THE POLE POSITION
Former Hollywood hip hop and music video dancer Kristy Sellars knew she’d found a new love when 12 years ago she discovered the delights of pole dancing. Now she’s sharing her passion with her franchise business.
Hollywood dancer turns franchisor and shares her passion.
It changes your body completely. And there’s a mental change. Not many other activities allow you to feel sexy and empowered and good as yourself.”
That’s the view of passionate pole dancer Kristy Sellars who returned from the US and found herself embracing a whole new community. It was a simple step to move from student to instructor.
“I was living in Melbourne doing classes but I’d already been teaching dance for years. It was a nice fit.”
The first home for PhysiPole Studios was a karate school in her hometown of Warnambool, a three-hour drive from Melbourne. So on a Friday night Sellars, her siblings and parents would spend three hours setting up portable stages that cost her all her savings, and unpack them on a Sunday night.
As the business took off and started to get busier, Sellars leased her own venue. Then she added a studio in Ballarat, and then some students suggested franchising.
“I was in franchising before I knew I was in it,” she says. “The growth has been organic. Students have become teachers and managers, and franchisees. We’ve never closed one down.
“Six months ago, we started growing a lot faster. We’re getting to the stage that I can’t do so much myself.”
Sellars has added a full time employee for operations, an in-house part time graphic designer and is about to appoint a company to handle the marketing strategy.
While PhysiPole is not a unique operation, pole dancing is a relatively unknown business proposition and there are few competitors.
“What makes us different is that we are more developed in regional areas. Our target client is a woman who has got kids, in her mid 40s or 50s. Or men. We do kids classes too. We have a very diverse customer base.
“Our main bread and butter is classes, courses, hens parties. If the franchisee is directly involved, teaching, they are making their own wage plus profits. Some of them who are following the systems, advertising, are making great money.”
There’s also a range of clothing produced each summer and winter from which franchisees are able to achieve a good margin.
Operating a pole dancing business is definitely a lifestyle choice, she says. Typically franchisees will be running classes each evening from 5pm to about 11pm, with private lessons throughout the day. Sellars suggests spending four hours each day on admin will keep franchisees on top of their businesses.
The buy-in cost for a PhysiPole studio is relatively low: $70,000.
One franchisee who had to borrow from family to invest in the business reportedly paid back the loan within two years and saved $50,000 to open a second studio.
“All our franchisees are passionate about what they do every single day, they get to inspire people, get their own workout, build a great social community.”
Sellars has set herself targets for growth but admits she would rather maintain the current business size and have a great team than grow too rapidly.
Three further outlets will open in the next five months, joining the existing 16 venues. The goal for the end of 2019 is to have 25 studios.
OFF TO A FLYING START
Franchisee Robyn Peddlestone runs two Queensland studios. She opened the Rockhampton studio 18 months ago, buying out an existing small pole business and rebranding and relocating the business.
“I’d been in the pole industry as a student and teacher for 10 years, I absolutely love it. I was moving up to Queensland from Victoria. For me I’d only ever been involved in PhysiPole. I was a full time instructor teaching 60 hours a week across three studios for a long time. “
She says buying a PhysiPole franchise was “almost a natural progression. It’s as big as you want to make it. “
The Rockhampton studio is large: the back like a warehouse, the front of the studio like a shop.
Peddlestone started out with four students, now there are 200.
“It’s taken off like a bushfire. I taught every class till I had no more time, then I took on a teacher.”
The business now operates with three full time and four casual staff, all fully qualified teachers.
PhysiPole’s highly structured approach to learning sets the business apart, Peddlestone says.
“You have to learn trick A before we’ll teach you trick B.”
It’s all about strength and injury avoidance.
In a business which can see students 4 metres off the ground in aerial pole activity, there are some non-negotiables: compliance with rigging and industry standards, the appropriately rated mat, insurance...
“I went to circus school in Melbourne to learn how to teach aerials, and did a course about rigging.”
So when it came to setting up the studio and installing a structural beam, Peddlestone ensured a professional team did the work.
“I wanted it done properly. What price do you put on someone’s safety?”
Just a short while ago she opened up her second studio, taking over another franchisee’s business in Gladstone (the outgoing franchisee will open a studio in Victoria).
Five staff operate this outlet, with Peddlestone instructing two days a week.
“I want to bring them together. Once we’ve all got a good grasp on it, then I’ll appoint a studio manager. I’m the new captain of the ship and I need them to see me as that.”
Although she has more work than hours in the day running two studios, Peddlestone already has her sights set on opening a third PhysiPole franchise.
“The success of the business is the brand, this is pole fitness for everybody no matter who you are. We’re like a big family. These clients are not a number to me, they email me about their personal lives. I have time for every one of them.”