. “He was an executive and is now retired. This business endeavor is his way of fulfilling his dream of having a business, vicariously through me, and we’ve become very close in the process,” she says. Ruotsi has always had a business acu- Photo Sophie Braccini Wednesday, January 28, 2015 business briefs Carefree Moves Celebrated (510) 336-2455 or (925) 330-1988 [email protected], www.carefreemoves.net men. Even when she was working for Anthropology in Los Angeles creating displays, besides the esthetics, she also had the drive to grow the business. “I would walk my stock room every morning and see what I owned a lot of,” she remembers, “and then I would create displays around those units.” With Star Pilates, her goal is to make her space in the Moraga Center more visible. One of her first changes was the barre room that had no natural Photo provided light and felt like a storage area. She removed the panels masking the very Carefree Moves was recently recognized by Score (Service Corps of Retired large windows, replaced the carpet Executives, an affiliate of the Small Business Administration) and nominated with wood, and installed mirrors as for an honorable mention as Outstanding Small Business Owned by Women. well as beautiful red oak bars with Since the two owners Dee Vance and Cynthia Nolan purchased the Lafayettecustom-made stainless steel brackets. based business in 2009, it has been growing steadily. They say word-of-mouth Ruotsi’s goal is to offer between is the reason for their success. They remove all the stress from moving and tailor five to eight different fitness classes a their service to their clients’ needs, from simple packing and unpacking help, to day. She won't touch the main lobby hand-holding throughout the moving process. “We work with all kinds of where the Reformer classes are lo- clients,” says Vance, “from busy families, to people downsizing.” Vance adds cated and she is continuing to employ that their bigger assets are the 20 to 30 women they employ. “They are local the master teachers who are the foun- women, professional organizers and packers who love to help people and be of dation of Star Pilates. “I don't want to service,” says Vance. “They love to do a job that’s out of the corporate world disrupt the existing classes; I don't and that’s project oriented.” Packing, transport, un-packing and setting up the want to lose the intimacy of the busi- new home takes one to four days, depending on the size of the home. The preness, either,” she says. “I'm not look- packing is a different story: it can take much longer if people are moving to a ing to pack the seams.” much smaller space. “We help them choose what they want to keep, what will Ruotsi now offers a Sunday yoga be donated or recycled, and we employ men with a truck to transport everyclass and is looking for more yoga in- thing,” says Vance. The team has many emotional stories to tell, such as the structors to offer power yoga. She husband who took his family for a vacation before the move and secretly hired also wants to add space to have a ded- Carefree Moves to do the job while they were gone. “When they came back icated spin room and possibly locker and discovered their new place ready to live in, including the kids’ rooms, the and shower rooms. wife said that it was the best thing he had ever done for his family,” recalls Ruotsi continues to run Flutter In- Vance. The ladies also love to work for the Warriors when they trade a player. teriors, her design business. That, “In that case we do only the unpacking for them, but we completely set up their coupled with raising her son, makes homes, including their closets, the kitchen, hanging the pictures, and we even put fresh flowers on the table,” says Vance. Carefree Moves charges by the for a very full and busy life indeed. Information about classes is hour and Vance says that a complete move costs between $2,000 and $4,000. available online at www.starpilate- Since 2009 they have moved hundreds of families in the Bay Area. sandfitness.com. News from the Three Chambers of Commerce Star Pilates and Fitness 1460 Moraga Road, Ste. F, Moraga Lafayette (925) 376-7500 Ribbon Cutting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29 at the new location of Bay Sotheby's International Realty, 3725 Mt. Diablo Blvd. Lamorinda Weekly business articles are intended to inform the community about local business activities, not to endorse a particular company, product or service. Orinda’s In Forma Integral Fitness Celebrates 20 Years Andrea Colombu started In Forma in 1995, starting with the idea of blending Eastern and Western approaches to fitness. The Italian man, who had been involved in semi-professional sports in his country, moved to California in 1986. In 1988 he went back to college to study anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, exercise science and nutrition. In 1990, he started his personal training career (AFAA & ACE certified), earned a certification in massage therapy from the McKinnon Institute and started his private practice. “We expanded the studio twice, doubling its size to oﬀer all of our classes,” says Colombu. “We oﬀer pilates, barre, yoga, strength and cardio classes, nutrition and TRX.” Colombu’s ambition is to oﬀer tools and practices for both the body and the mind. He went back to school in 2003 for a psychology degree and has made his meditation practice a big part of his life. “I started teaching meditation in the yoga studio in 2014,” he says. Some of his clients have been with him for the past 20 years and new ones come in all the time, ranging in age from 13 to 93 years old. He says that he’s seen a shift in what people demand over the last 20 years. “The awareness has increased, people want to live healthy lives, and they also want a meaningful lifestyle.” In Forma also holds a Parkinson's working group (Colombu’s mom had Parkinson’s) with a specialized trainer. In Forma is located at 23A Orinda Way, Orinda. For info, call (925) 2546877 or visit www.informaorinda.com. The Marquis Business Person of the Year annual dinner honoring Leila Douglah of Douglah Designs will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30 at the Lafayette Park Hotel and Spa. The evening also includes the introduction of the chamber’s 2015 board of directors, incoming president Debbie Cooper of Mechanics Bank, and the “State of the City" address by Mayor Brandt Andersson. Reservations can be made online at lafayettechamber.org or by calling (925) 284-7404. Ribbon Cutting at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5 for Merrill Gardens at Lafayette, 1010 Second Street. Moraga Welcome breakfast for chamber members starting at 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 6 at Terzetto in the Moraga Shopping Center. Save the date for the Business Person of the Year dinner honoring Moraga Royale’s Dianne Wilson at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 24 at the Moraga Country Club. Tickets are $50; reservations required by contacting [email protected] Orinda Save the date for the Chamber Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 20 at the Orinda Country Club. The Orinda Chamber of Commerce will present annual awards recognizing outstanding contributions to the chamber and the Orinda business community. Tickets are $30; contact Candy at [email protected] If you have a business brief to share, please contact Sophie Braccini at [email protected] from front page The Lamorinda Woman Behind Champion Dogs ... continued from page A1 Judie Howard works with her dogs on differing commands. Photo Andy Scheck After Howard won her first Utility title – an American Kennel Club advanced obedience trial category – with her first two dogs, she felt confident enough to start her own training school in Moraga in 1974. “We first used the tennis courts at Campolindo, then the gym,” she remembers. She trained at Acalanes High School, Del Valle High School and Saint Mary's College. Soon word spread about her training. “At some point we trained 350 dogs a week,” she remembers. She had Novice classes that she ran with the help of one assistant for every four dogs, and had as much as 45 dogs at a time. “Within 15 minutes we could get every one of them to sit and not bark,” she remembers. Howard focuses on praise. “I'm very consistent, I am lavish with praise, and I set very clear boundaries,” she says. “I don't punish, and when I raise the level of difficulty I explain to the dogs why I do it.” With the help of her husband, Gary Howard, she built her own training site on her property 20 years ago. “Training is very good for the dogs, both physically and mentally,” says Debbie Hughs of Moraga, who's been working with Howard for two years. She brings her Papillion Remy for one-on-one training because he is very shy. “He was afraid of the wind,” she remembers, but she is sure he will qualify at his first competition scheduled at the end of this month. Nia Surber has been training with Howard for 10 years. “I trained with a Shetland Sheepdog that was afraid of everything,” she remembers. “It took us a long time, but we went all the way to Utility with him.” She is now training Dexter, a vivaciously small 2-year-old dog. During the session Dexter practices scent discrimination, as well as fetching a dumbbell that his handler has touched, fetching on command in spite of distraction, responding to hand commands, jumping, walking side-by-side with his owner without a leash, and sitting in place when his handler goes away. “It is so much fun, and Judie is the best; she’s as good as it gets,” says Surber. “She has the ability to come up with at least five different ways to fix a problem, and she knows every breed of dog.” What’s different about her, Surber adds, is that she is also very good with people. “It's nice to be able to have a good laugh sometimes,” she says. Howard says that over her career she must have trained 60,000 dogs of every breed one might think of, and does not remember one failure. Howard also trains her own dogs and is now going for an unprecedented 14th AKC Obedience Trial Championship. Levels of Competition in AKC Standard Obedience According to the American Kennel Club, there are three levels of competition in Standard Obedience: Novice, Open and Utility. Novice is for the dog just getting started and includes exercises such as heel on leash and figure eight, as well as standing for examination. The Open level includes more complicated exercises, and Utility is the third and highest level of obedience competition, involving more complicated tasks including scent discrimination and signal exercises. To achieve the Obedience Trial Champion title, dogs with UD titles must win 100 points and a first-place in Utility B and Open B, plus a third first-place win in either class, under three diﬀerent judges. For more information, visit http://www.apps.akc.org/classic/events/obedience/getting_started.cfm.
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